“HOUNDS OF LOVE” (2016)

Genuinely harrowing and horrifically intense with extremely cruel intentions, Hounds of Love borrows from real life (can’t get stranger) either intentionally or otherwise; however unbeknown to Ben Young, it seems, as he takes us back in time to the Eighties, 1987 to be exact and makes us witness the crimes of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady of the Moors Murders fame or infamy, complete to the lady sticking her head out of the car window and trying to catch fish; lure fish, sweet talk a fish, become a motherly figure to the fish and so on. Much like Miss Hindley and her modus operandi, minus the recording of Lesley Ann Downey crying for her mum as Brady snuffs the life out of her with Myra watching from the corner. It’s a strange, cruel, immensely fucked up world. And I get to witness it more often than a mentally healthy person should. Don’t worry, I can endure for another year or two (if I stay away from The Green Elephant, 1999 by Svetlana Baskova or a certain other film, whose name is disclosed below). No, I have not watched Mr. Valentine‘s various outings from Hell, except for Black Metal Veins., neither films from the The Guinea Pig Series. Having said that, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, 1976 remains to be an all-time favourite. And perhaps, that is one of the reasons that the extremely kind people at gruemonkey.com still have me as a staff writer.

Young and his actors remain surprisingly restrained in their parts, which require much to be reigned in; a hint of a smile in the mirror after a shave; a look of doubt in the eyes of a certain unfortunate soul, an angular shot from the POV of a certain something that should not have a POV, a turn of the head in the wind. It is all remarkable film-making; tightly edited and brimming with disciplined performances (the subject demands that it be such); admirable in its hankering of a genre that doesn’t forgive much. Amidst all that, Hounds of Love manages to make a mark or leave a stain; enough for Young to get hired again and this time with a bigger budget to bring his twisted imagination/inspiration-darkly to the screens once again.

Having said all that and being one of the people who have watched Secuestrados, 2010, the question that lingers in this pilgrim’s head is simple, even simpler than Maggie and her Stockholm Syndrome.

That’s not Maggie,; just in-case.

Why? If Young had managed to out do Kidnapped (same film as mentioned above) then he would have had solid, solid reason. However after Secuestrados (the most effective home invasion/kidnap film ever made) there isn’t too much for anyone to stay and – in this case – watch, no matter how the stage has been set; effectively, highly uncomfortable or not.

I’m just being mean.

Oh Maggie what did we do?

“THE WORLD OF KANAKO” (2014)

The film starts with a quote:
An era is only confused by a chaotic mind” – Jean Cocteau

Director Tetsuya Nakashima takes that quote extremely seriously and adapts a novel by Akio Fukamachi to make a film that jumps not only timelines, with very little information on the screen; except maybe the time of the day and the month and date, but it also jumps timelines within timelines. And if that was not enough a scene very early in the film puts the viewer completely off tangent, trying very hard to put the pieces back together when our unlikely, bipolar, lead; a former detective Fujishima (Koji Yakussho, the bad ass leader of the totally bad ass 13 Assassins, 2010) is thrown into an abyss of devastating revelations, the literal breaking of the family unit caused by a bunch of mind-shattering Polaroids’, disclosure so daunting that could tear any man in to tiny little shreds of paper. However, the former detective has the will of a bipolar (trust me) and will not stop at anything; even if that means facing some of the most unpleasant and hideous demons materialising themselves through the eyes and tantrums and plain old psychosis of the dishevelled, pill popping and dressed in a white suit, Fujishima. He does not leave any stone unturned in the search for his daughter Kanako (Nana Komatsu). He should’ve left some closets be. I mean it only resulted in an even more challenging watch after daddy finds out that his innocent little princess is missing.

Little princess?

Convoluted and filled with dialogues that hint at everything from incest to rape to homicide to a meth/crack-kit found within Kanako’s belonging’s, which she left behind before she vanished.

The revelations are horribly unsettling. Just like the grim, black polished chrome cinematography that keeps getting out for some sun but is called back in to take a look at a picture, see if you can identify a certain man in a certain Polaroid. Hint: Muto. Plus the background score, Free Fall sounds much like House of the Rising Sun, adding to the dark mood of the film.

High-school. Extremely high-school; suicide (the significance of taking one’s own life is immense in traditional Japanese story telling), for the most trivial and most horrifying reasons, making the blood run cold at the slightest whisper of “I love you”.

Cold yet awkwardly comforting on occasion, a regiment of anti-psychotics, the constant deciphering of what is being shown on-screen, not just by the viewers but also the performers, who look real-deal furious and lose all sense of morality when they do not know where to go, or who to turn to; after running in to many chronologically impossible scenes to shoot and keep track of. It all turns out to be high-grade film making. Perhaps even glorious in its lack of scruples and the fact that the film shows a crack, bigger than the San Andreas Fault appear in the beginning of the film when Kanako is being doubted as a regular teenage girl with a highly garbled perspective on life. Or whatever is left of the perception by the time. It is revealed, that the plain-looking Kanako might be the devil herself. Not for her father though, who accepts her (although with the help of intoxicants and a puncture or three from his own daughter’s drug kit) but not without morbid thoughts clouding his already impaired judgement.

The performances are top notch and relentless in their individual pursuits (of closure or happiness or something close to both). Jun Kunimura is here (the mood-swinger boss from Sion Sono’s Why Don’t you Play in Hell?, 2013). The prostitution/narcotics gang/ring members are more than just convincing. A character in the film, it seems, is put there only to grin and flash his teeth at Yakussho, mocking him throughout, calling him “Oldman” like Oldboy?.
He should be mocked at. His condition made him leave his family and the last time he spoke to his daughter was when she was still in Junior High. Turns out, a little heart-to-heart may (just might) have saved the whole family from a lot of trouble and the completely oblivious mum’s dependence on alcohol.

Is this her boy friend?” Fujishima pushes a picture in to his wife’s face, she recoils while crying all the time.
No… I don’t know.” She is cowering as the menacing Fujishima moves closer.
Do you know where she goes after school?”
No…”
Did you know about the drugs in her school bag?”
No.” Now crying
THEN WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW ABOUT YOUR DAUGHTER?”
Our daughter.”
What? What the fuck?” He raises his hand and then walks out.
Somewhere in between a custody battle is also hinted at, probably to justify the exchange above.

There is loads of prop blood used in the action scenes, plus there is also Manga animation and stills of comic-book, hand drawn blood splattered walls, which make their appearance when the offensive is cringe inducing.

Even the opening credits are part live action and part Manga animation, with a strong “I like the way you die, boy” feel to it, by characters being introduced in still, closeup, stylised shots.

I’ll confess, I got lost in the maze that is Kanako, by half time mark. I had to pause, get some fresh air, try to search for the story on the web and when I did find a detailed synopsis, I shut the virtual window. I’m strange that way.

The non-chronological narrative could have been even more hard to decode, if not for the astute editing by Yoshiyuki Koike (Confessions, 2010) and the depth given to even the smallest character for the viewers to recall in the multiple timelines the film runs through. Even then, this viewer got lost in translation. It could be the brevity of subtitles or the fact that the characters speak in the most symptomatic manner, confusing things for themselves, intentionally, to hide from the truth or lurch at it from behind the bush and take it by surprise.

Bad decisions, horrific suggestions, narcissistic day dreaming, violent (not just by slitting throats but also by tearing out the hair, for us) with its over-the-boss-of-the-top plot. Highly disturbing, yet dangerously desirable and highly intimate.

The World of Kanako or Kawaki (Thirst? For Love?) is not an easy watch, not because of its violent visuals but in its depiction of psychosis boiling over, in its telling of the story of a girl whom everyone speaks of but no one seems to know, besides Ogatu.
Plus, standout and highly cryptic and laid-back performances by Mahiro Takasugi, Munetaka Aoki and the other members of the ‘Apocalypse Gang‘ that are extremely perspicacious and high-grade facial distortion on both sides of evil, make Kanko an uncomfortable watch with some really fucked up schizo darkness being brought out in to the open for the first time in years.

If I had not watched Oldboy and Dogtooth and Miss Violence before Kanako, I would probably have been shocked outta my red striped socks.

I love you”

“Go to hell”
“I love you Daddy”
“Fuck your mother.”

I don’t know if that makes any sense but approaching the movie with all the conditioning and false sense of morality, seemed impossible. To write about it was something that I had to really think of before I typed the first words and then got trapped in a huge ass bear-trap, which is the review, from the POV of someone trying very hard to get the brutal contraption off his ankles. However, every movie goer knows, bear-traps are symbolic for an untimely demise of everything, including reason.

I am tempted to write ‘a must watch‘, but let me watch it once again to endorse the film with genuine appreciation and understanding.

SAVAGELY!”

“LAKE BODOM” (2016)

The Finnish horror/slasher film’s serpentine and brittle plot slithers throughout this twist of a disfigured film to arrive at a highly cryptic ending. Disfigured because of the unexpected distortions in the fabric of the film itself. However, that is not to say that the film is not well made. Director Taneli Mustonen knows how to build solid tension amidst frail story-telling, weak motives and a tow-truck load of twists. Tension that is so thick that it can be sensed from afar. A shot of a woman going swimming in a lake in the dark. Well, the sea and the lakes and what have you, have a daunting affect on me for reasons beyond comprehension. Specially when a woman is swimming in complete darkness and the anxiety is such that it makes us assume morbid consequences to be dished out for the deed. But we will have to wait. I do not think I’ve felt such relief at the visuals of a hand with keys in it; but (never to let the guard down) then we watch as Nora (Mimosa Willamo) is shining her flashlight at something across the valley, in the woods and the anxiety returns, it bloody well runs back to us and holds us in a tight, cold embrace.

The camera moves with self-assured eloquence; cutting from a scene where we watch a woman descend underwater and merging it with another where a woman is simply standing at the edge of a hill; the camera brings her in to focus, dropping on her after we’ve seen the dark starless sky and the horizon of trees (that somehow look white in the darkness); giving the entire sequence a continuity of the state of mind that the subjects share. This is achieved with remarkable editing and painstakingly crafted and tense sequences. And then a car goes flying in the air. All of it is a pleasure to look at and that is all. The genre allegory (which Bodom, at times, succeeds to sidestep by generating one genuinely uncomfortable situation after another state of bloody affairs), unfortunately is not as well grounded as the visuals.

Having said all that, Lake Bodom tries extremely hard and does manage to succeed in spreading gloom like butter on a slice of bread but it stumbles in its pirouetting of the dance en pointe. The acting is passable, even good at times; the subtitles inappropriate; and the ending a complete mess. I did not understand what the fuck was Ida (Nelly Hirst-Gee) doing in the last shot; it confused me even more when one of the new characters says, “She’s gone mad” and then everyone introduced only a few minutes back (as the new bunch of campers) starts echoing his declaration. Those things are still a mystery to me.

Other than that, I did enjoy the film very much, it managed to make me extremely uneasy and the twists (no matter how frail) did something to add to the horror film, which goes out on a limb to appear dissimilar to other mainstream outings and conducts its arrangement like so; leaving the forced screenplay either completely isolated or something unappealing to the regular horror fan or the gore-freak or even the fan of the Australian outback hillbilly horror flick, “Wolf Creek, 2005. But the clandestine direction comes to the rescue.

Do watch it if you want to get entangled in a rootbound screenplay being relayed to the audience with the help of some of the best visuals in a horror film.

This one is highly polarising but strangely entertaining.

“SWEET MOVIE” (1974)

What makes this movie unique? The bride selection sequence; the gold-member part; the chocolate masturbation scene? Or is it the psychopathic boat lady, who seduces men into her highly ornamented Candy Boat only to dismember them in a mountain of sugar? Or is it the year and the acceptability or lack thereof for it’s showing of the slow demise of communism and the inverse sophistication of sexual repression. One lead is a victim of the latter; the other is a solution gone wrong with themes of child-murder, coprophilia, emetophilia among other abominable confrontational moments being played out by jaded actors. Yugoslavian Director Dušan Makavejev slips in real footage of remains of the Polish Katyn Massacre victims; just for kicks or commentary.

The entire ninety eight minutes of the avantgarde, comedy drama feature (my ass) is in bad taste;  progressive, experimental or not. Specially with underage actors doing what the censors today would definitely not take kindly at all. We’re talking jail-time here. That and other matters of similar repercussion that the film should have been made to face.

“Egg aren’t got no right at rock-stone dance” – Barbadian saying

This self-professed art-house project was banned in most countries until 2007, when Criterion released the film on DVD, giving the film an entire brand spanking new audience, which had to say things like, “It’s really an amazing piece of cinema, (sic) maybe like Godard meets Jodorowsky” and “I find it refreshing for that very fact (that it is offensive, disgusting, and vomit-inducing)“.

Something unquestionably went wrong in the past three decades. Something very wrong. Fred Vogel wrong, Lucifer Valentine wrong, Slaughtered Vomit Dolls Series wrong, Guinea Pig films wrong. So wrong that toilet humour (read visuals of the excrementitious variety) has now evolved into something termed as art, even perhaps tasteful.

Holy baby J!

The question that lingers is a simple why? Is it infant regression, and the demise of the ‘sweetness of love‘ through the hands and mind of Anna Planeta (Anna Prucnal as the boat woman). Is it naked capitalism? The collectivism of Stalin? The communistic dramaturgy and castrated penises? A culture more open to the savoir-faire of the bourgeois art form and its transition from art to life and Otto (public apology) Muehl, who has a few minutes dedicated to him and the  commune he performs with and their onerous, and a complete moral collapse of performances.

The alluring and voluptuous Miss Monde 1984 (Carole Laure), also Miss Canada – in the film – has a scene pushing her in to a post-coital state of shock after a ‘penis captivus‘, among other things like being packed in a suitcase and being sent away to nowhere. Plus, as noted previously, the film insolently shows to us the performance of the Friedrichshof Commune, lead by artist and provocateur Otto Muehl. It all gets very hard to digest and I wasn’t laughing at any point during the film. There goes the ‘comedy‘ out of Sweet Movie.

“Don’t wreck a sublime chocolate experience by feeling guilty. Chocolate isn’t like premarital sex. It will not make you pregnant. And it always feels good.” – Lora Brody

In all, this Criterion Collection entry is misjudged by most people, even the ones at Criterion, making Sweet Movie a forcibly “important classic and contemporary film“. After all they included Man Bites Dog, a 1992 Belgian black comedy that is above average at most.

Careful with that knife Eugene

Sweet Movie is still a mystery in my head. Perhaps a second viewing would bring in a change of perspective and the way I look at sugar and melted chocolate. Perhaps not; perhaps it will remain to be watched with the cooked-up, time-nuzzled hype that the film is covered in since its the first (angered, raving) reviews started to pour in, some forty odd years ago.

Riiight…

Yes, maybe we should ask for a psychiatric examination.” – Miss Alplanalpe (Jane Mallett)

Let it go.

 

 

 

“DEATH BELL” (2008)

The Belko Experiment, 2016; this film reminded me of The Belko Experiment and the Saw Franchise, set up in a classroom and the corridor of a school in Korea, with kids in uniform and then in arms when things start to go South.

I see people with the face-lift gone horribly wrong
“You’re not done yet”, says the toilet to Song Dong-Hyuk, as we watch him being pulled in with inhuman force

Immensely confusing, inspired by the West, dangerously derivative, moving in sweeping meanders around the easily negligible and a rather forced ghost story, Death Bell (after a very long time) is a Korean outing that will be easily forgotten (much to this fanboy’s dismay). It has pedestrian written all over Mr. Chang-wook‘s (Lee Beom-soo) face.

In-sook Choi taking class
The alluring (and bloody in this case) I-na Kang (Nam Gyu Ri) as one of the members of the Elite Club

It also reminded me of Eiichiro Hasumi‘s live action take on the Japanese Anime, Assassination Classroom, 2015, which is brilliant and outrageously entertaining. However this one is too preoccupied by its own brittle assumptions and the fact that director Chang (never trust a film whose director does not have a second name) barely knows how to put an entire film together in post-production, creating a state of disarray, which meddles with the feature so much that you want it to end as soon as it would.

 

This is one barren feature; unenthusiastic, devoid of tension, bereft of suspense or a fulfilling ending. If you would like to watch it for the gore, leave it be; the film makes you think it’s bloody and all fucking John (I want to play a game) Kramer with industrial tools. It is nothing like that.

Not even close. Sad.

Much disappointed.

 

“WE ARE THE FLESH” (2016)

“I am you and you are me. We are alone, but not alone. We are trapped by time, but also infinite. Made of flesh, but also stars.” –  Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

“We’ve chosen you by chance. Chance is the most dangerous criminal to ever roam the earth” – Mariano

Tenemos la carne by  Emiliano Rocha Minter is bizarre, depraved, mad, maddening and pointless. The latter can be under rug swept since We are the Flesh has been marketed as an art-house outing; the festival circuit was run over by this monstrosity under the shiny, glittering, irresolute umbrella of everything art, everything, which even remotely resembles the chocolate sequence from Sweet Movie, 1974.

Minter opens his film with heavy breathing, as the feature comes to life with a fade from black and a close-up of a bearded man (the wackiest looking person in a film after maybe Denden from Cold Fish, 2010), emptying the day’s acquisitions (it looked like bread to this pilgrim) in to an industrial-sized barrel. Minter goes on to show us the unkempt man, in tattered clothes mixing goo by stirring the contents of the barrel with both hands; ugly, bulky, dirty, stone breaker’s hands. Noé Hernández as Mariano is detestable to look at. He is filthy and speaks balderdash, “Love doesn’t exist. Only demonstrations of love”, when he is not making gas or pounding on the single tom tom snare left behind (and looking like that ape from 2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968) like the rest of the world, which is in ruins, like the tom tom that is taken away from the rest of the parts that make an entire drum-set; or when he is not getting high on some kind of home-made concoction of some dangerously potent shit  (the camera switches between a blank screen and a strained face of Mariano, lying on a mattress placed on the floor). After that the birth canal of a horror allegory takes things further (and into a brick wall). 

Looks like she’s gonna blow… She does.

We are made to assume that the world has ended. Yes, ended. The eventuality is such. We are dealing with warped ideologies, a misshapen ethos that looks like a limp penis. I’m not just saying that; Minter, who also proudly wears the writer’s hat for this carbuncle of a feature film has one of the characters say it out loud, “What a funny looking dick you have”. The world has either been ravaged by wars or plagues or something worse than both calamities combined. The earnestness is such that it is left for the viewer to assume cruel conjectures, and that is when Flesh starts to come apart. Slowly at first and then it crumbles right in front of our eyes. 

A frantic Joaquin Phoenix (Forgotten) is shown living in isolation. He trades the gas he makes for eggs. Later in the film, he reveals to Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) that he does not like eggs, just the cartons they come in. 

Just what the fuck is going around? 

Duct tape.

Now wait just a second here. All that happens in the first half hour of the overwrought feature? 

Yes, and I did not say overwrought. 

The framing is close to perfect, making almost each shot of the groaning film a treat to watch (it is also deeply conflicted like this statement). Then the camera starts to move in towards its subjects. A push zoom that slowly creeps up to a profile and then does a 360 degree flip a couple of times to, perhaps, convey an inebriated state of mind. It reminded me of a music video, Come Live with Me by Massive Attack directed by Jonathan Glazer, who also directed Rabbit in your Headlights by Unkle, which has a man (presumably mad and raving and crashing in to oncoming traffic in a tunnel) who resembles Mariano, of this film in his provoking and exasperating antics. Actor Noé Hernández puts up a strenuous show, intense, formidable and clamorous. 

This is a film where each scene transition takes the viewer by surprise, with its sound design or extreme visuals. Scenes that make Noe‘s efforts look tame in comparison. This is an extremely taxing film to watch, with a stringent credo and an even more immovable ideology. We are the Flesh is exultantly demented and threatens us with odd camera angles. It even goes as far as taking the Brown Bunny, 2003 route and shows to us the act of fellatio being performed by actor María Evoli

Sexual intensity of Gaspar Noé transgressions, you say? Penetration in heat vision (that rhymes)? Pink for the vagina, blue for the pulsating ding-a-ling and smoking the johnson, the blumpy in full colour, Eastmancolor and all. Necrophilia? Porn, you say?

Art is what they say.

Bullshit is what this sinner man has in mind.

The only redeeming moment from the film is shot under the sheets, with a woman not doing what we were deceived into thinking; instead, Fauna howls and makes animal noises and moves her body as if having sex with her on top. That and the casting of Noé Hernández as the crazed Mariano.

Are we watching a film inspired by Alejandro Jodorowsky‘s The Holy Mountain, 1973? Is this the film that Bernardo Bertolucci never made (and instead made Dreamers, 2003, thankfully)? Or is it a follow up to Ken Russel‘s grotesquely brutal, The Devils, 1971? It could also be part of the French new wave of provisional ethos, which end up making frogs out of men.

Mariano writhes on the floor covered in amniotic fluid, the characters walk around naked on the set, setting the course to a Flavian ending (Pasolini would be proud), they talk in prose, lust and desire and perverse intentions are spread all over the set like rancid butter, We are the Flesh is out to offend and it succeeded in making this hardened sinner-man turn his eyes away from the screen for those god-awful moments when the unspeakable is being put up for show n’ tell. My goodness, what is this Minter guy thinking?

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, 1998  also came to mind for its pure adrenaline  that Dr. Gonzo and Raoul Duke extract from a real human brain. You could join the dots but I’ll spell it out for you just as much; as noted above it starts with bread and ends with a whole human body being fermented (just imagine the high from the moonshine and raw eggs being smeared on a woman’s breasts – hold on, that was a Nikos Nikolaidis film, The Zero Years, 2005). Point being that the influences are aplenty and apparently all from conspicuously grotesque sources. The trouble, it seems, is in the balancing act that Minter seems incapable of. We are the Flesh suffers from lack of adequate satire (in the face of a hard X rating), and its pushing of the envelop, which in my humble opinion did not need to be pushed any further for a film that suffers from such trifling ideals.

I’d recommend it for the sake of differentiating an overtly sexual film from an overtly sexual film with a solid purpose, unlike this entanglement of film spool.

        

 

 

“MOTHER” (2017)

This review may contain spoilers.

 “Exquisite“, as Catwoman says to Mother‘s (Jennifer Lawrence) character.
“That’s smart of you”, as Man tells Mother’s character
“Let me freshen these up”
“MEDIC!”
“The poet says to share”
“Now I will have to look for something else that belongs to him”
“It is for you”, Him (Javier Bardem) to Mother
“They have to leave”
“Their sons are here”
Cain and Abel in suits
Offspring of Man and Woman; the first people to enter the house, an allegory for Adam, Divine Creation, Eve and the “Whisperer”
“Who are all these people?”

“QUITE!”

Get out!

After a long time a film managed to cause a whirlwind of scared emotions inside this sinner-man, building then breaking then building again; not at all a user friendly film but it has Aronofsky engraved all over it. Mother scares in sophisticated and elaborate, extant ways, balancing on the edge of madness and Inception, the film, as the texture and dialogue of the film are deliberately made to look and sound like a dream.

Everyone except Mother, it seems, is having a ball amidst all hell breaking loose

Mother is everything from being a commentary on religion and the contamination of faith to the need to have something bigger than our own consciousness to pray to. Mother is unrestrained in what the director sets out to accomplish. It cannot be trusted, neither can the filmmaker’s motives, which are beyond the reach of the casual movie-goer but then there is nothing casual about Mother; it does not have time for casual. A simple framing of a man standing at the door after his wife has reached full-term in what seems to be just minutes causes too much traction in too little.

Don’t trust the pedestal, which holds the all consuming glass crystal

With explosive cinematography and even more incendiary intentions, Aronofsky has succeeded in creating the perfect artist/muse disposition, alignment, in a vicious and skillful manner; holding our hands for the first and last time to show us to the door and the peculiarly grandiose climax, where nature has to be corrupted to invite “god’s” wrath and eventually become part of a larger cycle.

Did anyone else notice the deep gash/wound on Man’s (Ed Harris) side, towards the ribs, moments before Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) arrives?

Man, rib, woman, creation.

This is one twisted picture hombre.

And if that doesn’t have you convinced, the sight of a frog and blood on the bulb and ceiling fill the viewers’ heads with ideas, suggestions, whispers (with an entire character dedicated to it), that pushes the already shaken audience in to an abyss of daunting schemes, hypothesis, the plague and a valuation of self in a similar stitch (not pleasant).

Creation, man, woman, destruction.

Is mother Mother Nature or is she the Devil? If so, is “Him” some kind of god who cares for this entity so much that for more than half the film he refuses to have sex with her, knowing it would bring about complete annihilation. Additionally Mother never leaves the house and there are no cars or any other sign to give us an idea of how the people made it to this secluded house, deep within the recesses of the woods. The film builds characters out of thin air as it moves forward towards what could easily have become an outlandish climax. However it is here that the director’s timing and film’s sombre, yet a high alkaline charge of a brooding, self-obsessed mood comes to the rescue.

Designed to look like Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

The film, in my humble opinion, is a seminal instant classic. It could have easily taken the The Fountain, 2006 way, but I’m glad it has strains of The Wrestler, 2008 when it comes to handling a tidal wave of radical,  intransigent emotions; especially when the pedigree is tainted from the first shot. 

The PaintShop Pro job on this one makes it look like a Disney outing, just that she is holding a bleeding, pulsating human heart instead of a rose

This one sends chills up everywhere even when you know there is nothing to be scared of. Or is there?

One of the most intimidating scenes from a film with a browbeat approach or philosophy, if I may

A must watch.

“ISLAMIC EXORCIST” (2017)

When I first laid my eyes on the email sent to me by the EIC, it immediately piqued my intrigue; I was fascinated with the title of the horror outing: Islamic Exorcist. Is the film about a man trying to rid people of demons (djinns), which have a bad habit of taking over people’s lives; their bodies and minds, people who don’t bathe, people who display statues in their houses, people who exhibit photographs and figurines in their homes for the supernatural entities to make conduits of, to convey and shape energy and to use them as mediums or sluices to materialise, to make their presence tangible in our dimension? Is it about that? Or is it about something completely different, like how IMDb describes the film: “The lives of an Indian couple are devastated when their adopted daughter becomes possessed by a demonic force.” 

The Omen, 1976 anyone? Just that the American diplomat, his Excellency Robert Thorn (Peck) and his wife Katherine Thorn adopt the Prince of Darkness himself. In the film, they adopt the offspring of a wolf that resembles a human baby. It even had the hospital chaplain, Father Spiletto lie to the couple. At least he didn’t lie to everyone involved in producing The Omen.

Islamic Exorcist tells of a barren couple that brings home an orphan child Anna, and things start to go bump in the night. The eyes roll up and a little girl speaks with a heavy triple triad baritone. Let’s pretend I’m still interested in what the film had to offer. We also have a holy man played by Asif Basra who is too respected an actor of Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, 2010 to have partaken of this atrocity. However, we all know that there’s no business like show business and when on the way down, Islamic Exorcist may have looked like an absolutely fine piece of hollow log to hold on to. 

With an unremarkable opening that looks as if someone picked a random footage off YouTube; with a woman completely covered in a long black veil and speaking in a heavy, manly voice with voices chanting Arabic all around her to the title, which flickers as it gets closer to the screen, the film looks more than just inspired. The YouTube clip ends abruptly and everything fades to black to announce the film’s title in a very Paranormal Activity kind of title-design, with the title leaning and bending as if a surge of electricity has been passed through it. Turns out the segment is completely isolated from the film. It has no connection or relation to the rest of the film, which is a film because writer/director Faisal Saif says so. Insists that it is; a horror picture, or even just a feature length picture. The film is depressing to watch, not frightening but dismal and disconsolate in all its troubled, out of sync, torturous glory.

A highly unremarkable film, Islamic Exorcist is plagued with shameful deliveries, a sneeze for a plot and condominiums made wholly out of CGI. I don’t think the latter is completely true as CGI costs money. It looks as if the filmmakers simply collected footage of a condo project still in the stages of being on paper and a ‘building under construction miniature in foamboard’ or a simple 3D structure to give potential investors an idea and then some. Plus it has a Parveen Aunty (Amita Nangiawho has been (get this) sent by the mother of the male lead to keep an eye on the newly wed couple since the two now live in a house, which is on the outskirts of town. Bangalore could be the town but that could also be a trick of the trade, again, integrated within the film to give it a false sense of a location shoot. However the truth is far from it since everything, from the husband’s Toyota to the sprawling bedroom is either rented or built on a stage to contain the absurd spaces the film requires to grope needlessly. If that makes sense then so will Parveen Aunty.

Parveen Aunty cutting vegetables

Things go very wrong when CID Officer Sameer (Nirab Hossainand his wife Ayesha (Kavita Radheshyam) adopt a twelve year old daughter and when Parveen Aunty goes beyond her call of duty (cooking biryani) and cuts vegetables as if contesting for a time-bound position in Master Chef. Things start to go awfully wrong when Parveen Aunty cooks better than Ayesha, making her feel (quite vocally) lesser somehow. Faisal Saif it seems is more interested in the dramaturgy of the domestic interference type; after all Parveen Aunty was specially sent to look after two adult people unable to have a baby. 

Having said all that, the scene after the stock YouTube footage shows to us a woman on the phone, her name is Natasha (we find out later) and she is the EIC of a tabloid and very interested in the imminent threat that the Khan family faces. The scene is very close to heart as the actor is a veteran Pakistani film heroin whose days of being the female lead are long gone, but the visuals of her have the power to swaddle this viewer tightly with a warm, comforting embrace of a nubain shot. Meera, unfortunately, has been the subject of many a scandals and the country is obsessed with her life long struggle with the English language:

“Happy Birthday Meera.”

“Same to you.”

Having said that, I have never had a problem with that one particular detail. However her ‘sex tapes’ have caused quite an uproar in the country and Meera, no matter how hard she tries, has always been the subject of controversy in our media. Not her home though; having accompanied a (film producer) relative to her house a few years back, we were welcomed with food and drinks and ‘kebabs’ made by the legend herself. I’m digressing at the thought of a manic Meera trying to convince the film producer relative to cast her in his next picture. That was that, a convoluted blast from the past. This is the Islamic Exorcist, with its extremely low production/non-spiritual value and nothing with which it can scare its audience. Yes, the shot of a woman crawling down the staircase did make me uncomfortable but nothing that Parveen Aunty can’t handle.

Even the tagline doesn’t make any sense.

 

Laughable, non-menacing and pedestrian and far from being even remotely scary, Exorcist, which is a whirlwind of confusion and pandemonium, takes multiple turns from haunted houses, wrong choices, poor acting skills, Parveen Aunty, Ayesha’s breakdown, Ayesha’s aerobics, the host’s demonic gibberish, which is plain old bad, sub-standard, second rate, shoddy, forced acting being put up for the casual movie goer. The film is unintentionally hilarious in trying to make for a scary picture.

A glam shot of actor Kavita Radheshyam

And behold the plot twist of which this film boasts to have one. It is a creation with zero salvation; a loosely paced and poorly executed film, Islamic Exorcist was, as if, being made as the days went by without prior planning or without the  final draft of the script. This film has to be an example of a terribly unpropitious execution of a scary picture with Parveen Aunty in it. 

Parveen Aunty losing it like many of the film’s audience

In the end, Islamic Exorcist is a tiresome, poorly made film, and one too lazy even to earn its aloof perspective. Plus is furthers the misconceptions that the world harbours. A fact that is unforgivable in the face of such monstrosity which is this film.

Fuck you Parveen Aunty.

 

 

 

 

“R100”, 2013

The Queen of Saliva dance number is King, it is the fucking Nobel Prize for Palahniuk, it is the Lifetime Achievement Oscar for Vincent Gallo, it’s the Enola Gay of mucus, it is a mighty Himalayan slap in the face of the likes of Haneke and Trier and Ferrara, it is the Grammy for the best fucked up score ever. Life would be hell without the dance number. I just realised that. How did I manage to come this far without The Queen of Saliva dance number that pays tribute to the ultra B Japanese films from a very long time ago. It is the 30 mil Lotto you won two days before you died.

This has to be the strangest film I have ever had the pleasure to watch. Notwithstanding the loose ends and the fact that director Hitoshi Matsumoto (Big Man Japan, 2007) deliberately leaves holes in the sickly orange plot by approaching this avant garde, Hollywood anti-thesis, fuzzy-to-the-hilt film. You know that because the hole that was not covered, turns out to be a portal for the ‘CEO’ (Lindsay Kay Hayward – a seven foot wrestler turned actor, also known as Isis to her fans) to appear from and dive in to a pool, five hundred and twenty seven times.

Ichi of the Killer fame (Nao Ōmori) is now a loving father and all grown up and goes by the name of Takafumi Katayama. However the mundanities of life makes him join a seedy, underground Bondage club and things spiral out of the fourth dimension and control after then.
Is it really a film about S&M as the critics say it is, by making leather and whip cracking and the Leather Harness Mouth Belt with Soft Rubber Ball Gag from eBay the epicentre of debate? I think not.
The film is an alphabet soup of one farce yet potent idea too many.

A well-meaning film, which ends at the half point and then begins again, pulling the viewer in to the bed with it, by force. R100 is an insane film that makes you feel everything from dying of laughter to wait a second, where’d the cop go? to the pill popping concierge, what… who…? to no fucking way, that’s not a fil… what the fuck?.

R100 is Dumbo in the fridge, it is Jaws tearing itself apart, it is fucking Oldboy coming outta the room after a 100 years with a swollen face and a shit eating bloated grin on his face. The film is an alternate universe that asks questions like these: What if Takashi Miike made a fourth film for the Before Sunrise franchise and what if Sion Sono directed Titanic. Unthinkable.

I really liked how Matsumoto blurs the line between reality and the conviction with which a warped reality takes its place. I liked the film very much, in all its baffling, inexplicable, extra-ordinarily outlandish glory. As for the critics, Matsumoto made sure he shut them up even before he shouted ‘それは完全なだ (that’s a wrap) in to the blow horn.

“Was that an earthquake?”

Brilliant.

“IT” (2017)

It does for Stephen King adaptations what the Evil Dead remake by Fede Alvarez did for Raimi‘s franchise. Although a period piece, director Andy Muschietti (Mama, 2008) and writers Chase Palmer and Cary Fukunaga give the film a contemporary mind-set, elevating the film to a place where it can shake hands with the source material and not falter.

The film is highly terrifying and unforgiving, it is also somewhat cheap, keeping in mind the Chapter 1 ending; I did wonder, while watching the trailers, where had all the grown up people gone? Nevertheless, despite script reconstruction, directors being changed thrice and multiple recasting, Pennywise has not been more effective in leaving the viewer frantic & shaking like a leaf every time Bill Skarsgård‘s clown is on screen, donning an immaculately designed Medieval, Renaissance, Elizabethan, and Victorian costume, since the novel’s publication back in the September of good ol’ 1986. It shows up every twenty seven years since the beginning of time or at least since the beginning of the Black Death, abducting children by the thousands; therefore the costume design and its influences make perfect sense. And this guy is no Pied Piper of Hamelin, this monstrosity is Pennywise of Derry in all his gaping mouth of glory.

Relentlessly filmed in the town of Port Hope, which the film crew turned into Derry, and Skarsgård in to Pennywise to which a method was applied by the actor who resembles a young Steve Buscemi. “Keep the children away from me when not shooting“; were Skarsgård’s instructions to the crew and they complied. And I was reminded of Salo, fleetingly; not at all a positive association for a summer film. The cruelty, the first murder that goes on forever like the scene with the infant in Antichrist, 2009. The exchange between Georgie Denbrough and the evil clown has the potential to keep this viewer up at nights. Specially the way Skarsgård changes expressions with intent. Goodness.

The Stand by Me element has been given its due share, serving it like a Stephen King ritual; the seven young people coming of age, the breathtaking aerial shot of the bunch swimming in the local river (Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor Maine also known as The Barrens in the novel). And the fact that every time Pennywise is sneaking behind a corner with a hand visible gives the keen viewer, the horror fan the creeps and total worth for entry is enough fodder for an functional scary picture.

Sometimes the acting becomes a little over the top but then a sighting of the child-eater neutralizes the viewer’s thoughts; not every time though. Whenever the character of Eddie Kaspbrak speaks it seems he’s trying too hard to fit in as a boy with asthma; a hypochondriac child with a dominating mother. Hurdles that he must overcome if the monster is to be defeated. Much like Bill (Billy) Denbrough’s stammer, Beverly Marsh’s dad and so on.

The scary scenes are as it is frightening and when the ominous score starts to walk hand-in-hand with the visuals is when things get truly terryfying, complete to a haunted house, which must be entered if the nightmare has to end. The imagery leaves one looking behind the shoulder; wiping the sweat off his palms against the jeans.Having said that a little more dread and gradation would have done so much to bring the child-characters to fruition. Plus the more we see of Pennywise the less scary he gets, unless he’s dressed like Georgie and Billy’s mum and staring right at the camera, through it with its yellow, glowing eyes; his smile, now a snarl, growing wider with the passing of each frame.

The frenzy with which Pennywise approaches it’s victims is praiseworthy along-with the transformations in the final scenes of conflict. This version of the film is definitely higher than the conventions of a big budget horror film made in these times. Plus I hear it has the blessings of Mr. King himself, so what the hell; go watch it and do not miss the diminutive homage to films like Batman, 1989, Lethal Weapon (1987) and A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, 1989.

A sequel is planned for early 2018.