Monday, January 30, 2012
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
What I have here are four movies as they appeared on Monstervision. This means that the gore and nudity are cut out, but the presence of Joe Bob at the beginning, end, and wherever the commercials were more than makes up for that. I also like the fact that these are all one link flicks. Nothing drives me crazier than movies that are cut into parts. Sure, you can watch it on youtube, but you'll have to wait while 73 different files buffer. Screw that. I promise never to do that to you fine folks. All of these are in one piece. I would tell you the original air dates, but that's damn near impossible. I can't find a definitive list anywhere online. Plus, sometimes they reused movies, so it gets a little confusing.
Anyway, I do know when this first one aired. It was Halloween night, 1998. I was 18, and they were doing a Friday the 13th marathon from dusk 'til dawn. There was a running joke throughout the marathon that strange things were going on in the studio. People were disappearing. It was eventually revealed that Ted Turner himself was bumping off the crew members, working his way to Joe Bob. This was the last flick in that marathon, and it's what I watched as I passed out after a long night of debauchery. Good Times...
I'm not entirely sure when these next three were, but it was during the first few years since they still had the trailer set. Ghoulies 1 and 2 were shown together, so this represents an entire episode of Monstervision...
The Howling 3 was shown...um, I have no idea. Who cares, it's Monstervision...
There you go ladies, gentlemen, and whatever else may be lurking around. For those who never got to see the show during its run, you're welcome. Now you know why it's the greatest show of all time. For those who grew up on it like I did, I hope you enjoyed this little trip down a dark, deserted, spooky memory lane. Nathan says hurry up and check these out before someone decides to go all SOPA on us and take them down.
Monday, January 16, 2012
In my early 20’s, I spent a lot of time, probably an unhealthy amount truth be told, in a place I like to call The Video Fringe. I got that term from a book called Video Trash & Treasures by L.A. Morse. That book changed my life. Anyway, The Video Fringe is a place on the far reaches of the cinematic world where Hollywood, and even respectable indie flicks, fear to tread. It’s where the cheap, obscure, home-made, self distributed, idiotic, bizarre, off beat, off the wall, deviant, eccentric and unnaturally entertaining flicks live. During my first three years of college, I worked at a chain video store, but I lived within driving distance of three independent stores. These were the kind of places that were far more concerned with their shelves being full than what they were full of, so they stocked anything and everything. Films that will never see a DVD release, films that were sold to the store by the filmmakers themselves, movies as far removed as possible from the mainstream, and films that blew my mind all resided in those dusty aisles. I would leave these stores, sometimes with 5 videos, sometimes with 10, sit in my dorm room, bong in hand, and slum it in The Video Fringe. I was like a drug addict shooting and snorting everything he can find in search of a new high. I was like a sex addict trolling progressively sleazier clubs in search of dirtier and more depraved action. These movies were terrible more often than not, but this was true independent cinema, and I loved it. Every time a movie made no sense, had bad effects and lighting, made me laugh at its stupidity, or was just plain freakin’ weird, I was a happy man. While I don’t know the guy, I would be willing to bet that James Balsamo, writer and director of Hack Job, has spent quite a bit of time slogging through The Video Fringe also. How do I know? I know because only another fringe flick junkie could make a flick that emulates that style so perfectly.
In Hack Job, Beelzebub himself gives a script to two wannabe film directors named James Argento and Mike Fulci (get it?). It contains a trilogy of stories. In the first, Nazi archeologists disturb a mummy’s tomb, awakening an ancient curse. In the second, an alien invades a small town, leading to a showdown at the Battle of the Bands. In the final story a man is…um…I’m not entirely sure what’s going on in the last part, but it has something to do with a guy who has blackouts going on a mission to kill a drug dealing televangelist. To tell you the truth, the synopsis really isn’t important. There is a framing device about the boys trying to get the film made, but the move is more like a series of skits with the 3 main stories being the longest. In addition to the stories and framing scenes, we get concert footage, fake commercials, real commercials, a cop show spoof starring Toxie and Kabukiman, a random shower scene, sock puppets, psychedelic interludes, and all kinds of other randomness. It reminded me a bit of movies like Amazon Women on the Moon or Kentucky Fried Movie that may have a loose narrative, but are really a series of barely related comedy vignettes.
Simply stated, this flick is a hell of a lot of fun. I’ve seen other reviews go on and on about how bad the movie is. They apparently missed the point. Of course it’s bad. It’s supposed to be. Traditional “quality filmmaking” isn’t the point here! It’s called Hack Job. Hello? The whole film is basically a love letter to Troma. Need proof? Lloyd Kaufman plays himself and Troma stalwart Debbie Rochon has a cameo. Need further proof? Appropriately, the scene with Kaufman, which takes place in the Troma offices by the way, quickly devolves into a long shit joke. See, the dude knows his Troma. In addition to Uncle Lloyd and the always beautiful Miss Rochon, Dave Brockie and Lynn Lowry add to the impressive cameo list. When Oderus Urungus from GWAR shows up to fight off a giant alien, you know things are about to get both awesome and ridiculous. If you’ve ever seen GWAR live, you’ll understand the ironic humor of the role reversal at the end of the scene.
Hack Job has everything you could ask for in a low budget cheese and sleaze fest B movie. The acting achieves the cornball quality that it aspires to. The humor ranges from the truly funny to the downright silly. The gore effects are all practical, and they’re all done pretty well. Some of the deaths are pretty creative. I mean, have you ever seen vertebrae torn out through an eye socket? Didn’t think so. We are also treated to lots of gratuitous nudity. The proceedings never go on for very long without showing us some boobs, which is always a good thing. So we have juvenile humor, blood, tits, monsters, a wacky all-over-the place story, and cameos from B movie icons. In other words, Hack Job is a movie that truly knows its audience.
The other aspect of this flick that I loved was the music. What a soundtrack! The Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space, one of my personal favorite bands, contributes an original theme song. That in and of itself is enough to win my horror punk heart. In addition, The Creepshow (another personal favorite), Calabrese, The Brains, The Koffin Kats, Psychocharger, and plenty of others contribute songs. I’m used to being the only person who has heard of some of these bands, so hearing them in a movie was cool. This is probably the best horror movie soundtrack (not score, soundtrack) since Demon Knight.
I do have two issues with this flick. The first is the unevenness of the audio mix. There are times when you can barely hear what’s being said, then it will return to normal just about the time you crank the volume. It appears that a few different camera types were used throughout the film, so that might have something to do with it, but a little more tweaking of the audio levels would have been nice. Considering that the flick was made very cheaply (60 grand according to imdb), I can forgive some technical issues.
My other issue, however, is unforgivable. I cannot turn a blind eye to it, no matter how much I liked the movie. As many of you know, I am a bit of a Grammar Nazi. True, I don’t always use the best grammar on the blog, but that’s because I want the blog to read the way I speak. The misuse of homophones, however, is my favorite pet peeve. You know, like the difference between their/there/and they’re. That kind of stuff. During the credits, there is a “follow the bouncing skull” sing along. The line “If your a gore geek, then you should take a peek” scrolls across the screen. Yes, it’s spelled YOUR in the movie. YOU’RE is the correct word. They used the wrong f’n you’re in a finished, commercially available movie! My head nearly exploded. For the love of all things unholy, get someone to proofread your text before you put the movie out! We all learned the difference between your and you’re in second damn grade! Why do people do this to me? Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagh! Ok, breathe Nathan, breathe…ok, I’m cool now.
RANDOM THOUGHT: Hack Job drinking game: drink every time an actor or actress momentarily can’t maintain a straight face and looks like they’re about to burst out laughing.
RANDOM THOUGHT 2: How could you not love a flick that uses a brutal Balls Mahoney chairshot in its promotional videos? Danny Danger, you are either an idiot or a braver man than I. Probably both.
I’ve said many times that the two things an independent horror filmmaker has to have to make a successful movie are a passion for the film they’re making and love of the genre. It’s obvious that the makers of Hack Job have both. In truth, aside from the celebrity cameos, there’s not a whole lot here that you couldn’t do yourself with some of your horror geek friends. I love that aspect of low budget DIY filmmaking. You COULD, I COULD, but few ever DO. James Balsamo and crew DID and I, for one, am damn glad they did. Hack Job is not for everyone. Some people need big budget gloss to enjoy a flick. If you're one of those horror fans, Hack Job doesn't give half-a-damn what you think of it. It wasn't made for you. If you have a taste for cheese and a movie that celebrates “Video Fringe” flicks by capturing their essence sounds good to you, then you’ll dig it as much as I did. One and a half severed thumbs up. Nathan says check it out.
Friday, January 6, 2012
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Man this was hard. These 5 movies are all incredible. The top 3 especially are separated by a hair. Anyway, these are my picks for the 5 most must see movies of 2011. Three of them are on DVD, and the other two will be coming shortly, so you have no excuse not to expose yourself to...HEY, not like that! Put it back on. I meant ...oh nevermind. Anyway, Nathan most definitely says check all 5 out. 2012, the bar has been set. Let's see what you've got.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Today marks the first birthday of this blog. I’m gonna get a little serious, and maybe a little sentimental, for a minute here folks. Since I was a teenager, horror movies have always been what kept me going and kept me (somewhat) sane, and that was never truer than in 2010. It was a very rough year, and with a lot of downtime, I started getting more and more into the world of online horror blogs. The idea of writing a website dedicated to my passion for horror intrigued me, but I didn’t know if I could do it. I’m not exactly technologically inclined, so creating a website in the first place was a frightening proposition. Besides, I hadn’t written anything about film since college. Would anyone even care enough to read it? I registered a blogspot page, but just let it sit there for months while I toyed with the idea. Then, a comment on facebook changed everything. I had been writing short “status sized” reviews, and someone said something to the effect of “I was waiting to see what you said before I saw it.” That one comment opened my eyes and gave me the kick in the ass I needed. On January 3, 2011, with a post entitled “Pleased to Meet You, Hope You Guessed My Name,” Son of Celluloid was born. So began one of the most fun and fulfilling experiences of my life.
What a first year it’s been. I’ve been amazed by the response the blog has gotten. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would grow like it has. I’m not one to throw numbers around, but that whole “will anyone read it” question has been answered. What I find really exciting is all of the countries the blog has been viewed in. SOC has gone worldwide! I’ve made great contacts through this blog, gotten to see and do things I thought were beyond the reach of the average horror geek, and even got quoted on a movie cover. Best of all, I’ve met some incredibly cool people through doing this. I want to sincerely thank everyone who has been so great to me and given so much support to the blog, like Leah, Tina, EKG, Cash, David, James, Dr Terror, Ryne, Guts & Grog Eric, Freddie, Ahdri, Giovanni, Robocop Eric, and so many others who I either knew before or met through the blog. I know I missed a lot of people, but to be honest, the people I need to thank for contributing to the success of Son of Celluloud’s first year are too numerous to list here. I’d like to humbly thank everyone who read, enjoyed, and ESPECIALLY commented on my ramblings this year. I definitely give all of my Cellmates two severed thumbs up. I’d also like to thank James Bickert and Jen and Sylvia Soska; filmmkers who have been especially supportive of SOC. Finally, I’d like to thank my nay-sayers; those who told me I was wasting my time, those who said I couldn’t do it, and those who got pissed at me over my views (or reviews). You guys were great motivation.
I promise folks, this whole thing is just getting started. The ol’ Son of Celluloid is just getting warmed up. I have some really cool ideas for the future, and a lot of cool stuff in store. Thank you all for this wonderful year. I encourage you all to stick around and continue to spread the word folks, I’m gonna do my damnedest to show you all a good time. To quote one of my favorite taglines of all time “if you thought one was fun, wait ‘til you do two.”
A word about dates is in order before we get underway here. If a film is a major theatrical release, the year isn’t a question. Some smaller release titles are a little trickier. I normally go by the date when it became widely available in the US. If it played a few festivals last year, but got a wide release this year, I count it as this year. There is one exception. If it was in limited release and I happened to see it, it’s this year. That’s right, it’s all about when I saw it. Time is my bitch. Anyway, on with the countdown…
I caught some flack for ranking a documentary so high on last year’s list, so I figured I’d kick off this year’s list with a pair of them. I’m going to throw three names out, and if you see them involved with a horror documentary, I recommend you buy it without hesitation. Mark Hartley has been making “making of” docs for years. He came into prominence with the amazing Not Quite Hollywood (about Australian exploitation flicks) a couple of years ago, and this year saw the release of Machete Maidens Unleashed. It is an impressively in depth look at Filipino exploitation cinema. Extremely entertaining on its own, it also provided me with a long “to watch” list. If you like obscure, off the wall flicks, you have to see MMU. Besides, how could you not want to see ANYTHING with that title? Bill Philputt and Thommy Hutson are two of the minds behind His Name Was Jason, Scream: The Inside Story, and the flawless Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy, which was #2 on this list last year. This year they gave us More Brains, which gives the “everything you ever wanted to know” treatment to Return of the Living Dead. If you’ve seen their other work, you know what to expect. If you are a schlock historian, zombie fanatic, or a fan of horror films at all, these docs are for you.
Insidious is the only major studio theatrical release on the list. In a year where Hollywood kept churning out sequels, remakes, retreads of tired clichés, and bloated big budget 3D fluff, this little ghost flick was a breath of fresh air. It also proved that PG-13 horror movies can actually deliver, a fact I needed to be reminded of. It really didn’t break any new ground, we’ve seen evil spirits and haunted houses lots of times, but it stripped them down to their barest elements, wrapped them in thick layers of atmosphere, and gave us a classic style fun fright flick. Darkness, well timed (and not over done) jump scares, suspense, monsters lurking in the shadows, and the “pair a non creepy song with a creepy scene” trick will never go away, nor should they. The flick didn’t need multi million dollar special effects. Instead it relied on style and, gasp…storytelling. I love blood and guts as much as anyone, but Insidious proved that an old fashioned “gather round the campfire” spooky story can still resonate with modern audiences…even if the demon did look like Darth Maul.
Ok, ok, so it isn’t really a horror movie. It’s sci-fi, but I’m still counting it. It’s my countdown, and I’ll mix genres if I want to. Anyway, it follows a group of juvenile delinquents as they try to survive an alien invasion in Urban England. The chemistry between the young cast is excellent. They almost have a ghetto Goonies vibe. They start out as completely unlikable shitbags, but by the end of the movie you’re truly rooting for them. A character arc like that isn’t easy to pull off, especially with young actors. It’s clear from the staging of the action scenes that Joe Cornish is a Carpenter fan, and you can do a whole hell of a lot worse as far as influences go. The design of the aliens is brilliant in its simplicity, and the CGI actually looks good. If you dig the “80’s-esque kids vs. aliens” movie but were sickened by the sheer Speilberg-ness schmaltziness of Super 8, Attack the Block is for you. Plus, Nick Frost is in it, and 9 times out of 10 that’s a good indicator that a flick is worth watching.
For the record, I’m pretty sure that guy that stormed out of this flick at Sundance was an ingenious publicity stunt. At least I hope so. That was just a little too perfect. That’s not to say that this flick isn’t extreme enough to elicit a strong reaction, I just want to think that someone was brilliant enough to come up with that viral marketing strategy. Anyway, the reason this flick is so good is that it’s the closest anyone has ever come to capturing the spirit of a Jack Ketchum story on film. Ketchum is a maestro at dragging audiences through humanity’s heart of darkness, and The Woman delivers in spades. It’s sick, bloody, and it manages to be misogynistic and feminist at the same time. It also features a couple of great performances. While I do have a few issues with Lucky McGee’s direction of the flick (like that godawful soundtrack), it’s pure Ketchum, and you can never go wrong with that. Have I mentioned that I love Jack Ketchum?
Coffin Joe returns! I found out about this flick two years ago, and agonized, paced the floor, and chewed my nails (a problem Coffin Joe obviously does not have) over it until it finally became available stateside this year. I love me some Coffin Joe. If you’re not familiar with Coffin Joe, shame on you. Go watch the first two parts of the trilogy and the documentary Coffin Joe: The Strange World of José Mojica Marins NOW. Then you can finish the countdown. I’ll wait…ok are we all caught up? Good. It is fascinating to watch the work of a true horror auteur in very different eras in film. Marin’s flicks were groundbreaking in the 60’s and 70’s, and watching him embrace what is possible and allowed in modern film is entrancing. All of the usual Coffin Joe touches are here; the critters (snakes, bugs, spiders, snakes), the gratuitous nudity, the nightmarish hallucinatory landscapes, the bizarre soliloquies, and Marin’s melodramatically sinister performance style. The gore quotient is definitely higher here than back in the day. Merins has always been twisted, but this time around he had the resources and permission to indulge himself the way he couldn’t in the 60’s. The story mirrors this change of the times, with Coffin Joe being released from prison into a very different world than the one he left. He’s still after the perfect woman to carry on his bloodline though. Gotta respect that kind of dedication. This one is a must see for both fans of the Coffin Joe films who have been chomping at the bit for the trilogy to be complete and those just discovering this under appreciated horror icon. This may be the end of the trilogy, but I hope we haven’t seen the last everyone’s favorite blasphemous grave digger.