Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Wild Eye Releasing Fever Dream Marathon Part 2: Gothkill and The Bloody Ape

STOP!!!  If you haven’t read PART 1 of this transcendental journey into the world of modern low budget exploitation cinema, go do so now.  If you don’t how else are you gonna know that I was watching these out of my mind on codeine cough syrup (which might as well be orally administered heroin), tons of cold medicine, and a 104 degree fever.  How would you know that I had already watched Blitzkrieg: Escape From Stalag 69 and The Disco Exorcist?  I mean, if you didn’t read part one, you would have no idea that I was tearing through a stack of flicks sent to me by Wild Eye Releasing.  So you should really go read part one.  On, now that you went and did that, on with the movies!

If you watch a lot of indie horror cinema, you’ve undoubtedly run into a few of those “I have a bunch of goth buddies and a camera” movies.  You know, films like Goth, Hollywood Vampyre, and about half of any Pendulum Pictures box set.  I’m always rooting for these pictures, since I love that DIY sensibility and have a weakness for goth chicks.  The problem is, most of the time they’re impossible to get through.  Some of the worst movies I’ve ever seen fit into the “gothsploitation” subgenre.  Luckily, Gothkill was infinitely more entertaining than your garden-variety black lipstick flick.
 Synopsis: When Catholic Priest and Inquisitor Nicholas Dread finds out that innocents are being burned as witches he decides to do something about it. Unfortunately for him, his superiors don’t agree and he’s burned at the stake alongside two women he forced confessions from. While dying, Nick curses god and makes a pact with Satan to reign over his own kingdom someday at any cost. Now, in 21st century New York City, Dread has returned to finish the deal. His end of the bargain with Satan must be fulfilled, and many will die so Dread can take the throne in his kingdom of over one hundred thousand corrupt souls. He just has to find the right bunch of victims…and it just so happens the best Goth Club in the city is ripe for this bloodthirsty butcher bent on revenge! Can a group of Goths and wanna-be vampires hold their own when the real thing arrives?
I’ll probably alienate some of you with this statement, but I find a lot of the people in the goth and fetish scenes absolutely hilarious.  Not in a “oh my god, look at the freak” way, that would be pretty hypocritical of me, but the ones who take themselves deadly serious without any sense of humor or irony kill me.  The pretentiousness is just too much for me to take.  That’s one of the reasons I enjoyed this flick so much.  Far too often the “gothsploitation flicks” fall into that pretentious category.  Gothkill actually has a sense of humor.  These guys don’t mind poking fun at themselves and the more ridiculous aspects of gothhood.  It’s so refreshing to see the subculture willing to make fun of itself.  Anyone who knows a lot of goths will laugh that “oh my god, that’s just like so and so” laugh repeatedly.  Michael Day as Lord Walechia is especially hilarious.
The main thing that carries the flick is Flambeaux in the lead role.  Yes, his name is Flambeaux.  Freakin’ goths.  Anyway, asinine stage name notwithstanding, this dude has serious screen presence and a lot of charisma.  It’s a trip watching him throw himself into the role and go balls to the wall with it. He spends a good amount of time narrating directly to the camera, and he makes it work.  It may be the fever (or the drugs) talking, but I love this guy.  Why haven’t more filmmakers picked up on him?
The flick doesn’t really work as a horror movie, but it does as a horror comedy.  The problem is, it’s kinda hard to tell how seriously we’re meant to take it.  Flambeaux, the goth-skewering comedy, and a little eye candy are more than enough to gain my favor.  Hell, even if it wasn’t, at 75 minutes, it doesn’t really have time to overstay its welcome.  Punched up with more nudity and some more gore beyond the “throw some Karo around” minimum, this could have been a gem.  That’s not to say it’s not entertaining though.  You’ve most definitely seen a lot worse.  Those with ties to the goth community will enjoy this far more than those just looking for some horror.
By this time, my loopy-ness was reaching its zenith.  I soon realized that this put me in the perfect mindset to watch The Bloody Ape.  How can you not love a flick that advertises itself as “100% Pure Underground Trash?”  Well, it’s pretty easy, as 99% of intentionally bad underground trash isn’t nearly as much fun as this, but that’s a rant for another time.  The movie is shot on Super 8mm (mostly expired according to the bonus features), which normally imbues a flick with a grainy, low-fi, washed out look.  This day, however, it was more of a hallucinatory quality, like a spectral vision shown to me by the Ghost of Regional Exploitation Movies Past. 
Synopsis:  THE BLOODY APE is the most outrageous, drive-in movie take on Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue" ever committed to film. A carnival barker foolishly releases his 400 pound gorilla, who then literally goes bananas on a rampage of raw rape and boffo butchery - leaving the low rent population of Long Island either sexually violated, slaughtered - or both! From maverick indy filmmaker Keith J. Crocker (Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69), THE BLOODY APE is a gore-soaked love letter to the sex and violence of the grind house movie era that pulls no punches and offers no apologies for wallowing in a skin-drenched stew of crudeness and camp! Banned from numerous festivals around the world, ignored by critics and loathed by the politically correct....but now there just is no stopping THE BLOODY APE!
I never went more than a couple of minutes without laughing hysterically.  The dialog is insane.  Almost every character is an over the top parody of a racist, and you will never stop being amazed at the things coming out of these people’s mouths.    If you’re one of those whiney, easily offended, politically correct types, stay the hell away from this movie.  The non-racial dialog is just as funny, with characters spouting lines like “My love for you is as deep and as wide as the expanses of your vaginal cavity.”   Just so you know, to get that quote, I decided to play a little game.  You just read that in the Jigsaw voice, didn’t you?  Couldn’t help yourself, could ya? Instead of going back to the flick to get the actual verbiage, I googled “bloody ape vaginal cavity.”  I was either gonna find the quote, or be irreversibly mentally scarred.  Luckily the quote came up first, but I don’t recommend gambling with your sanity like that kids.  That could have been traumatic. 
The acting is just as outlandish as the lines these “actors” deliver.  As far as I can tell, there isn’t an actual actor among the bunch.  Well,  perhaps the guy who plays Duane Jones, the token black guy named after the most beloved token black guy in horror history.  He was pretty good.  If you are the type who gets a kick out of bad acting, this flick just might be the holy grail.  Paul Richichi as Lampini is a study in awkwardness.  The scene where Lampini is running around asking people (who seem to have been recruited on the spot) about the whereabouts of his ape is hysterical.  George Reis, playing Detective LoBianco in a hilarious wig and fake beard, is a caricature of every 70’s New York cop movie cliché.  The moment when a naked woman is attacked by the ape, and shows her terror by looking directly into the camera and laughing just might be the most exquisite example of the fine art of screen acting that I’ve ever seen.  Second take be damned! 
The monkey mayhem is magnificent.  Among his other exploits, our simian friend castrates a hippy, tears a rabbi’s leg off, and rapes the rabbi’s wife (covering her in his seed, which looks suspiciously like whipped cream) before gutting her with his bare hands.  During the scene with the rabbi’s wife, the thought of the monkey intoning “Rape Ape” in the “Grape Ape” voice occurred to me.  At that moment, it was the funniest thing I had ever come up with.  I kept repeating it in my mind and guffawing.  Then I realized I was actually repeating it out loud.  I’m glad no one else was there to see that.  Anyway, this ape doesn’t limit his activities to the usual horny and homicidal stuff you’d expect from an ape.  No, monkey man actually steals a car and goes for a drive.  Yep, a gorilla steals a car.  If that’s not enough to sell you on this one, I don’t know what is.  The nudity perhaps?
The Bloody Ape purports to be a throwback to the days of the drive-in.  It’s notable that this movie was made back in 1997, a full decade before Grindhouse made these homages trendy.  While being shot on film does lend it the aesthetic of an earlier time, it comes across to me as a throwback to the 80’s DIY flicks that came out of the initial explosion of the home video market.  You know, those flicks where you can tell that someone decided to make a movie because they had a camera, an idea, 50 bucks, a bunch of friends and family to be cast and crew, and a weekend off.  I love the homegrown quality of those flicks, and I love the homegrown quality of this one. 
At this point, my brain could take no more input.  As the calliope music of The Bloody Ape’s title screen played, I stared vacantly at the screen trying to make sense of the last 8 hours or so.  It was a heady, almost psychedelic cocktail of naked women with machine guns, gorillas committing grand theft auto, vinyl dresses, Nazis, disco, tits, blood, fire, bad acting, castrations, sex, demons, hilarious dialog, and pure indie horror madness.  Later that night, my fever finally broke.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Brothers and sisters, I was healed by the power of gore and sleaze.  Hallelujah!
Now, before I wrap up with the severed thumb scores, I have to mention that Wild Eye did a bang up job with these releases.  You wouldn’t expect smaller releases like these to have a lot in the way of bonus features, but they all come pretty packed.  Hell, The Disco Exorcist is the sparsest of them all, and it has a commentary track, deleted scene, and all of the flick’s various trailers.  Gothkill has a video commentary (which is cool, but the little box in the corner of the flick gets annoying at times), a Q&A with the director, a featurette on the live experience, and promo materials.  The two Keith Crocker flicks get the full on Special Edition treatment, with commentaries, retrospective featurettes, shorts, test footage, stills, trailers, promo materials, VHS covers, and more.  Kudos to Wild Eye for giving you this much bang for your buck.  Hit them up on facebook HERE to keep up with their releases.
Ok folks, the final verdict is…one severed thumb up for Gothkill and one and a half severed thumbs up for Blitzkrieg, Disco Exorcist, and Bloody Ape if taken separately.  Two severed thumbs way up if you plan on doing the same marathon I did, hopefully without the “sick as hell” part.  Nathan says check ‘em all out. 

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