10.09.2010

Centipedes, Satan, and such

All horror movie reviews this time, of some things I've been watching recently. Since it's October I'm trying to limit myself to just horror movies. Got a few really sick 'uns here, kids, so gird your loins with vigor!

Centipede Horror (C, 1984) aka Wu Gong Zhou, Centipede Curse, Centipede Sorcerer. Hong Kong horror with a freakshow approach to special effects, having the actors cough up mouthfuls of live centipedes. A girl who wanders into a wooded area for a second is stung by a couple of hundred centipedes and ends up in the hospital with big rotting sores all over her. Her brother comes and seeks a cure, but begins to think black magic may be involved, especially when she dies and centipedes come crawling out of her wounds. With the help of a female classmate he investigates the centipede curse. They witness an exorcism in which a girl with a rotting abdomen vomits scorpions. They find a priest who specializes in curses and he tries to determine the origin of the curse that killed the guy's sister before it can strike him as well. Warring magicians cast curses at each other and thousands of centipedes swarm the brother's house as the good magician resurrects chicken skeletons and snakes bust out of people's heads. Sick and crazy stuff in the tradition of The Devil, Succubare, and the Black Magic films. The DVD's subtitles are burned in and a little tough to read, but bearable, especially since the movie's weird enough to be worth the effort.




Dead Pit, The (C, 1989) A beautiful amnesia victim (who claims she doesn't have amnesia but that her memory was surgically removed -- if that's true it must've been a long time ago because her hair is awesome) is committed to an asylum. She's also having flashes of sixth sense and seeing things others don't, which is dismissed as craziness. But she's detecting things happening in the asylum's basement, where the surgeon who took her memory has recovered from a bullet between the eyes and is carrying on his experiments in raising the dead. People in the asylum are disappearing, and the head doctor (biker movie vet Jeremy Slate) realizes she's in touch with some evil from the past and tries to drug her, but she fakes the medication and tries to investigate the asylum's weirdness on her own. But a hoard of bloody zombie spastics rise from the pit and attack the asylum, pulling people's brains out for reasons unknown. The movie's very cheap, maybe about 20 minutes longer than it ought to be, and the story is hopelessly sloppy, but the zombies are good and the movie is trying so hard you want to work with it, so it comes across as likable and occasionally creepy. Some of the effects work is good, and some is pure 80's glowing-eyed cheese, but the zombies have exposed brains and plenty of blood all over them, and a few of them melt down. Cheryl Lawson is gorgeous and runs around in panties and a cut-off tee shirt a lot, and went on to a career as a stuntwoman. Not bad cheapie.




Fourth Kind, The (C, 2009) As in "Close Encounters of." The Fourth Kind tries to also break the fourth wall, having star Milla Jovovich introduce herself as "actress Milla Jovovich" and explaining that she and all the other actors will be playing real people, whose "real" archival footage will be intercut with the movie's "recreations" which she warns will be very disturbing. More confusing than disturbing, actually, as Jovovich plays a therapist in Alaska who notices similarities between stories her sleep-disturbed patients are telling her. They're all seeing an owl, for instance. After much turmoil with parents going crazy and unsolved disappearances, a connection is discovered to abduction by aliens who seem to be an ancient Sumerian-speaking race that have been involved with mankind since the beginning. Strange things (people levitating while shaking and yelling in foreign languages) happen during therapy sessions and the local cops get pissed off because they can't figure out what's wrong. The audience may get pissed off for the same reason after a while, because the filmmakers don't really know how to handle their own concept; it's clumsy and senseless to "recreate" scenes while showing the "real" clips in split-screen. The "real" clips are never very convincing anyway, even though they try to fill them with static and picture-breakup to "authenticize" them. The acting is also highly annoying, and really looks like it was modeled on two of the worst ideas in the history of filmmaking: the "whispering every line is a way to add gravitas" tactic of M. Night Shyamalan's execrable The Village and Delores Taylor's awkward, timid cadence from the Billy Jack movies. Jovovich seems to be cringing from the very beginning of the film, before anything weird even starts happening, and everyone displays all the emotions of Ben Stein on Quaaludes, maybe to make the yelling scenes stand out in comparison. The dialogue is pretentious shit written by someone whose Neilsen box probably shows a lot of Lifetime and Hallmark Channel time, and the narrative is so clumsy that characters often remark “this isn’t making sense” as if to reassure us that the nonsense is intentional. Everything is made worse by an overbearing music score that struggles to build tension even in quiet scenes. Close your eyes and you might think the Four Horsemen are riding over the horizon as a six-headed beast rises from the sea; open ‘em and Jovovich is just sipping coffee or something. Lots of weepy-whining, clumsy exposition (characters saying “Dad’s not here anymore” - telling each other things they already know as a way of letting us know is just stepping on your dick). The “real footage” use doesn’t work well, and the “abductions” look like somebody on a scary carnival ride, ‘cept you can’t see the ride. Any movie is an agreement between the filmmakers and the audience to believe a lie for 90 minutes or so, but this draws attention to the fact that it’s lying and it flubs it. Here the main lie came in the form of the previews that saturation-bombed the airwaves and made this look like the scariest shit ever when there’s not a chill to be found. It’s like an “Unsolved Mysteries” segment dragged to feature length.




Human Centipede (First Sequence), The (C, 2009) Wow, does this movie have contempt for mankind! A couple of vapid girls vacationing in Germany have a blowout in the middle of nowhere one rainy night and seek shelter in the worst place they could have gone -- the home of a cold-blooded misanthropic surgeon who's obsessed with surgically connecting the digestive tracts of separate animals to form one long multi-legged being. It's unpleasant for all involved but especially for anyone who doesn't get to be the first segment. He's tried this experiment on some dogs before but it didn't work out (not surprising since a diet of shit will kill ya pretty quickly), so he's hoping for better luck (or at least more amusement) with humans. He drugs the two girls and connects them in a daisy-chain behind a kidnapped Japanese businessman. Cutting knee-ligaments and grafting mouths to anuses, he builds his creation and tries to train it/them to act like a dog, heaping abuse and humiliation on it/them the whole time. Naturally infections set in and there are complications, and the desperate conjoined people want to find some way to escape, but hobbled as they are, that's nearly impossible. This is an extremely morbid and dark-natured film, and even though the effects aren't really that graphic gore-wise (there's some, but it could've been worse), the situation alone will prove too disturbing for most. And there's to be a sequel involving a twelve-person centipede that is supposedly a whole lot darker and nastier. The actor playing the mad doctor is extremely intense and keeps the ridiculous premise severe instead of funny, and you have to feel sorry for the centipede actors, who had to spend a couple of weeks crawling around with their faces jammed in someone else's buttcrack. They have diaper-like bandages covering things, and man I hope there was some kind of steel plate in there just to insulate things, because I just can't imagine signing on for that. The ending is bleak as all hell. It's well-made for what it is, but what it is will appeal to few.



Pretty funny parody:



Lake Dead (C, 2007) Neo-slasher film with a group of twenty-somethings taking an RV out to the boonies to look at a hotel some of them have inherited from a grandfather they never met. Once there, they're murdered (seemingly in order of annoyingness) by a couple of inbred Mongoloid twin giants who look like the monster from Night of the Bloody Apes. The monsters, their mother, and their other brother plan to keep the girls who are kin to them for breeding purposes, because they view incest as a way of keeping their family bloodline "pure." Doesn't look like it's working out too well. Luckily for the girls, one of them has a very resourceful boyfriend who's not as big a pushover as the inbred killers had counted on, and he wants to see the family bloodline ended instead of extended. It's familiar territory (particularly if you've seen such films as Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Just Before Dawn, Wrong Turn, or the infamous "banned" Peacock family episode of The X-Files) but it's not badly executed and isn't a bad addition to the tradition, even if the gore's kind of restrained for the most part (an early pole-through-the-Achilles-tendons scene does lead you to believe it's going to be hardcore).




Midnight Meat Train (C, 2008) An ambitious photographer who's desperate to capture scenes of the city at its most primal saves a girl from rapists only to have her show up missing the next day. He sees a big scary man who's wearing a ring that he saw on the hand of a guy letting the girl into a subway car. Intrigued, he starts stalking this man and finds out he works as a butcher in the packing district. What he doesn't know is that this guy also moonlights as a butcher in late-night subway cars, using a huge shiny hammer to shatter their skulls in explosions of gore. Unluckily for the photographer, this killer has ntoiced him and doesn't like being followed. The photographer grows more obsessed with his theories about this butcher and his behavior scares his girlfriend, and when he gets caught by the guy and has a weird symbol carved on him before being released, things get weirder. His girlfriend tries to rescue him from whatever madness fate has in store for him, but this may just land her in Hell with him. The sense of the story eventually gives way to a cage match of splatterific blood and chunks, but that's pretty impressive in its excess, with skulls and severed limbs being used as weapons and blood gushing by the buckets full. Brutal but well made, adapted from Clive Barker's story.




Neighbor (C, 2009) Incredibly and I do mean incredibly gory torture porn with not so much a plot as an excuse. A sadistically-insane girl (known only as The Girl) goes around a neighborhood amusing herself by killing anyone who makes themselves available. Sometimes the killings are fairly bloodless (such as playing nurse to John Waters legend Mink Stole and not giving her her medicine to see how long it'll take her to die of her conditions), but mostly they're slow and brutal, as she basically tries to experiment with what she can subject her victims to and how long they can survive it. After playing with a few random people in the neighborhood she focuses on a guy and the members of his band. As The Girl, America Olivio is slinky, sexy, and utterly bugfuck crazy, smiling and flashing her eyes with glee more and more the more vicious the atrocity she's committing. There's not much to the narrative beyond the torture, so here's some of what she does: powerdrill mangling toes and legs, hacksaw in the mouth, nailing up of eyelids, clawhammer raking meat off of shins, slicing open of arms, dental tool through the cheek, kneecap removal via pizza slicer, fingers cut off with scissors, and - in one of the most over-the-top show-stoppers in gore movie history -- a glass swizzle stick jammed into a guy's urethra and then shattered, shown as graphically as possible. It's amazing that Wal-Mart is selling the uncut version of this because that's hardcore porno graphic. If you thought the penile violence in Make Them Die Slowly was too much, forgeddaboudit. Usually I hate torture porn but this one goes so far it's obvious that it's a satire of the whole movement... and yet it's nuanced a lot so it's not really any kind of comedy. It's not really that intense or scary, because the movie's primarily about the gore and you can't really take it too seriously, even though it's presented as such. There's no pretense here, and America Olivio's having fun with it, obviously. Not bad but definitely not for all tastes, because it's about as extreme as it gets.




Satan's Children (C, 1975) Bobby gets fed up with his fault-finding father and his belittling, cock-teasing stepsister, so when the stepsister narcs on him for a small bag of pot ("What's that brown stuff in your room?") he runs away, telling them to go to "Jesus H. Christ HELLLL!!" He's promptly saved from a "queer" by some guy in a dirty tee-shirt... who then calls up several of his buddies, and they make Bobby the entertainment at a gang-rape party (somehow held in a moving car with five guys in it). A cult of hippie Satanists find Bobby left for dead on the roadside and take him in. The head witch gets a crush on him (why this would happen is unfathomable) , which displeases the head Satanist, who dislikes Bobby because he thinks he's gay and Satan hates homosexuals (the preoccupation with homophobia in this film is very odd). So the witch is buried up to her neck near the world's lowest-traffic anthill and Bobby overcomes his butt-hurt enough to try to escape through the backwoods in his underpants. The devil-worshippers chasing him fall into a pool of quicksand that look like marshmallow cream and is no bigger than a wading pool; it takes great effort to appear to be dying in such a quicksand pit. The whole experience makes a new man out of Bobby! Strangely fascinating no-budget Florida horror that's go no scares or creepiness at all but has inept '70's charm to burn. The complete absurdity of it makes you wonder what other oddities are lurking in film cans out there somewhere...

Kinda bizarre clip but it's the only one I could find...




Satan's Little Helper (C, 2004) Cult horror director Jeff Liberman (Squirm, Just Before Dawn, Blue Sunshine) breaks years of silence with this weird comedic horror film. Little Dougie is an oddball kid who's so obsessed with a video game called "Satan's Little Helper" that he dresses as a devil for Halloween and plans to find Satan so he can join up with him. His beloved sister (who he wants to marry) comes home for a visit, bringing a goober new boyfriend with her, which pisses Dougie off. Meanwhile, an escaped maniac wearing a grinning demonic mask is going around town murdering people and using their corpses as Halloween decorations. Dougie befriends him, thinking he's Satan, and helps him find victims. Since his sister's boyfriend had planned to dress as Satan, Dougie's family thinks the masked maniac is him. The maniac has a ball, stabbing people and running shopping carts over babies and pregnant women and painting with squished cats and hanging crippled old ladies. They go trick-or-treating, which is another killing spree, and then go to a Halloween party and poison the punch with drain cleaner. Once everybody figures out he's a killer, he pulls a few more tricks, then continues his killing spree while dressed as Jesus! Whoever's playing the killer is a helluvan actor; he never says a word and has immobile masks on his face the whole time, but manages to convey a wide range of humor or menace just through body language. Most horror comedies annoy me but this one's black as pitch and cleverly done, definitely worth checking out.



Whole movie:

2 comments:

  1. Excellent post! October is shaping up to be a great month for this blog, at least so far... Hope we can all keep it up for a coupla more weeks! And thanks for saving me the time I'd've spent realizing that The Fourth Kind is a waste. And for the review of The Human Centipede, I guess... gotta go scrub down after that shit + Neighbor.

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