Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Uncle Peckerhead (2020) is an amazing indie.

This film was hilarious and brilliant. Dark but so much fun. I think this really shows what a talented indie filmmaker can do even with very little money although it is so crazy hard to make something as good as this especially for a tiny budget, which makes such an accomplishment all the more impressive. Of course, if you have millions of dollars, you should be able to make a good film but it's never that simple because of too many cooks in the kitchen, a mountain of pressure, strings attached to said money, and just the overall difficulty in creating a truly great movie (even the best directors of all time have misfires). But on the flip side, having basically pocket change compared to Hollywood pretty much buries you under an avalanche of challenges so it's a miracle and no doubt a colossal amount of work behind the scenes when something absolutely fantastic emerges. So glad to say Uncle Peckerhead is definitely an example of beating the odds and delivering an awesome indie. Incredible gory practical FX, tons of dark humor, excellent characters you care about and want to follow, professional cinematography, etc. I really want to see what this director does next and I hope such an accomplishment makes it easier for him to bring his future films to life. I love the name of his production company too, Subtle T-Rex.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Ley Lines (1999) shows Miike's versatility even more.

The more movies you watch by Takashi Miike, the more you realize he has done just about everything in every genre. The man can literally do anything. He has already done so freakin much that it's absolutely mind-blowing. Comedy, horror, action, crime, drama, sci-fi, fantasy, hell he can do all of them in one film. Just consider this: Stanley Kubrick directed 13 features. Hitchcock directed about 55. Spielberg 37, Kurosawa 32, Ozu 48, Tarantino 9, Guillermo del Toro 11, Jim Jarmusch 15, etc. Well, Miike has directed about 107. That is unbelievable. It's all the more astounding when you discover that Miike was given a chance to direct by a total outsider to the film industry, and yet Miike is like an entire industry all by himself now with the sheer number of films he directed. He wanted to make films that hadn't been done before. Films that the Japanese film industry wasn't making, and Ley Lines is a good example since it's about a trio of young Japanese of Chinese descent struggling to survive in Tokyo. They make friends with a distraught Shanghai hooker and piss off the local crime lord as their situation gets progressively worse. As much as I liked Rainy Dog, I prefer this film although I'm hard pressed to identify why since both really engaged me. I was less enthused by Shinjuku Triad Society although I was still happy to watch it but with Miike, you really never know what you're going to get if it's a superhero comedy like Zebraman or a bizarre surreal acid trip like Gozu or just a badass old-school samurai tale like 13 Assassins. Maybe you'll end up with giant sci-fi roaches in his anime adaptation Terra Formars or get disturbed by his groundbreaking horror Audition or witness his brilliant family fantasy musical The Happiness of the Katakuris. I just think in the end you can't go wrong with Miike. Even lesser Miike is still extremely entertaining and original.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

How did I never see Guzoo: The Thing Forsaken By God - Part 1 (1986)?

I'm just shocked I never heard of this before. True, it's only 40 min long but damn it's pretty cool. I love practical FX tentacle monsters, and this certainly delivers as it attacks a bunch of cute Japanese girls. Apparently, there is no part 2, which is a bummer. This should have been a series with like 40 movies haha. Alright maybe I'm overselling it a bit but it seems so amazing when you discover something like this and I found a bunch of other short FX Japanese horror films too such as Conton (1987), Cyclops/The Unborn (1987), Gakidama: The Demon Within (1988), etc. These are the kind of cool practical FX movies I want to make. Ok maybe more like John Carpenter's The Thing but who am I kidding I'm never going to have his budget, which is why I'm impressed by what these guys did because it was probably done for pennies. Sure, it has flaws and you can see their limitations but still I think it's fantastic what they pulled off with so little. That's the magic of indie filmmaking. And look at that VHS box. That's awesome. As soon as I saw that, I knew I had to see this.

I did some digging and the internet informed me V Zone Video was behind this production. Part 2 was canceled since they went out of business. V Zone was a popular Japanese horror magazine in the 80s but its final issue was in 1987. Such a shame.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Torso (1973) is giallo at its finest.

Like everybody else, I love Dario Argento's work but there's plenty of other giallo out there and Torso is really a favorite of mine. Director Sergio Martino should get more credit for making such an exciting crazy film. It's clever too in the way it misleads you about the killer's identity, teasing and toying with you using the red-and-black scarf. Plus, the film is full of absolutely stunning women in various stages of undress, and it never gets dull for a moment. The kill scenes are well shot and very atmospheric. I always remember the brutal dispatching in the foggy woods. Overflowing with style, Torso is one I can easily rewatch. Sure, it has flaws like some of the FX could have been better but I highly recommend it if you haven't seen it. Just be sure to track down the uncut version. Of course, you probably already saw it. I'm late to the party as usual. No surprise there. Actually, I never go to parties. Mom won't let me do anything fun. She keeps sitting up in her room, staring at me from the window. I told her I have to run the motel. Guests are coming but she always has to belittle me. Yes, I'm ripping off Psycho. No, I'm not clever. I have a blog. How clever could I be? That's not fair. Some bloggers are really clever but not me. I'm like the remake of Psycho. Pointless and lazy. Alright, that's my high point. I'm out of here.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

I really loved The Incubus (1981).

Yes, the very end is slightly cheesy due to the FX but this film is so well directed that it is extremely engaging. I was so surprised. My expectations were very low but John Cassavetes is outstanding in it, and again director John Hough really should be championed so much more. He is famous of course for The Legend of Hell House, which is excellent but I really need to see all his movies now (I'm ashamed I didn't see them all already). I really want to study this film because even just the way simple dialogue exchanges are done is fantastic. How they move the camera works so well. So much does come down to the script, which has to be phenomenal and is sadly the most underappreciated yet essential component, but such compelling direction truly elevates the material too. Yeah sorry I sound like some stupid film student now (or even worse, a film school teacher... please kill me) but I just love this movie.

Monday, August 23, 2021

So glad to finally see Evil Dead Trap (1988).

I really love Japanese horror films but sadly I didn't see this one until recently because I foolishly thought it was just a ripoff of Evil Dead, which to be fair, I would still be happy to watch. Of course, I was completely wrong. Despite the title, it's a very unique original movie that really has nothing to do with Sam Raimi's films except they're both gory horror. There are some insanely-inventive kills in this that I never saw before, and I very much dug the atmosphere. I immediately had to check out both sequels, which unfortunately were rather disappointing but I'm still glad I saw them all. There is something special and different about this first one. As people much smarter than me have pointed out, this film feels very much influenced by Italian horror like Argento and Fulci. I love their output too so such a mix sounds like heaven to me, and I think this film certainly delivers. The ending really gets nuts but that is part of the charm. I love films that dare to do something different.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Tomie: Unlimited (2011) is an improvement.

I liked this better than the first film in the series but the digital cinematography is a little underwhelming. I really like how they tried to do more of the Cronenbergesque body horror from the manga but the FX aren't quite there. They're close but I really wish Noboru Iguchi could have gotten a bigger budget, a better camera, etc. I'm still not sure about the actress they chose for Tomie. I know that must be the most difficult role to cast though (even Junji Ito himself picking the actress for the first Tomie movie had a questionable result). But sometimes you see a girl in Tokyo that is simply breathtaking. If only they could cast someone like that but maybe those girls can't act or don't want to act. But I hope they keep trying. Tomie really deserves an awesome big budget film. It just needs someone that truly gets the material and can pull it off then they need the necessary budget to achieve that. Easier said than done and I worry the financers have lost faith.

Update: having now watched many more Tomie movies, I realize the error of my ways. Most of the films are pretty boring sadly but Iguchi's adaptation is probably the best. If only they would've given him more time and money but still it's amazing for the few resources he had. I think a major problem for these films is if you've read the manga, you know where the story is going so it's hard for the filmmakers to surprise the fans and keep it entertaining. You really never want the audience to be ahead of your film but staying unpredictable while still following the source material is very difficult and casting Tomie is so tough.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Tomie (1998) sadly disappoints.

I'm very much late to the game on this, having just recently stumbled on the freakin 9 Tomie movies that exist. Why I didn't know sooner is beyond me. I'm slow... what can I say but I was extremely excited to check these out. I'm a big fan of Junji Ito's art even though I'm no expert by any means. I really don't know much except his stuff is genius, and if you read about the Tomie manga or pick it up yourself, you can see all the potential it has. Unfortunately, it seems none of the films have really capitalized on this. The first attempt in 1998 has a lot going for it or at least it should since it was made right around the time of the first Ring and it was shot on film with a good aesthetic that reminds me of Hideo Nakata's classic but Tomie ends up being rather prodding with not much to grab the viewer. It's a shame. Another issue that seems to plague all these movies is the actress they pick for Tomie never seems so irresistibly beautiful to make all the men go crazy over her, which hurts the film.

Friday, May 7, 2021

It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958) is great to watch.

I love seeing monster movies like this. Them and Day of the Triffids are two of my favorites besides the original Universal Monsters of course (Frankenstein and Creature from the Black Lagoon can't be beat). Yes, the FX don't quite hold up in this but I think there's something charming about a guy in a suit vs. today's CG nonsense although sometimes CGI can be amazing as well (the limited CGI in the first Jurassic Park and the extraordinary work in Starship Troopers). Then again I didn't like the practical FX in Gargoyles so I'm contradictory but I expected a little more from Stan Winston and that was the '70s vs. the '50s here. I shouldn't be so harsh to Gargoyles either since it was a TV movie and full monster suits are never easy. Really I just love monster movies. Even the bad ones are great to me, and I would love to watch every monster movie ever made even though that might be impossible. I like the characters in this film and the way the story develops. At first, no one believes our hero, the only survivor from the first encounter, but once they see the monster for themselves, they know he is telling the truth. It's a common storyline especially in vampire flicks but I like how our guy isn't bitter at that. He understands why they wouldn't believe him. I'm so glad we even got a toy of this monster. One thing is certain: if you want a great monster movie, you need a ruthless unstoppable monster. Alien, Terminator, Jaws all have this in common. The harder it is to kill the beast, the more suspenseful your film will be. Same thing goes for how lethal the creature is. Monster movies really have clear stakes, which I think makes them very effective. Rarely are they boring, and I just love monsters.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) is perfect fun.

Ok nothing is perfect but come on, it's close enough. This movie is so much fun, it gives you exactly what you want (three Godzilla vs. Kong fights!), the human characters are great, etc. I really liked Godzilla: King of the Monsters. What they did with Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra was incredible but the humans were kind of a mess, which is a shame since they had phenomenal actors. But there were far too many, some were unnecessary, [spoilers ahead] the mom's motivation is difficult to grasp (her son died so she wants to kill all sons? obviously grief affects people in different ways but getting revenge on everyone, killing all of humanity including your daughter, seems a bit much) plus her flip-flopping is also strange (when Charles Dance is in your film, he's the only bad guy you need), etc. [spoilers finished] So I can't fully embrace King of the Monsters, which kinda kills me because Ghidorah is so badass in that movie, the title is the best ever, and Godzilla himself is incredible as well. The fact they managed to make Rodan and Mothra amazing too is just stunning. Millie Bobby Brown is fantastic in it too. But Godzilla vs. Kong really blows it out of the water. The pacing is so good, the film flies by, the human side is streamlined and I like the characters a lot but wisely Kong feels like the lead. Godzilla is badass and the fights between them are brilliant. The first scene of the film is with Kong, just a tad bit later you get awesome Godzilla action as he attacks Apex, back to Kong, not long after that is their first fight, etc. It couldn't be better executed. My one gripe is Mecha's design but it's still pretty good [spoilers] and I love how it turns on its creators [end spoilers]. The film is a blast from start to finish and it's great to rewatch as well. I really love this movie and I hope Wingard gets to direct Destroy All Monsters down the road.

Of course, nothing tops the original Godzilla but for a versus film especially this one, it's really the best we could have hoped for. Godzilla vs. Kong shouldn't be dour and serious. It should be fun and focus on the titular monsters, which this film does really well. I'm sorry but I'm not a huge fan of the old King Kong vs. Godzilla although I need to see the original Japanese version to understand how Ishiro Honda was trying to make a parody and sendup of Japanese TV culture at the time (something lost in the more serious US edit). I'm just so happy we finally got the matchup these two legendary monsters deserve.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Ghoulies II (1987) is much better than the first.

I love the practical FX in this, and they even redo the toilet scene that was really just a brief shot in the first one (I read they actually added it after the fact once they came up with that great poster). I had never seen these films until recently but of course, the VHS cover was always in my head. The original film has some nice moments but I really enjoyed the sequel a ton more. You get quite a few more monsters, the FX are better, the ending is cool and unexpected, etc. Seems a shame the sequels after this went downhill. Empire Pictures put out so many awesome movies like Re-Animator, Robot Jox, From Beyond, TerrorVision, Troll, Trancers, etc. I really want to see the documentary Celluloid Wizards in the Video Wasteland when it's finally released (I hate that I missed out on that Kickstarter). Indie film companies really should be celebrated because they are few and far between especially the ones that actually stick around a while (and the ones that make monster movies!).

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Inseminoid (1981) is a sleazy hilarious Alien ripoff.

I love Alien so much I can't help watching all the terrible Z-grade knockoffs, and honestly, I enjoy these too because they show you why Alien is so good. You can see how Alien took the same kind of material but elevated it through high-class cinematography, breathtaking sets, the involvement of a real artist designing the monster in the form of H.R. Giger, excellent writing, the best cast you could hope for, etc. A lot of that does come down to the budget since millions of dollars allows you to get better actors, experienced craftsmen, more time for shooting, etc. so I still appreciate these down and dirty clones but the true flaw of these imitations is not being original. But like I said, I still love to watch them, and they usually have some well-done moments at least or they'll make you laugh. Inseminoid is pretty bad but it gets pretty crazy and fun around 32 min in. If you click here, you can watch it for free on Tubi right now (in the US at least). I really love the posters for it below.

Friday, January 29, 2021

The Blood of Wolves (2018) makes for an excellent crime film with a fantastic lead.

I love Japanese cinema especially crime movies like this. Kôji Yakusho steals the show as usual. You'll recognize him from Cure, 13 Assassins, The World of Kanako, Tokyo Sonata, etc. The characters he plays are fascinating especially the way he brings them to life with such powerful performances. I couldn't look away (except that first shot and what a first shot it is). The whole film is awesome and easy to get pulled into. It's very much about a world that is gray, not black and white where things are not what they seem. You get a lot of mysteries and questions but the high stakes keep you firmly rooted in what's happening. Even the side characters are wonderful like the girl Hioka Shuichi falls for. I wish she was in the film more. The developing relationship between the two main cops is the primary focus, and it's extremely compelling. I'm excited a sequel is on the way, and I wish I could see the director's first film Lost Paradise in Tokyo.