DVD Review: Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Negotiating the relationship between art and artist can be a tricky business at times. For many, approaching any new movie from Mel Gibson is going to be a tough pill to swallow given the man’s many public disgraces and personal views which don’t sit well with some of us. But even if we try to take the filmmaker’s real life persona out of the equation and approach Hacksaw Ridge purely as a new addition to his body of work, it may seem fraught with contradictions right away. Throughout both his acting career and his work behind the camera on Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, Gibson’s fascination with violence has always been front-and-centre, and many would go so far as to suggest he fetishises combat; and yet, here he is taking on the story of a devoutly Christian pacifist who steadfastly refused to engage in violence during World War 2, despite having enlisted in the army of his own accord. Indeed, at a glance Desmond Doss’s story would also appear somewhat self-contradictory. So in a curious way, it is a very fitting tale for Gibson to tell, and one that cuts directly into the clash between religious conviction and rampant bloodlust which runs throughout his filmography.

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How Jonathan Demme changed everything with The Silence of the Lambs

As most readers are no doubt aware by now, Jonathan Demme has died. Taken from us aged 73 from a reported combination of heart disease and cancer, the director, writer, producer and documentarian leaves behind a remarkably varied and illustrious body of work. As can often be the case on these occasions, I come to the sad realisation that I’m really not as familiar with the length and breadth of that oeuvre as I should be. Beyond Caged Heat (whose praises I sang here several years ago), I haven’t seen any of Demme’s earliest films, and while I did see Something Wild and Married to the Mob, both were so long ago they’re hazy in my memory.

However, as a lifelong horror fan, the one Demme movie which will always be close to my heart is naturally his Oscar-laden 1991 classic The Silence of the Lambs. And yes, let’s make this abundantly clear straight away: whatever anyone says, of course The Silence of the Lambs is a horror movie, and any denial of this is absurd and rooted in anti-genre snobbery. That said, to play devil’s advocate, it’s understandable that some would declare it to be (wince) somehow ‘more’ than horror, as it was a film that pushed the genre to new heights of sophistication which few can really be said to have reached since; and God knows they tried, as its echoes can be felt in so much of the horror fare to have come in its wake.

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Review: We Are The Flesh (2016)

Any contemporary example of extreme cinema, loaded with shocking imagery and structured in an unconventional manner to keep the audience on their toes, has one fairly sizeable obstacle to tackle: cinema has seen more than its fair share of extreme, indecipherable, shock-heavy fare over the decades. As such, while We Are The Flesh is specifically designed to defy straightforward explanation, I still feel like I can sum it up easily enough: if you felt that Refn’s The Neon Demon or the final act of Rob Zombie’s The Lords of Salem were just a little too linear and sedate for your liking, and didn’t feature nearly enough explicit sexual content, then this might be your cup of tea. On the other hand, if you think that sounds like 80 minutes of audio-visual torture, well, that’s just what you’ll get as well – and there’s no doubt in my mind that this is what writer-director Emiliano Rocha Minter is aiming for with his feature debut. Whatever your proclivities, this is not a film you can passively sit through; but just how great an impact it’s likely to have may vary according to how easily shocked you are, and/or how receptive you are to the near-constant use of shock tactics.

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Blu-ray Review: Drunken Master (1978)

Tackling films dubbed cinematic landmarks can sometimes feel a bit of a minefield. There are any number of worthy, ‘important’ films which can be argued to have demonstrably changed the face of cinema, but in many instances this doesn’t necessarily equate to the film in question still being enjoyable to watch in the 21st century. However, this most definitely isn’t the case with Drunken Master. For some, it might be a bit of an eyebrow-raiser to see Eureka Entertainment releasing Yuen Woo-Ping’s low-budget 1978 kung fu flick as part of their illustrious Masters of Cinema series; yet while the film may have been introduced to the west via grindhouse cinemas and shoddy VHS tapes, it also breathed new life into Hong Kong martial arts cinema, which seemed to have focused its energies on trying to find the next Bruce Lee in the years following the action icon’s death. The way to advance, of course, was not to emulate Lee’s style, but to experiment with new approaches – and this was just what Woo-Ping and his leading man Jackie Chan did here, in what is widely acknowledged as the first kung fu comedy.

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Blu-ray Review: Phantasm I-V Limited Edition Collection (1979-2016)

There are horror franchises, there are horror franchises with a cult following, and then there’s Phantasm. One of the few properties of its kind to remain in the hands of the same creator right up to the present day (even if the most recent film was the work of another director), Don Coscarelli’s humble 1979 oddity somehow birthed a series which has endured for the better part of four decades. As an example of independent genre filmmaking done right, it might easily be mentioned in the same breath as such other titles of its era as The Evil Dead and Friday the 13th, and yet Phantasm clearly stands apart inasmuch as it has arguably proved to be a genuine, inimitable one-off. Well, a one-off that’s spawned four sequels, but hopefully you see my point. Combining elements of simple drive-in horror movie thrills, mind-bending Argento-esque surrealism, apocalyptic science fiction, and all-American, gun-toting, muscle car machismo, there’s no mistaking a Phantasm movie, and there really isn’t anything else quite like it.

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Blu-ray Review: Frankenstein Created Bikers (2016)

As hard as it may be for some of us to believe, it’s now been a full decade since Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse first opened, and, as I’ve discussed at length elsewhere, the big-budget box office flop wound up having a far greater cultural impact than anyone could have anticipated at the time. No, QT and RR did not single-handedly bring grindhouse exploitation cinema into the popular consciousness, but they did raise its profile significantly, to the extent that neo-grindhouse (if you want to call it that) has become a prominent subgenre in the indie/genre scene this past decade: on top of Grindhouse spin-offs Machete, Machete Kills and Hobo With a Shotgun, we’ve had Black Dynamite, Bitch Slap, Time To Kill, All Hell Breaks Loose, Run! Bitch Run! and Nude Nuns with Big Guns, to name but a few; but to my mind there’s no question that the big daddy in this field was James Bickert’s gleefully debauched 2011 bikers-versus-Bigfoot movie, Dear God No!

I’ll admit I wasn’t completely sold on Dear God No! when it first came to British shores. The post-grindhouse approach invariably hinges on a degree of artifice which is always going to leave a bad taste in the mouth for some viewers. However, with time and further viewings, not to mention holding it up alongside similar films that have been made since, it became clear that Dear God No! had a sincerity, a certain purity of intent (believe me, I’m well aware how wrong it seems to imply there’s anything ‘pure’ about it) that held it up as almost certainly the best film of its kind to emerge this past decade. As such, when Bickert announced plans to shoot an even more ridiculous sequel in Frankenstein Created Bikers, damned if I wasn’t anxious to see that right away, to the extent that I happily donated to the film’s Kickstarter fund – hence my contributor copy Blu-ray arrived at long last this past weekend.

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DVD Review: The Beaster Bunny (2014)

Just in case you wondering, no, this isn’t some sort of sequel to The Bunny Game which you hadn’t heard about.

Originally released in the US under the title Beaster Day: Here Comes Peter Cottonhell, The Beaster Bunny is the first and to date only film credited to writer, director, producer and cinematographer team the Snygg Brothers, and as you might have already ascertained from the title and the still to the left, it’s about a sleepy middle-American town (is there any other kind?) which comes under attack from a giant killer bunny rabbit on Easter weekend. Absurdist monster movies of this ilk are hardly unheard of these days, most of them coming from SyFy, The Asylum and/or Roger Corman (although more often than not they centre on sharks rather than rabbits), and I’m sure I’m far from alone in having often thought while sitting through such feeble efforts that they would almost certainly be improved if they didn’t tone things down for TV, and piled on the bloodshed, swearing and gratuitous nudity. Well, The Beaster Bunny certainly tests that theory. It’s got tits, gore and F-bombs galore, as one of the most wildly unconvincing monsters you will ever see goes on a rampant killing spree. Whether this is enough to keep the joke from getting old for a full 80 minutes is another matter.

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Review: The Void (2016)

It can be tricky when you’re late to the party. Feverishly hyped in horror circles since its announcement, and one of the most talked-about films at the horror festivals in 2016, The Void has been on my radar for a good length of time, and all the signs indicated that it was something very much up my street. Publicity emphasised heavy use of old-fashioned practical SFX in favour of CGI, and a vision of otherworldly terror that drew heavily on HP Lovecraft, Clive Barker, Lucio Fulci, but at the same time reached out to do something new. Naturally, I went in with very high hopes… so when I say now that The Void is, well, just alright, it feels like a devastating blow. It really shouldn’t be at all, as this is not in any way, shape or form a bad film; it’s just nowhere near as great as I’d been hoping it would be, with far fewer surprises in store.

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Review: Antibirth (2016)

It’s entirely logical that pregnancy has been a recurring theme in so much horror, particularly at the more grotesque end of the spectrum. As much as some of us might like to herald it as a beautiful and miraculous thing, we all know that for most women it will result in nausea, pain, exhaustion, emotional and physical distress, not to mention the fact that in many instances the lucky lady in question might not have even wanted to become a mother in first place. Absolutely, a pregnant woman can see herself as engaging in the greatest act of creation she will ever undertake – but she might just as easily see herself as the host to a parasite, and it’s hard to fault that logic.

Am I danger of being burnt at the stake for mansplaining here? Perhaps, but given that Antibirth is the brainchild (sort-of pun sort-of intended) of male writer-director Danny Perez, I feel like I should be safe given my Y-chromosome-enabled point of view on the matter. For what it’s worth I’m also a father and was present at the birth of both my children, so I do have some hands-on experience with pregnancy, in all its wonder and its ugliness. You might not be surprised to hear that it’s the ugly side which Antibirth takes the most interest in.

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In conversation: Ben and Keri get into Get Out

Back in our Brutal As Hell days, co-editor Keri O’Shea and myself would from time to time forego the conventional review approach in favour of a one-on-one discussion. This is an approach we’ve often favoured when the film in question was already the subject of widespread debate, which it seems fair to say has been the case with the film we’ve chosen to discuss here, in our first such conversation since relaunching as Warped Perspective. The debut feature from writer-director Jordan Peele but the latest in a very long line of mainstream genre releases from production company Blumhouse, Get Out is easily the most widely praised horror film of 2017 thus far, whilst also being the most commercially successful; two things which do not necessarily coincide most of the time. Naturally this was enough to get both of us interested – and happily, neither of us came out disappointed.

Hopefully as it’s already been out upwards of a week, a good many readers will have already seen the film, but we’re not making any assumptions there, so I will forewarn you that we do get heavily into spoilers early into the discussion – if in doubt, don’t read beyond the warning below…

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DVD Review: Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell (AKA The Japanese Evil Dead) (2014)

More than 35 years on, The Evil Dead remains as beloved and influential as ever, ranking alongside Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween and The Blair Witch Project as one of the most endlessly ripped-off horror movies of all time (that list is by no means exhaustive, by the way). Of course, Sam Raimi’s feature debut
ranks not only as a perennial genre classic, but also as one of the key video nasties, so given contemporary indie horror’s fascination with revisiting the VHS era, it seems timely for a low-budget film to emerge with designs on directly recapturing that spirit.

As we can rather easily ascertain from its alternate title The Japanese Evil Dead, writer/director/actor Shinichi Fukazawa’s Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell is modelled so closely on The Evil Dead that it seems just as much a remake as Fede Alvarez’s 2013 Evil Dead was; indeed, it’s considerably closer to Raimi’s film in tone, content and most notably visual aesthetics. And given that this new DVD from Terracotta (released under their Terror Cotta imprint) boasts artwork from none other than Graham Humphreys, the iconic artist behind the classic Evil Dead VHS cover, Fukazawa’s film is very much being sold on that link. The key question, then, is whether we can regard Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell as a notable new addition to the horror canon, or essentially a fan film done good.

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Review: Kong: Skull Island (2017)

It was inevitable that giant monsters would return to the blockbuster arena, and Warner Bros and Legendary Pictures are leading the way. With Pacific Rim and Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla reboot in the bag, a new take on King Kong was the next logical step, paving the way to the announced Godzilla Vs Kong lined up for 2020 (but this only coming after their 2019 Godzilla sequel from director Mike Dougherty). All this being the case, it’s easy to regard Kong: Skull Island with disdain, viewing it merely as a stepping stone in yet another megabudget Hollywood franchise. However, commerce and creativity are not mutually exclusive, as I think plenty of contemporary franchises, the Marvel Cinematic Universe in particular, have demonstrated; and Kong: Skull Island offers further evidence to this effect. Jordan Vogt-Roberts is a director I must confess to having been completely ignorant of before now, and I gather this is his first time working at blockbuster level, but he’s put together a movie which pretty much exemplifies blockbuster filmmaking at its finest: simple storytelling, spectacular visuals, and enough thrills and spills to comfortably fill up a running time with the common decency to clock in at just under two hours (the latter being a particular rarity these days).

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