Reviews

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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Back in 2013, actor Leslie Simpson made a foray into filmmaking with his directorial debut, the atmospheric short film Grandpa. Simpson is back with another short, written and directed by him, and it’s a wonderful step-up for the multi-talented filmmaker. Here he takes the lead as Joseph, a seemingly normal man, living in a nice house with his wife Stazi (Phoebe Ashford). Something goes bump one night, and the next morning, things in the house have moved. Stazi’s sure there’s a rational explanation. The next time it happens, more things move, and the detectives (Anna Burgess and Nicholas Politis) are even more sceptical. Joseph and Stazi become increasingly concerned by the goings-on in their home, and have to take matters into their own hands.

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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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When an 80-minute film starts off with three whole minutes of grainy stock footage, you know you’re in for some sort of a treat. When it also includes the credit ‘Eurocine presente’ then you start to get a bit more of an idea of what kind of treat that’s going to be. And so, you’re a bit more forgiving of the bad cuts, bad editing, questionable acting and cheap costumes. Those minor details seem barely worth mentioning when considering a film that one shouldn’t really expect more of.

Elsa Fraulein SS is one of those many Naziploitation films that riffs off the Ilsa model – sadistic lady-Nazi tortures a variety of nubile ladies and grizzled Nazi-men. The exploitation of Ilsa as a pinnacle of the genre is evident in the title used here – Elsa Fraulein SS is otherwise also known as Captive Women 4 (4?!), Fraulein Devil and – surprise – Fraulein Kitty. This film’s other obvious influence is the wonderful Salon Kitty, only instead of a brothel in Berlin being used as a spy-den, the not nearly as professional spies are here based on a pleasure train, travelling all of Germany as reward for the Nazi’s greatest officers.

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‘A passionate tribute to the cinema of Fulci’? It’s words like these which act like bait to writers like us, so when this statement was attached to the press release of a new film, Sexual Labyrinth, my curiosity was piqued. That the press release also mentioned paying homage to Joe D’Amato (ah yes, he) and Luigi Atomico (no idea) only made me wonder more what the film could possibly have in store. Well, spoiler alert: this ‘vision of female sexuality’, again words used in the press release, has nothing whatsoever to do with Fulci that I can see, from his early sex comedies all the way through to his horrors. Nada. Joe D’Amato? Not an expert on his stuff, though I’ve seen a few D’Amato films, and I suppose the rough-shod human flesh on display throughout wouldn’t have looked too amiss in some of his work – though I’m not sure that this is particularly ambitious on the current filmmaker’s part, or complimentary on mine. I think the best thing to do here is to say a bit more about what is on offer.

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I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Raw is this year’s The VVitch or It Follows – that tentpole horror film that gets a big Spring release here in the UK. It seems to be a nascent tradition, and it’ll be interesting to see whether a contender for next year’s equivalent emerges from the upcoming festival season, or if the past two or three years have just been an accidental distribution model. Having played pretty much all the major genre fests – under tight security, no less – and gaining significant traction with stories of fainting and puking at screenings, it’s fair to say that Raw finally arrives with a fair bit of baggage.

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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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Ah, Paul Naschy. It’s entirely possible that I’m speaking for myself here, but the ratio of ‘how well I know his films’: ‘how well I feel I should know his films’ needs a little revision. His name certainly precedes him, and he’s instantly recognisable, but there only seems to be a handful of decent UK releases of Naschy films, even now. A cursory glance over at Amazon shows you still need to rely on imports; I’ve seen lots of Naschy stills, but haven’t stumped up the extra for many of his movies. Well, step forward Black House Films, who – in their recent release rota – have included Crimson (A.K.A. The Man with the Severed Head) and it’s an entertaining way to right this wrong. Is it wall-to-wall with false advertising, from the title right down to the plot and beyond? Yes, it damn well is, and you’ll sit there and bloody well enjoy it anyway.

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I’d spotted the publicity for Catfight in recent weeks and hadn’t, from the images and basic synopses shared, twigged that this was the latest film from Onur Tukel. I’d seen two of Tukel’s previous films – Summer of Blood and Applesauce – and had not particularly enjoyed either of them. Then again, I don’t think I’m particularly the target audience of Tukel’s brand of low-key, cynical humour, styled after Woody Allen and the like. So, upon learning that Catfight – sold as a “brutal and darkly hilarious film” – was Tukel’s latest, my curiosity was piqued. While I’ve not been a fan of Tukel’s films, they’re certainly not bad films, and so what really drew my interest was seeing if Tukel could effectively manage to write a film led by two female leads, when his previous films have been, well, pretty damn masculine.

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There’s something about a good comic fantasy that really speaks to me. The high octane adventure, the bizarre creatures, the musclebound heroes, the world creation; the list goes on and on. With almost unlimited freedom to create and play within a world of the creator’s imagination, rules need not apply when it comes to magic and mayhem. Rose #1, named after its red-headed lead character, brings both of those elements head on in a land ravaged by an evil queen and the one person destined to stop her. Following in the footsteps of such comic greats as Conan the Barbarian, Red Sonja, and Berserk, Rose doesn’t stray too far from the tried-and-true formula, but what it does with it is pretty damn fun.

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