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.
It’s no secret that I adored the first Stake Land film. For me, it epitomised just how much you could do with familiar horror elements, if you had a clear idea of the importance of character, and an understanding that good horror stories depend on an awareness of the ratio of ordinary:extraordinary, whether that ratio be skewed greatly in one direction or another. For all of my enthusiasm for the film, however, I had absolutely no idea that a sequel had been made; I have since found out that actor/writer Nick Damici has hopes of getting a Stake Land franchise off the ground, but in any case, it’s a pleasant thing to get the chance of a screener which is – at least in promise – a very happy surprise. Now having watched the second film, I’m completely torn. On one hand, it’s immensely gratifying to again see characters on screen that (for me) work so well, in a film which re-captures some of the striking visuals and atmosphere of the first film. But in re-capturing much of what made the first film so effective, Stake Land II has seemingly re-trod a very, very similar story arc. This has led me to ponder – when is a sequel truly a sequel? And when is a sequel justifiable?
Ben has recently made reference to the on-going exploration of pregnancy in horror, and as a theme it certainly seems to be having a bit of a moment – from the last year or so, Shelley, Antibirth, and Prevenge have all tackled the issue, in quite different ways. Prevenge has perhaps been the most hotly-anticipated and highly-regarded of these films, at least in the UK, coming from accomplished comedy writer and actress Alice Lowe, making her feature film directorial debut.
What makes the debut all the more stunning is that Lowe directed – and starred in – the film while seven months pregnant herself. Impressive though that is from an endurance perspective, it also seems to have been quite vital to the success of the film thematically: a genuine portrayal of the psychological difficulties of pregnancy… with added murder.
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.
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.
If there’s been one recent Blu-ray announcement that I’m most excited for it’s got to be Arrow’s upcoming The Bird with the Crystal Plumage set. Coming in June, the set promises a 4K restoration of the film, a host of new commentaries and analyses on the film, a brand new interview with Maestro Argento himself, as well as a 60-page collectors’ booklet, a poster and re-production lobby cards. Along with the Phenomena release (May 8th), it’s looks like Arrow are revamping their Argento collection, and if they’re all getting this lavish treatment then, well, my bank account’s going to be looking significantly poorer for a while!
For those who are enamoured with the high octane fantasy of Conan but wish there were a few more sassy talking clouds, Adventure Time has filled that gap perfectly. Despite the animated TV series announcing an official end in 2018, there are plenty of adventures still left, and the creators have recently announced a new mini-series entitled Elements which comes with its own unique opening song.
We’ve said it before and I’m sure it’s worth repeating – it’s hard to keep up with the number of projects seeking crowd-sourced financial backing, and it can be even harder to know which ones to help promote and which ones to leave aside. It gets to a point of saturation where it’s easier to just chuck a few quid at the ones you like best and leave it at that.
However, sometimes projects come along that you really do have to shout about, and this is one of those, if you ask me. The official documentary about the life and career of legendary actress, performer and all-round force of nature Tura Satana is seeking the funds to complete production. The documentary had Satana’s blessing before she passed away in 2011, and the people behind the production include her long-time manager Siouxzan Perry and director Cody Jarrett, who directed Satana in her final film role as an actress. The film has already secured an impressive array of talking heads, including John Waters, Dita Von Teese and the late, great Ted V. Mikels, and is offering a range of cool perks to those who help back the film, from art prints to actual items from Satana’s wardrobe (!).
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.
By Marc Lissenburg
Sleep deprivation aside, I prefer a clear head when treating my senses to horror based cinematic pleasures. Conversely, I personally find that my other passion, heavy-as-hell metal, is often better savoured while somewhat imnebriated. With this in mind, I’ve often pondered the curious instances whereby these two leisurely pursuits collide, pitching staunch sobriety against medicated blissfulness.
My disclosing ramble basically alludes to the fun that can be had with trying to identify the sound-bytes of sampled dialogue from our beloved horror genre that are cunningly interwoven into the heaviest music on the planet. This endeavour does have a varying scale of complexity, however. Whereas on one end of the scale, Regan McNeil’s profane howls are the proverbial no-brainer, the other end of the spectrum contains dialogue from flicks whose degree of obscurity make it down right infuriating to identify!