Stevecast returns with a look at Nicholas Cage and Anakin Skywalker in OUTCAST.
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Batman v Superman wakes ElGoro of Talk Without Rhythm, Ronin of Sleepy Cast, Professor Bleak of the Mad Writing Skills, and Mat from Splattercast out of their year and a half long slumber to discuss the film, The Napster guy’s new venture, The Screening Room, SPIDER-MAN, and Donald Trump.
Praise be upon Christina Hendricks.
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Arrow Video is back with another great release, this one being AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT, an ongoing series of collections that will give Criterion level love to some of the most obscure and overlooked American horror films. This review will specifically look at MALATESTA’S CARNIVAL OF BLOOD.
The second film in Arrow’s first AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT collection is a low rent Lynchian fever dream of a film called Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood. The film was released in a few drive-ins in the mid 70’s and then considered lost for 30 years before a print was “miraculously” discovered in the early 2000’s. With a bizarre title and a few cryptic glowing reviews that appeared in the sketchier recesses of the internet, MCoB was released to minor fanfare. After you get past the initial fun factor of hearing about a long lost horror film suddenly uncovered, you realize that the film is a jumbled, nonsensical mess whose zero budget and amateur hour filmmaking make it no better than some of the travesties you’d find in the $5 Wal-Mart bin or on Netflix streaming.
There’s not really a coherent plot to MCoB and it can pretty much be summed up with one sentence. A family shows up to work at a carnival in search of their missing child only to find that the carnival is run by ghouls and vampires. That’s it. The rest of the film constitutes poorly framed shots, terrible acting, and laughable editing decisions. There are a few moments of hilarious blood and gore. One sequence involves a decapitation on a roller coaster that looks like something a bunch of elementary school kids would do as a Halloween gag. The “blood” looks like orange pudding and the zombies/ghouls have a generic flat face makeup that make them look like the low rent stuff you’d see at your local zombie walk.
What this film does have going for it is the strange way it is filmed. Almost everything in this has a bizarre, dream like quality to it. As I stated before, it’s very David Lynchian in terms of weird stuff that doesn’t make sense. You’ll see a shot of a creepy carnival clown, then a slow motion shot of a girl running down a road. It has a very artsy fartsy look and feel to it and though some of the shots do, indeed, look good, a broken clock is right twice a day. I’d almost call this an experimental film if I didn’t know that the director was actually *trying* to do something non-experimental. I’ve read some reviews of people claiming that this film has merit due to the weirdness of everything involved (zombies in the basement that like to watch silent horror films of the 20’s, vampires running the carnival, etc.) but I’d have to strongly disagree. This thing is painful to try and get through. It doesn’t work as an experimental film and it certainly doesn’t work as a narrative film. Sometimes, people give a pass to old films and ascribe value and worth where there is none. MCoB is one of those films. I’ve seen this movie made by many filmmakers today and they are all just as bad.
The Arrow disc has a few interviews but I can’t honestly say you’ll want to watch any of them if you can actually make it to the end of this. This is probably the first Arrow release that I felt was just outright terrible and doubly disappointing coming off the excellent The Witch Who Came from the Sea, part of this very 3 disc collection. But hey, you can’t win them all. Only recommended if you like doing LSD while watching no-budget David Lynch knockoffs.
Arrow Video is back with another great release, this one being AMERICAN HORROR PROJECT, an ongoing series of collections that will give Criterion level love to some of the most obscure and overlooked American horror films. This review will specifically look at THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA.
The Witch Who Came From the Sea is a film shot in 1971 and released in 1976, directed by Matt Cimber (known for the notoriously awful Orson Welles flick Butterfly), and one of the original films put on the United Kingdom’s Video Nasty list. The film centers on a mentally unstable young woman named Molly (Millie Perkins) who is struggling to come to grips with her dead father and their dark, incestuous past. As NFL stars begin to die, the audience begins to wonder whether Molly is hallucinating these strange visions of death, or if something more nefarious is going on.
I had heard of this film a number of years back in Stephen Thrower’s great book Nightmare USA (a must own for any serious horror fan) but had never had the opportunity to see it. It’s pretty great that Arrow is bringing this to a wide release because it’s a real hidden gem of a film. Most of the films that were labeled “Video Nasties” were low budget gore fests or exploitative schlock that, compared to today, were pretty tame and only seem to affect stodgy old British film censors who couldn’t come to grips with naked girls getting carved up by salivating monsters. Witch is so far beyond what you normally attribute to a Video Nasty that it’s almost jarring when you view it. The film is a meditation on the effects of severe child molestation wrapped around a pretty impressive display of the fracturing of a woman’s psyche as she attempts to deal with it.
This is almost not a horror film. It definitely has sequences that fit well into the horror genre. One such sequence involves Molly having a three way with two NFL superstars, tying them to the bed, and then proceeding to slice their dicks off. Another involves Molly hacking off the penis of a guy with his own razor. Sex and the subsequent violence that comes from it is due to Molly’s long term, incestuous relationship with her dead father. The film does not shy away from flashbacks to a young Molly, no more than 10 years old, being systematically raped by her sea captain father. In one particularly disturbing sequence, Molly comes home from school and opens a closet to put away her school books only to find her father crouching inside naked in wait for her. Somewhat shockingly, you do get scenes indicating thrusting and the filmmakers show her father literally having a heart attack and dying on top of her in mid thrust. I can sort of see how something like this, in 1975, would have shocked the hell out of censors. The fact that it’s an actual little girl who is participating in these scenes makes it all the more unseemly.
That being said, the film is not trying to be exploitative in how it shows these scenes. It’s all part of showing Molly’s mental fracturing as an adult and how her relationship with her father instructs her relationships with men. Molly is also shown being extremely motherly to her sisters’ two children, who seem to love her more than the sister. What all this adds up to is an audience who not only has empathy for a woman going around and murdering these innocent people, but in the final scenes, coming to an understanding of *why* she’s doing it. It’s a really interesting take that is much deeper than a typical exploitation film of its type. If there is any problem with the film it’s that it is hampered a bit by its low budget. The film looks great, as it is shot by Dean Cundey, the same cinematographer that would go on, a few short years later, to cement his place in horror cinematographer history with Halloween. But you can really see that they didn’t have a ton to work with here. There’s also a lot of nudity in the film that hampers the film in that I think it makes it more easy for people to dismiss it as simple exploitation. There’s really no gore, as all of the cutting and blood take place off camera with sounds to let your imagination fill in the blanks and because of that, the film is a real slow burn. I can foresee a lot of viewers getting bored with the film and that’s a shame because if you stick with it, it’s actually a really interesting film.
Arrow’s disc is filled with extras, including documentaries and audio commentaries. The print looks good, but there are quite a few spots that are a bit rough. This is probably due to a lack of being able to get a really great print 40 years after the fact. The Witch Who Came from the Sea is a very unique and effective psychological horror film dealing with very taboo subject matter in a much more mature way than I would have suspected coming from a “Video Nasty”. It has its flaws, but the positives well outweigh the negatives. Recommended if you want to see something a little different.
There is a special place in many horror fans’ hearts (mine included) for low budget, cheesy 80’s slasher films. The Mutilator, renamed from its original title of Fall Break by distributors wanting an edgier title to bring in the kids, is just one of those films. The film opens with a young boy who decides to clean his father’s gun collection while his mother cooks dinner. As happens with kids and guns, the cleaning goes awry and he ends up blowing a hole into his mom’s back, killing her in classic 80’s slow motion, and dealing with the wrath of his father who comes home to the horrific scene. Dad goes a little crazy, including pouring scotch in his dead wife’s mouth, and then we flash forward 15 years or so. The young boy is now a horny teen and takes his friends to a secluded beach house where his father, still fucked up from the death of his wife years earlier, decides to battle-axe these nubile 80’s bodies in all sorts of gruesome ways.
By any objective measure, The Mutilator is pretty terrible. From the ridiculous opening title credit pop song, to the brutally bad acting, to committing the ultimate slasher sin of showing you exactly who the killer is immediately, the film is the definition of amateur hour. First time director Buddy Cooper dropped his entire life savings of $84,000 into a choice: buy a vineyard in France or make a horror movie. As he himself admits in the fascinating feature length documentary included on the blu-ray, he chose poorly. However, slasher fans are a unique niche within the greater horror fandom. Generally speaking, quality is not a high priority for the Slasher Fan. All you really need is charm, some T&A, and, most importantly, some fantastic kills and gore fx. And The Mutilator has all of that in spades.
The charm comes from the delightfully hokey acting and 80’s fashion and verbiage. This is classic 80’s low budget slasher and the beach house setting offers up a fun locale for the gory events to follow. The whole production really comes off as low rent, but it works. You do get some T&A during a skinny dipping pool scene, but the real standout here are the kills and gore fx. For such a low budget, this stuff looks damn great. I’d say it’s nearly on par with early Savini stuff in classic slashers such as The Prowler and The Burning. There’s a particularly nasty sequence where the killer takes a fishing gaff and jams it straight through a girls’ vagina, puncturing out through her stomach. It’s one of those scenes you’ll see that is pretty unforgettable. We also get battle-axe (seriously) slashings, decapitations, drownings, machetes to the face, pitchforks to the neck, and much more. This film is worth watching just for the gore fx and I’d be surprised if even the most jaded horror fan didn’t enjoy them considering the fx are sort of a hidden gem that many people might not be aware of.
My main problem with the film was that they show the face of the killer immediately. It’s not spoiling anything to say that it’s the kid’s dad who is going around murdering everyone. He now lives in a locked room in the garage and apparently his son accidentally killing his wife has made him lose his mind. I almost feel that these sorts of film are a subset genre all their own. Slasher films where the killers are immediately revealed always feel a little off to me. I like my slashers to have dudes and gals in masks, giving me a bit of mystery as to who is doing these ghastly deeds. By definition, slasher films are light on story, so the mystery is an integral element that helps keep your brain invested during the boring scenes between boobs and blood. The Mutilator doesn’t have that and it’s hurt as a result, turning it into an fx waiting game rather than an engaging fun romp.
Arrow has really outdone themselves with this bluray. The movie looks gorgeous and there are a ton of special features, including the aforementioned feature length documentary consisting of multiple cast and crew discussing their little cult film. It’s filled with fun anecdotes and if you are a fan of this film, is an invaluable resource. Other features include a special fx featurette, behind the scenes reels, audio commentaries, storyboards, and more. Big thumbs up from me on this whole package. If you’re a fan of bad, but charming low budget 80’s slashers with lots of great gore, The Mutilator is highly recommended.
She just wants a man without a criminal record!
WAKE UP AND KILL, directed by Carlo Lizzani, is an Italian crime thriller involving a small time thief named Luciano Lutring who dreams of being a big time gangster/criminal. He meets a beautiful singer named Yvonne and, much to her chagrin, takes her on his wild ride to play King of the Italian robbery mountain. As his exploits get more and more brazen, the media sensationalizes him to such a degree that he believes himself to be unstoppable, setting him up for his inevitable fall.
The version of the film I watched on the Arrow blu-ray disc was the uncut 2 hour version. There is also a shortened English version of the film included that has around 20-25 minutes cut out, which, in all reality, is probably the better of the two versions. I mention this because, while watching the Italian version, I was struck by multiple moments in which I said to myself “None of this needs to be in this movie to accurately tell this story.” WAKE UP is decidedly 60’s in terms of style, aesthetic, and atmosphere. Push zooms, a grimy, almost neorealistic approach, and a film just out of time in terms of not quite giving audiences the sex and violence they would come to expect from similar films of the 70’s. It exists in a strange place between the conservative films of the early 60’s and the full embrace of mature content in the 70’s. In those terms, it’s interesting to view as a gateway film, showing how the crime film would ultimately be taken from it post film noir “classiness” (films such as RIFIFI and TOUCH OF EVIL) to the rough and tumble explicit grittiness of the Scorsese’s of the world.
The film itself works best early on when Luciano and Yvonne are becoming a couple. There’s a bit of Bonnie and Clyde-ness to the proceedings, with the main difference being that Yvonne is extremely vocal that she disapproves of Luciano’s lifestyle. It was refreshing to see a female character in a film like this vocalizing her opposition, even if Lizzani’s portrayal of her is, oh, what would my friend Rachel use here….problematic? Luciano repeatedly beats Yvonne throughout the film and the film does a poor job of conveying the reasons as to why Yvonne loves this guy and wants to stay with him. Nobody comes off as good in the film, though. In one scene, the police literally walk in on a guy attempting to rape Yvonne and they completely ignore her when she wants to file a report. Though I wouldn’t call WAKE UP AND KILL a sleazy film (there’s no nudity and barely any violence), it certainly has those sorts of elements in terms of how the characters treat and view each other.
The main problem with the film is that the middle hour just drags and drags. Luciano eventually has to split up with Yvonne because the police are on his tail and the film takes a nose dive in terms of interest and excitement once the two of them aren’t on screen together. There are a number of subplots that go nowhere and there’s a decided lack of cinematicness to the robberies (dude just breaks windows, grabs jewels, and runs away) that makes it hard to really find Luciano all that impressive of a criminal. I was also disappointed in the lack of extras on the disc. There are no featurettes or audio commentary tracks. In fact, had I not gone out of my way to look up some info about this film, I would have never known that it is based on a true story. Yes, Luciano Lutring was a real guy who did hundreds of robberies and became a folk hero. Learning that sort of information really changes your perception of the film and it’s a shame that Arrow didn’t put any features discussing this or showing what in the film was based on “truth” and what is good old fashioned moviemaking exaggeration.
Ultimately, I can’t really recommend this film. The lack of special features and a film that, ultimately, drags and wastes its solid set up and interesting anti-hero, make for a somewhat disappointing viewing experience. However, cinephiles who are genuinely interested in the genesis of the post-noir European crime film, would find stuff of interest in here. Just be prepared to do a little digging on your own after the fact.
Synopsis: While on a secret tryst with her school instructor, a young girl witnesses a violent murder. Soon, her teacher becomes the prime suspect in a series of grisly sex crimes as a black gloved killer begins offing his students. Is he the sexual deviant the cops have been looking for, or is something way sleazier going on? Yep, sounds like a giallo!
Thoughts: This past week I was sent a bunch of screeners of upcoming releases from Arrow Films , a U.K. outfit that is sort of a poor man’s Criterion (and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible) for cult and niche cinema. I’m slowly working my way through all of them and plan to post more reviews here over the coming weeks. First up, the quasi-infamous giallo WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO SOLANGE? (1972) starring Fabio Testi, Karen Baal, and, in her first film, Camille Keaton as the titular Solange. Keaton would go on a few years later to cement her place in exploitation lore with I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, and after seeing this film, I’m only half-joking when I say I’m not sure which is the sleazier piece of cinema.
Directed by Massimo Dallamano (cinematographer on Sergio Leone’s classic films A FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE) with cinematography by Joe D’Amato, himself a legend in the sexploitation and schlock horror market, SOLANGE looks like a bizarre amalgamation of the unbelievably framed and lit Leone films and the gross grindhouse crass of D’Amato. What shouldn’t work when you think about it, somehow, miraculously does and I was pretty impressed by how well the picture looks. Even with all the ugly things going on, the framing, cinematography, classic 70’s zooms, pulls, and pans are all on wonderful display. Hollywood would eventually clean all these films up, throw bigger budgets at them, and call them Slashers, but there is a certain charm to Giallo that Slashers can’t pull off in terms of sheer sleaze. These films deal in similar subject matter but are generally far more graphic and throw taste out the window. SOLANGE is no different. From the opening shots, we’re shown a dead nude woman with a foot long knife sticking into her vagina. If that wasn’t enough, the filmmakers have to throw in an X-ray to show the poor girl’s father how far the knife was buried. As the story progresses, we’re treated to voyeurism, subjective camera drownings, and, in one of the most tasteless sequences I’ve seen in one of these films, a forced abortion on a kitchen table while the characters’ friends hold her down in order to preserve their sex club. Throw in a suspected killer priest, every character lying to each other, and adultery, and you’ve got yourself a sufficiently shower inducing giallo.
That’s not to say the film is bad. In fact, even though this just totally ain’t my thing, I can recognize that the film does hold a certain power. It does its disturbing stuff really well for its genre. I’d say it’s one of the best giallo I’ve ever seen even though I have no desire to ever see it again, if that makes sense. These sorts of horror films, that trade in shock and are blatantly sexist just don’t appeal to me as an older, wiser horror fan. When I was younger, watching women get stripped naked and stabbed by a hidden killer in an overtly sexual way would have garnered a reaction more akin to a badge of honor. “Hey man, you think that’s disturbing? Did you see the movie where the killer stabs the women to death in their vaginas??!!!!” Now, it just seems unseemly and I wonder why one would go out of their way to go to bat for a film like this? One of the extras on the disc has a great interview with Karen Baal, who plays the wife of Fabio Testi’s character. In it, she describes how Dallamano was basically a creep on set and treated Camille Keaton awfully, especially during the abortion scene where he literally made her spread eagle in front of all the other actor’s without her underwear. In another tidbit, she recalls how Dallamano screamed at her when her arm inadvertently covered up one of the actress’s breasts during a kill scene. As I watched her tell these sorts of stories from the set, it created this strange dichotomy between the undeniable artistic flair that the film showcases, and a director who, at least according to her, seemed more interested in flesh and shock than attempting to craft anything meaningful. It’s definitely an interesting film and one that each viewer will probably have their own reaction to. Maybe I can sum it up as a great example of giallo, but one that makes you question the entire sub-genre’s philosophy towards women, violence, and sexuality.
There’s no denying a certain subset of horror fans will dig this movie, and indeed, it does have a lot of positives (almost all dealing with the cinematography). Arrow Films has done a fantastic job on the blu-ray. It’s packed with a bunch of extras, including a really good, 30 minute video essay by Michael Mackenzie that explores the giallo genre as well as all three films in the “Schoolgirls in Peril” trilogy and interviews with Fabio Testi and Karen Baal. The image is near flawless and other than some grain, I didn’t notice any scratches. Love was definitely put into a high quality release, so if you are someone who loves this grimy, sleazetastic giallo films, this is one disc not to miss. DVD and Bluray goes on sale here in America on December 15th.