Sunday, 22 August 2010

Video Nasty #31 : Bloody Moon

Synopsis: Five years ago the severely burnt Miguel murdered a girl in a fit of insanity. After receiving the all-clear from his psychiatrist Miguel has been allowed to return to the scene of the crime, the accurately yet egregiously named 'International Youth Club Boarding School of Languages'. As the new term starts girls start dying, all witnessed by our heroine Angela. Is pizza-face really the killer, or is he being framed by his incestuous sister as part of an overly complex scheme to take ownership of the school?

Bloody Moon is a run-of-the-mill Slasher movie, as interpreted by italian exploitation director Jesus Franco. Think Friday the 13th with incest and even more nudity. Franco's oeuvre includes the infamous Vampyros Lesbos, which I think makes him partly responsible for the tosh James Cordon vehicle/train-wreck Lesbian Vampire Killers. Bastard.

It's difficult to be too offended by the overt sexism. Much like the american slasher films it emulates, Bloody Moon treats women like a pubescent adolescent, obsessed with boobs and innuendo - filthy but fine. The most potentially offensive scene featuing a women being stabbed directly through her breast is so hammy and dumb I think even the most militant feminist would just sigh, tut and worry about the film's on the list that really are misogynistic (see Gestapo's Last Orgy). After all, both the hero and evil mastermind of Bloody Moon are women.

This shallowness is prevalent through out the film, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's nice to watch an old-skool slasher free from the irony that the post-Scream hollywood demands. Bloody Moon follows the unwritten rules; anyone who has a minor indiscretion with our heroine or even thinks about doing the dirty-dance quickly cops it. Unlike most slashers the storyline ludicrously complex, at one point there being five characters implicated as the murderer.

Despite the complicated plot, Bloody Moon manages to deliver some memorable moments including death by circular-saw, bear trap on the head, scissors, spike through the throat and the 80's perennial, chainsaw. The circular-saw death is film's most infamous death, although the quick-cut from live actress to mannequin decapitation is more comical than terrifying. Despite the imaginative array of murder weapons the most memorable scene has to the film's opening, where Miguel kills a women wearing a Mickey Mouse mask. Memorable, because I can't believe Disney's army of lawyers let them get away with it.

Bloody Moon is late-night post-pub fodder. Despite its unnecessarily complicated story if you go in with low expectation it's enjoyable b-movie trash.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Video Nasty #30 : Last House on the Left

Synopsis: On the eve of their daughter's seventeenth birthday the Collingwoods are preparing a surprise party whilst Mari, the birthday girl, is in the city for a gig. As they're raising the bunting and baking cake the parent's are blissfully unaware that their daughter has been kidnapped, abused and raped by a gang of escaped convicts led by Krug, the psychotic ring-leader. When the gang inadvertently seek shelter at the Collingwood's, the parents slowly realise that they are in the company of their daughter's murderers and, despite their seemingly harmless facade, go Old Testment on Krug and co.

It's remarkable how sometimes despite the constituent parts being unbalanced, un-conventional or even amateurish, a film can really get under you skin. The first time I watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre I distinctly remember a feeling of dread that stuck with me for a few days, as if the film had left a dirty imprint on my sub-conscious of leather-face waiting around every corner to drag me into a makeshift abattoir and hang me on a meat hook. Like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, despite its countless missteps and unconventionalities, Last House on the Left has a similar emotional resonance, albeit a more seedy and depressive funk.

Which is impressive, because there are countless elements in Last House that really shouldn't work. Whilst Wes Craven's idea of intercutting between the rape of Mari and the victim's parents preparing her party is crushingly effective, his attempts to intercut between a later rape scene and the comedy japes of the sheriff and his idiot sub-ordinate is excruciatingly embarrassing. Not only is the broad comedy incredibly insensitive when juxtaposed with scenes of abuse, it's also deeply unfunny (coincidentally an increasingly emphasis on comedy instead of horror is what ruined Craven's most famous creation - Freddy Krueger).

The odd mash of horror and variety-show lightheartedness is also evident on the soundtrack, with mixed results. The whimsical music accompanying some of the horrific acts works in an odd way, much like Kubrick's use of rousing classical music to score the old ultra-violent in Clockwork Orange. When the soundtrack doesn't work it's as embarrassing as the attempts at comedy, most notably the bluegrass/folk song chronicling Krug's exploits in the film.

Despite these missteps, Last House is a film that looks incredibly fresh, despite the fact it's almost 40 years old. Craven's cost-cutting idea of using a document crew gives the film an air of realism that makes every horrific act all the more believable, even during the parent's almost comic book revenge of emasculative fellatio and a fifty year old man setting home-alone style booby traps.

Craven and producer Sean Cunningham wanted to deliberately challenge Hollywoods consequence-free violence, and accordingly there's no hero in Last House. Everybody looses. The parent's revenge is ultimately self-defeating, as is painfully clear in the final shot of the film, the dejected parents standing in their destroyed home awaiting arrest. Their family unit is irreparably destroyed, and no amount of revenge will ever change that.

Like The Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film's long term ban is proof of its unnerving and distributing quality. As Mark Kermode points out, Deep Throat, a hardcore porn film in which the lead allegedly had a gun pointed at her head to perform, is released uncut, yet Last House on the Left was, up until 2002, not certified for release in the UK.

Last House on the Left is not a film I could recommend to anyone, apart from film students or a completist horror fan. Nethertheless, it's an important film, and for once, it's infamy and entry on the Video Nasty list is fully deserved.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Video Nasty #29 : Don't Go Near The Park

If there's one thing you have to know about Don't Go Near The Park is that towards the end a man starts shooting lasers out of his eyes. It's pretty impressive. I sense you don't believe me. Seriously. It's So Cool. Look:

This screenshot perfectly summarises Don't Go Near The Park. Look at it. It's insane. There's Captain Caveman shooting a teenager in the face with perfectly rendered eye-lasers in an arid cave that's somehow on fire while his 10,000 year old sister is writhing in the agony after a sibling eye based attack. Unbelievable, this screenshot makes as much sense as anything else in the film. In fact, it probably makes more sense then most of what preceded it.

Don't Go In The Park is an incredibly poor film. It's so concerned with telling it's painfully linear yet dense story that it never has a chance to develop a character. Despite the plodding story telling, the plot itself is absolutely insane. Here's the crib notes for when Don't Go Near The Park ends up on the GNVQ Filmmaking for Fucktards course:

The film opens thousands of years ago inside a hallow volcano. A mysterious elder with a reverb pedal jammed down her throat is cursing her son and daughter for feasting on the innards of the village children. Eating warm human halts the aging process, dangerously 'destroying the balance of nature'. As punishment they must live & age for 10,000 years. At this point they can guarantee youthful immortality by munching on a virgin descendent of the village (I won't insult you're intelligence by pointing out why this punishment is so contradictory). After the mother has given punishment she mysteriously dies.

Flash forward to the 1960s. The brother realises he needs to spawn a child as an entree for immortality in 16 years. He seduces his landlady, they marry and have a baby. Flash forward 16 years (yawn!). The brother and his wife have an argument at a pool party and the father leaves. In the melee his now teenage daughter runs away and takes refuge in a van with three yoofs. They attempt to rape her but thanks to her giant red magic medallion their van go alls KIT and crashes into a bridge, killing the three boys. The daughter wakes up far away from the accident. Then blah blah blah blah...

If you want to know what happens, you can borrow the DVD. In fact you can have the DVD. This is quite possibly the worst film i've ever seen. Worse than Cannibal Terror. Worse than Nightmares in a Damaged Brain. I'm beginning to think that the true legacy of the Video Nasty scandal is the undeseved infamy it has provided to some truly awful films, forever to be exploited by low-budget film distributors who label the misrepresentative DVD covers with the titillating promise of 'Previously Band' and 'Completely Uncut!'. Word's can not describe how dreadful this film is. So why carry on this review?