Q&A with Monzie Leo at the Pitch

Posted in bluegrass, interview on May 28th, 2016 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Monzie Leo & The Big Sky's last release was Sunflowers, Sunsets and Sons of Bitches, released on Little Class Records in December of 2014. Since then, the band's played what seems like dozens -- if not hundreds -- of shows, and the wait for new material's been agonizing for fans of their bluegrass by way of backwoods punk. The wait is now over, and the band will release its latest collection, Visions Envelop, Saturday at the Westport Saloon as part of the Westport Roots Festival. Read the whole thing at the Pitch.

LP Review: Eureka California’s “Versus”

Posted in punk, reviews, streaming audio / video, vinyl on March 7th, 2016 by Nick – 1 Comment
cover - eureka california versusEureka Califonia is one of those myriad band names that’s irritating as hell to search for online, but the difficulty’s kind of the point. This is a band you want people to have to earn the discovery of, which makes this review kind of a double-edged sword. I want you all to know about the band’s rough-hewn power pop, but I feel like it’s something for which you should work. Versus is one of those records you put on, and you’re rewarding with track after track which reward you for taking the time to pull the record out of its jacket and onto your turntable. Calling the whole affair ramshackle implies that the duo put the record together hastily and without thought, but it’s actually more that it feels as if it’s being played so enthusiastically, it might fall apart in delightful shambles. Songs like “Sign My Name With An X” are the Replacements playing My Bloody Valentine songs, or vice versa, even. The loud, rocking midwestern feel of all this belies Eureka California’s Athens roots, but it’s not your standard rock music. The duo twists tropes and standards in a way that recalls the genre-bending efforts of so many other artists which have made their way out of that Georgia town and into American consciousness. [embed]https://soundcloud.com/hhbtm-records/eureka-california-sign-my-name-with-an-x[/embed] “Fear and Loathing in the Classic City” is a downtempo piece of strummed acoustics, and it manages to have enough life it in that it doesn’t kill the momentum of Versus. There’s still a level to it that maintains the energy off the first side and onto the second -- and that’s important, because the second side is where the gold is. Hidden in the middle of Versus’ second side is the slow rocker, “Realizing Your Actuality,” which might just be the album’s highlight. It’s not a blaster or flat-out rocker, but manages to convey a sense of urgency and intensity, even at its grinding pace. It’s a precursor the slowed-down quiet jams of “Everybody Had a Hard Year” and the loud-quiet-loud epic closer, “I Will Write Mine Over the Potomac.” If you freaked out over Titus Andronicus’ latest, or anything that’s come down that bearded indie rocker doing punk rock pike in the last few years, this is for you. If you find that style of music detestable, here’s it done right. If that closer doesn’t grab you and shake your emotions loose, you’ve no heart. Get on it. The cover’s a little bit faux screenprint, which is kind of a bummer. I don’t know if it would be cooler as an actual screenprint, or if the art was just a little less garish. The cover for Crunch was understated and classy, but this seems to scream “LOOK AT ME!” a little more than I’d like. The vinyl sounds amazing, and has a really nice range. There’s also an insert with lyrics, along with a download card. Solid package. You can pre-order the LP from the HHBTM store. It's due out March 25.

Gladman’s “Bombshell” is really just a bomb

Posted in art, books on February 2nd, 2016 by Nick – Be the first to comment
book cover - bombshell This book, John Gladman's Bombshell: The Pin-Up Art of John Gladman, came in the mail yesterday. I was supposed to be doing a piece on it for another publication, but that fell through, and having seen the book, I'm kind of glad it did. I get what the photographer is trying to do: he edits his photos in such a way as to make them look like vintage Vargas or Elvgren pinups. However, he flat-out fails most of the time. The images Vargas and Elvgren produced were stunningly rich with depth, and the focus was on the women themselves. Gladman's photgraphy renders many of the women two-dimensional, and when he utilizes digital backgrounds, the quality of photography on the women is ruined by the chintziness of what surrounds them, be it pixelated waves or cheap magazine cover mock-ups. [caption id="attachment_18698" align="aligncenter" width="599"]Courtesy Schiffer Publishing Courtesy Schiffer Publishing[/caption] Maybe we'd have a better idea as viewers / readers if we had a glimpse at Gladman's process. Aside from a brief introduction at the outset, however, all that's in Bombshell is imagery. One gets the hint that there might be some sort of organization, but it's not like the book has any sort of flow. Were that the images were one to a page, in order to really look at the women and get a sense of what the photographer was going for, but sometimes, there are two images shrunk down and placed on one page. There's no real organization to Bombshell, either. The western images aren't near one another, nor do we have images of weather with one another. It seems rather haphazard and disjointed. Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that the women seem to have no agency. It looks that way because nowhere in the book is a listing of the models and where they're from, or why they chose to have this photos taken. Those names would've been nice to have so that your reviewer might've been able to contact the woman in the Native headdress and buckskin fringe swimsuit to see how problematic her costume was. As a viewer, it's difficult not to assume problematic intentions, as the vast majority of women in this book are white. There are three women of color, and one of Asian descent. That's it. We understand that past portrayals of women of color rendered them overly-sexualized objects of the male gaze, but as these pinup photos are usually meant to be women taking control and portraying themselves as strong and confident, we would have liked to have seen at least one woman of color getting a two-page spread. Frankly, this book creates more problems and issues than we know what to do with. Given the large number of pinup photographers working these days, one assumes Schiffer could've found a woman working in the field who protrays more than just the standard "white lady looking astonished" imagery. It's just unfortunate they didn't. See more images from Bombshell at Schiffer's website.

Celebrity Art Party with Sean Thornton

Posted in art, indie on January 6th, 2016 by Nick – Be the first to comment
Celebrity Art Party is a semi-occurring feature, wherein the artists we enjoy interpret their favorite song. This installment features Sean Thornton, from whom my wife and I bought a print from at C2E2 several years ago (the VERY excellent Latveria tourism print), and whose art I've been a fan of ever since. Check out his take on this epically proggy track from the Decemberists. Sean Thornton - The Decemberists 'The Crane Wife' WEB Song title: "The Crane Wife (1, 2 and 3)" Artist: The Decemberists Version of song (live, album, remix, etc.): The Crane Wife album [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3cp8LERM70[/embed] Why this song? It reminds me of the amazing person that I am lucky to be married to. When did you first hear it? Shortly after the album release. How does music such as this inspire you in your work? Storytelling ballads are excellent for transporting my mind into a different world, filling it with vast amounts of imagery. Imagery that I am able to pull ideas from directly or inspiration for other pieces. The Decemberists are masters in using ballads to tell stories in their music. How has this song changed for you since you first heard it? Not much, really. It has always reminded me of my wife and our strong connection. What upcoming projects do you have? Unfortunately, not much at this time. I'm working on new pieces to showcase at the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) this year. Sean Thornton dreams of high-flying superheroes, retro-stylized rocket ships and the perfectly brewed coffee. Every now-and-then he actually finds time to draw and even has had some success getting his art published. You can see his work in the anthology comic Josh Howard presents: Sasquatch from Viper Comics, gaming books such as Traveller: Merchant Prince, Rune Quest: Empires and Rune Quest: Coliseum from Mongoose Publishing and most recently, Once Upon a Time Machine from Dark Horse Comics. He is currently working on various series of comic and popculture-inspired fan art posters along with some original pieces. Once he has enough compiled for a book he plans on doing just that -- making an art book. You can find his work at Deviant Art and his Etsy store, as well as on Facebook. Follow him on Twitter @seanwthornton.

Halloween Horror Marathon: The Black Cat

Posted in movies, reviews on October 30th, 2015 by Nick – 2 Comments
poster - black cat Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We wrap up the work week with the films of Lucio Fulci. We call them Fulci Fridays, and for those, we team up with Liam O’Donnell of Cinepunx. This week, we look at The Black Cat. Liam So, it seems like, we didn’t do so bad this time. The Black Cat is a Poe adaptation in the broadest sense, although not nearly as broad as the Argento version in Two Evil Eyes. The story follows a few characters, all connected by a black cat and all living in the same town. At first, other than various disasters and the haunting presence of the cat, these characters do not seem directly connected. However, the film unfolds various connections and plot ideas much in the style of Giallo, and eventually we see that these characters are all connected to one man. This strange psychic seems, at first, to be at odds with the cat. However, it soon becomes clear that the cat was at first following his lead, and then he following the cats into the realms of murder. The plot is a bit messy. Still, when I hear Lucio Fulci adaptation of a Poe narrative coherence is not my first expectation. Yet, though this film has much less acclaim then some of his other films, The Black Cat is a surprisingly compelling narrative. It has Fulci’s usual visual style, and it manages to be strange enough to be interesting but connected enough to be dynamic. I found myself really absorbed by it. Plus, with the main antagonist being a cat, supernatural or not, you would expect some mild kills, but oh no! The Black Cat is not a gore fest, but does have some intense scenes which work almost because they are under stated. The film is strange though in that it somehow manages to miss all the thematic elements of the original story. It gets the basic plot elements in there with a number of other complicated elements. However, by making the cat control the man, it seems to miss the point of the original story. Sure, the creepy psychic kills the cat. Yet, unlike in the story, the man is totally justified. The cat in the film is in fact evil, and when the man kills it we understand why. Even more, not only is the cat evil, but it serves the man at first. This is nothing like the story at all. Still, knowing that didn’t lessen my enjoyment at all. Nick, did you find the cats to be intimidating or ludicrous? How did the themes of the film work for you? black cat cap 01 Nick The cats were ever-so-slightly intimidating. The first few kills, where the cat is seen only briefly, and the killing is more implied than implicit, are the most effective. As things go along, we get into some rather less believable territory. Now, granted: the scene in the boathouse is bonkers. It’s fantastic. However, it is in no way believable. I get the idea of the cat as an agent of harm, but it just seemed more plausible to have it doing “cat things” that led to deaths. It started out as a “What? Moi?!” sort of thing, and then just went absurd by film’s end. Granted, that sentence kind of sums up Fulci and suits him to an absolute T but, as you put it, it’s more intense than bloody. Face scratches and boathouse corpses aside, it’s rather more PG-13 than R, and it’s kind of surprising. Jill is even a strong, independent woman who survives the film, while managing to establish a sense of autonomy and strength. As far as the Poe story goes -- eh, there’ve been enough films which took nothing but a scrap of plot and ran further. The Vincent Price Poe films went plenty astray from far more scant scraps than this had, and are considered classics. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a classic or rank it with the likes of Tales of Terror, this is still a pretty great movie, and the rare Fulci film that I feel I can recommend to people without coming across a creep. Having looked at all these Fulci films in detail, do you feel that wandering too far afield from his classics starts to reveal flaws? At the very least, do you think it indicates why Fulci isn’t as well-regarded as some of his contemporaries? black cat cap Liam I mean it is hard to say. To me, yes, there are some straight up weird movies we watched. That is without even getting into his embarrassing late '80s phase at all. Yet, Fulci does have 56 directing credits. That is actually a pretty impressive amount of films. Now, we both know that a number of those were during his later period, when his name attached to a project did not mean he did much for that project. Still, the man kept working long after many directors may have given up, and that is something I respect. Now, I think the basic argument that his most well known movies are likely his best movies I have no issue with. Still, while some of the films we watched were not one I loved, I am still willing to dive further into this maestro’s work. Why? Each movie has some element of his, some aspect of something he is working out cinematically, at least in his work before Conquest. Even after, there are a few diamonds in the rough, and I am willing to sift through to find them. Even his films that are less than appealing to me, I do find them interesting in some sense. I just think we have two issues to contend with which we have covered but bare repeating. One is that, in quite a few of his films, Fulci seems to have not had much respect for women. I shudder to think anyone would watch his films and think this level of misogyny is uniquw to him among his contemporaries. This does not excuse it, but it should make it somewhat less shocking. The other is that we see, later in his life, the work of a director who seems to have lost in some sense his passion for his work. What makes A Cat in the Brain so impressive to me is the way it comments upon this, and does something creative with it despite his own medical issues at the time. Fulci was a man who struggled with emotional and mental issues as well as a severe case of diabetes. His life had some major tragedies in it, and no little amount of scorn for the art he did manage to create. To consider that, despite all that, the man managed to direct some of the greatest genre films of all time is still something worthy of deep respect. Still, there are some truly horrendous Fulci films and to pretend otherwise would be dishonest. In fact, though I did not love all the movies we watched, these still represent some of the more respected of his lesser known movies and none of the truly embarrassing ones. Maybe it is my cynical nature, but as much time as I have spent complaining about them, I have some small respect even for the bad films. Bad Fulci is spectacularly bad, so maybe, given the chance to really dig into more, I may come to respect how insane they are. I am not sure. I can say that The Black Cat, while no The Beyond, is still a great movie. I certainly prefer it to other Poe adaptations I have seen. But what do you think? Did we expose for you some of the under belly of Fulci films? Do you want to dive further into his catalog, maybe see some more films that are totally unfamiliar? What movies that you have not seen yet still intrigue you? [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofLECchzQto[/embed] Nick Get the Arrow Blu-ray release of Fulci's The Black Cat as an edition entitled Edgar Allan Poe's Black Cats, which also includes Sergio Martino's giallo Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key. I barely had time to watch the Fulci disc before this went up, much less the Martino film, but it's absolutely gorgeous. Given the massive number of terrible transfers of Fulci films out there (such as my DVD of The Seven Doors of Death), every 4K transfer like this one is all the more appreciated. My absolutely wrecked hearing also appreciated the newly-translated titles. The Arrow Blu is also insanely-packed with extras. The interview with Stephen Thrower, author of Beyond Terror - The Films of Lucio Fulci (which somebody should buy me, because it looks awesome but is prohibitively expensive) is an absolute delight. He not only analyzes the film itself, but goes into detail on Poe and how it connects to other Fulci films, and frankly just made me want to start this whole crazy project over again as a thing unto itself. The idea of doing this every week for a year sounds ... strangely appealing. However, for now, Halloween is upon us, and ending this with some Poe seems appropriate.

Halloween Horror Marathon: A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin

Posted in movies, reviews on October 26th, 2015 by Nick – 3 Comments
poster - schizoid Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We wrap up the work week with the films of Lucio Fulci. We call them Fulci Fridays, and for those, we team up with Liam O’Donnell of Cinepunx. This week, we look at A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin. Nick When this was released, Dario Argento had put out The Bird with the Crystal Plumage the year before. Given that film’s massive success both within Italy and abroad, it’s difficult to see Lucio Fulci’s A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin as anything other than other than a response to Argento’s movie (or, rather more cynically, a cash-in). Additionally, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin also came out just a week after Argento’s The Cat o’ Nine Tales, meaning that within the span of one scant year, three of the most influential gialli would be released. Argento is obviously more well-known for giallo, while Fulci can be said to have released maybe two -- this, and Don’t Torture A Duckling. However, upon revisiting this and Don’t Torture A Duckling, it’s interesting to notice that while Fulci’s always been a fan of lingering, loving shots of gorgeous naked women, the stylishly gory violence which became one of giallo’s hallmarks is fairly absent from his work in that genre. That’s an ironic thing to notice, especially given the grotesquery which would later become Fulci’s signature. I found that revisiting this, it’s impressive to note that Fulci nails pretty much all of the rest of the giallo trademarks: hallucinatory visions,sexual intrigue, and an overly-complicated plot with more twists and turns than a mountain highway. It looks gorgeous, unsurprisingly, and it’s quite impressive to see how Fulci took all the elements that Mario Bava and Argento set down, and twisted them just enough to make it a little more his. Maybe it’s the addition of the screaming mad hippies, but something about this just feels a little sleazier than your standard giallo. Am I imposing my pre-existing knowledge of Fulci on A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin, or do you also notice a patina of oiliness on this flick? Liam Yes, there is something very grimey and awful to this movie, which by the way I totally loved. I have to dispute your facts though, I would say Fulci has four gialli. One on Top of the Other and Beatrice Cenci would both count, I think. Unfortunately, I haven’t actually SEEN these films, let alone his supernatural thriller, The Psychic, so what do I know? I can only say that compared to some other Gialli, A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin is somehow more sanitary and more cruel. There is something about the filming which gets at a more gritty reality some of the more stylized gialli I have seen. Of course, this might be because of the horribly realistic dog operation scene. This was the first time a special effects supervisor had to appear in court to prove that his effects were not real. The judiciary was convinced that Fulci had filmed real dogs being operated on. His special effects man had to bring in his effects to show that they had not, in fact, filmed eviscerated dogs. This detail is, of course, just one element of the film, and is no surprise in a Fulci feature. Relative to other Gialli though, despite this falsified dog murder, this film is bloodless. So why this feeling afterward of being so dirty? To me, it is the way that the film’s answer is so obvious the entire film, and yet it makes so many efforts to obscure it in the most seedy of ways. This, when you get to the end, is about blackmail and murder. Along the way though we have mental illness, drugs, hippies, suspicions thrown every which way, and even suicide. This is perhaps the worst detail. It doesn’t help that every red herring in the movie plays off some of our worst assumptions as an audience, or that in between each character is morally suspect in some way. No, it is that the murderer not only faked their own mental distress so cynically, but even allowed their father to take the blame and commit suicide. It is all so calculated, so mean, it makes what is otherwise a relaxed film seem more corrupt. Granted, there is the other issue, which I also felt in Don’t Torture a Duckling. Do you feel like this film is further evidence of Fulci’s mixed relations to women on screen? Granted, there are a few examples of females who are not TOTALLY awful, but are the women in this movie particularly vile or am I just being overly sensitive? a lizard cap 01 Nick No, you’re pretty much on-point, here. By the film’s end, you’ve seen Julia calling Carol’s husband to threaten him with extortion over her affair with Carol -- while Carol sits right next to her! -- along with Carol faking her illness, and Carol’s stepdaughter Joan also seeming to be involved in some nefarious business. Most women are either vile or out of it or pretending to be out of it -- they’re either conspiratorial evil witches or idiots. Plus, every death in this film is that of a woman, with the exception of Carol’s father, who dies by his own hand. It’s like Fulci is just wanting to show that, no matter what you do as a woman, something fucking terrible will happen. It’s awful, because there’s not even the patronistic trope of one pure woman against whom all others are judged and found wanting. They’re ALL awful. What makes it worse is that they just seem to be nothing but that: women who are bad, period, full stop. It’s weird: Argento’s Suspiria features a murderous coven of witches, which should theoretically be way worse, because it’s a group of women hiding and conspiring to kill. But somehow, Argento manages to make it seem empowering, because there’s a plot, there’s agency, and there’s something of a purpose behind what the witches are doing. He’s not perfect, but his women exhibit varying degrees of duality that Fulci’s do not. Honestly, going into The Black Cat, I’m hoping to finally get away from Fulci’s repeated shitty treatment of women. Looking forward, is there anything about that film which seems like it might stray from the director’s well-worn misogynist path? Liam I have two things to say to that. First off, no. I mean not in the sense of violence and some poorly written female characters. I am just not sure Fulci has much space for developing many female characters with any depth or agency. I do want to say though that, while they are not paragons of feminist ideals, I am not sure the women in either The Beyond or The City of the Living Dead are quite as vile or useless as they are in his early gialli. I have also, as we said, not seen all of his work so it is likely there may be some surprising women in those films. I know, I am entirely mansplaining for Fulci. Look, I love many of his movies, and they helped form my imagination around what horror could look and feel like. His aesthetics, more than his sexual politics, have been really important to me. The Black Cat will certainly feature some violence that will be difficult to justify, and I doubt there will be any sort of female heroine with dignity and complexity. Yet, I still want to defend the maestro. The man was an Italian trying to please Italian audiences? Does that have any traction? I guess what it boils down to is I have to understand that not every work of art is going to match my ideological bent. That does not make me wrong, even if not especially in horror films, female characters should at the very least be human. That seems a reasonable thing to expect. That does not mean though I can rampage through the past declaring every horror filmmaker suspect. Still though I am reaching to defend Fulci because I do find him endearing as both a creator and a figure. The reality is that a film like Suspiria, also not a paragon of feminist ideals, somehow manages to feel less awful than some Fulci films. I really just need to own my personal moral suspect nature. I have to admit that, despite feeling worn down by the misogynistic ways that Fulci has portrayed women in these movies, I still tend to like them. Don’t Torture a Duckling was a bit much for me, but I really enjoyed this film. I will likely enjoy The Black Cat, as well. It really isn’t Fulci I have an issue with, it is myself, and my tendency to ignore how often I really do NOT care. Fulci was an Italian film maker in a time when portrayal of women within this industry did follow certain despicable patterns. Here is hoping our next movie has a little less awful in it. There's a very solid version of the film on DVD from Shriek Show, and Death Waltz reissued Morricone's score as a double vinyl LP last year. There's also what looks to be an excellent Blu-ray coming from Mondo Macabro sometime very soon. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOmQ0TtoBoQ[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: A Cat in the Brain

Posted in movies, reviews on October 20th, 2015 by Nick – Be the first to comment
cat in the brain header Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We wrap up the work week with the films of Lucio Fulci. We call them Fulci Fridays, and for those, we team up with Liam O’Donnell of Cinepunx. This week, we look at A Cat in the Brain. Nick: It's astonishing that this late in Lucio Fulci's career, he managed to turn out a film that exceeds his earlier work. You can look at just the first five minutes for examples both in terms of oddity -- a herd of cats devouring a brain -- and in regards to casual brutality -- a man carving up his mistress and eating part of her thigh. Of course, you find it's all just a scene from a movie: in fact, a Lucio Fulci movie. Fulci is actually in A Cat in the Brain, playing himself. The movie repeatedly calls back to Fulci's past work, commenting on it, making this sort of a meta fin-de-sicle sort of thing. I've read a lot comparing it to Fellini's 8 1/2, but can't really comment, having never seen it. However, it does remind me quite a bit of Vincent Price's 1974 film, Madhouse, which also used clips from the lead's actual films to present a fictional basis for murder. That, too, was sort of a career retrospective at the end of things (sidebar: I am aware that Price would continue working up until his death in 1993, but pretty much everything after Madhouse was mostly voiceover work). Back to the ways in which A Cat in the Brain exceeds Fulci’s earlier work with which I started, though. In addition to starting out with a scene that manages to be weird, excessively violent, and encompasses casual nudity, one must really give points to the director for one-upping past depravity with Nazisploitation in this one. That particular scene gets supremely weird, and manages to disturb without a single drop of blood. Still, the movie's basically a clip show of the director's greatest his. Even with the frequent hallucinatory asides, it's actually the easiest to follow of all of Fulci's films. Strange to think that this amalgamation of past work allows for a fairly straightforward plot without too many points or aspects of it requiring you to suspend your disbelief to the point of exhaustion. Random thought: is the use of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" before the good doctor Schwarz kills the prostitute an homage to Fritz Lang's M? I mean, it has to be, right, especially given that it pops up again? Liam: Lucio Fulci takes a variety of kills and scenes from other films, some of which he made and many of which he did not, and films wrap around sequence to accompany them in which he plays himself. This should be truly awful, no? So, why does it work? I have to be honest, this does not actually play better for me then the early and in my mind masterful works of the great maestro. The pieces fit together too sloppily, and the gore, most of which was not actually filmed with Fulci’s involvement, lacks his sense of style. Is it better than most of Fulci’s later output? Of course. It is in fact a strange shining gem in this later half of his career, in what is otherwise a sea of dreg. Not that all of these later films are unwatchable, but many give off a sense of boredom and a lack of concern. This film though, even with some of its rougher elements, largely makes sense. So why make a movie like this? The comparisons to 8 1/2, I think, are quite fair, if actually a bit gruesome in its humor. Ok, a lot gruesome. The film plays in some ways like a tour of awful things, with only the faintest plot line to tie it all together. Yet that plot line is so meta, so reflexive on Fulci and his art, I am sucked in. What has his work been about, what has his life been about, what has he even made? In fact, in a larger sense, what is the work of any horror director mean? It is difficult, knowing as I do Fulci’s real life emotional and health struggles, not to see something terribly maudlin and sad about the film. Yes, it is filled with some gags here and there. The gore aspect is played gruesomely, but still with a sense of how fun it is to be so very gross. Yet, at its heart I sense a brilliant man making a mockery of himself. When one does something like this from a space of certainty that is one thing. Fulci though is creating as a man past his prime, struggling with horrible diabetic complications which I am sure pained him in every moment. He did participate in a few films after this one, but nothing that gained him the kind of attention I am sure he would have wanted. So do I revel in the fact that perhaps Fulci did have a sense of humor about his unique and strange life before he died? Or do I feel despondent that Cat In The Brain is perhaps a dark joke, a feeling of failure? Is this a kind of death's head humor before the end, or an embracing of something wonderful in the man’s life? Honestly, it doesn't matter. A Cat in the Brain is a film that works despite having everything going against it. Perhaps, by injecting the personal into this final grand guignol exploration of death and art Fulci hit some sort of magic mixture? What do you think? How do the rumors surrounding Fulci’s death affect how you see the film? I will be honest, I did not make the Lang reference you did, and I feel less cultured for having missed it. cat in the brain - fulci Nick: Well, if it makes you feel better, I just had to look up Lucio Fulci’s death in order to answer your question. That just seems like such a sad possibility, and a strange departure after this film, because it seems like the director is actually having fun with this picture. His character, despite the repeated wondering as to what’s it all about, ends up with a happy ending twice over -- he gets the girl, and he successfully finishes a film. Yes: the film’s such a reflection on the man’s work that as a meta work (the director reflecting on himself in a film in which he stars), it succeeds. The unfortunate aspect of that is that as a viewer, you start reflecting on the films he made and wonder why they show clips from terrible movies he put his name on, rather than going further into the Madhouse vein and explicitly referencing his earlier work. The only “explicit” references to that early work are a sad reliance on nudity that just seems crass and an appeal to the inevitable home video market at the time. The film’s fun, to be sure, but the fact of the matter, while I enjoyed its ridiculousness, it’s a film that’s surprising in that it’s better than I thought it would be, but not nearly as good as it could have been. You always wonder what makes a director lose their mojo, and I can’t imagine what being pigeonholed, on top of a near-constant level of pain, could have done for the man. Here he took a chance to make a movie that reflected where he was, as well as where he’d been, and I think the fact that it absolutely shines through is why this movie is as compelling as it is. Do you think that Fulci succeeded in the grand guignol career summation for which it seems he was aiming? Liam: Well, reading about this film on Wikipedia and the recent Fulci feature by my boy Jacob Knight over at Birth Movies Death, I get the feeling that some of the footage was made available to him as part of a settlement. It seems that some companies had started putting his name on movies without even directly asking him, and the footage we are seeing in this film is mostly cutting room floor gore, stuff that was left out of other films. So, Fulci is given access to a bunch of someone else’s gore -- some he approved some he did not -- and he pieces it together to make a fun and weird commentary on his career? Yeah, I think this does work as a commentary on him. Isn’t, in some ways, that what Fulci has done? Taken what was made available to him and done his best with it. No one, I do not think, would describe any of his films as art films. Yet, especially in his earlier career, Fulci had a knack for taking what was essentially pedestrian material and raising it up. Not offense to the grand Italian tradition of ripping off other film maker by making unauthorized sequels, but Zombi 2 has to be the GREATEST unauthorized sequel I have ever seen. The City of the Living Dead is a triumph, to me, because of the directing. Now, I do not want to make my case to hard. Clearly, his partnership with long time collaborator Sacchetti was an important aspect of his work. In fact, this film is maybe the lone movie from his work without Sacchetti that is kind of great. However, nothing he made with Sacchetti that I have seen is great only because of the script. Between them existed some alchemy where exploitation was elevated to new heights, and their films were somehow still their gritty core but also something more. The Beyond is still a grindhouse level horror film. It is also sublime. So, in deep pain and even a bit of shame, Fulci manages to string together a moving bit of magic. A less spell if it were, a minor miracle. He takes other folks rejected violence and with it makes one last romanticized version of himself to almost say goodbye to his audience. I dunno, I am likely looking to deeply again, but there is in that something maudlin but also victorious. Good for you maestro, and thank you. You can find a lovely copy of the Fabio Frizzi score from Mondo, and A Cat in the Brain is also available on DVD from Grindhouse Releasing. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLwvOZTd1Sg[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: Cooties

Posted in movies, reviews on October 19th, 2015 by Nick – Be the first to comment
poster - cooties 01 Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We go back to work on Mondays with a recent release. We call it New Movie Mondays. This week, we look at zombie comedy Cooties. Much like Hell Town, Cooties is a really great idea hampered in the exceution. In this case, the acting's pretty solid, but it's really hard to develop much an appreciation for the characters. After a fantastic opening title sequence, with amazing music by composer Kreng, the movie settles in. Elijah Wood's ostensibly the main character, but once his character, Clint Hadson, makes it to Ft. Chicken Elementary, it basically becomes an ensemble piece. It's an ensemble piece with characters which are over-the-top parodies. The overly-macho gym coach, the closeted homesexual, the man-hating feminist -- they're all there, and none of them are really interesting. As per usual, by failing to develop the characters beyond the surface, you end up with a cast where you not only don't care if they survive, but begin wishing they'd just fucking die, already. cooties The best characters are actually the ones who would seem to be the most absurd. Jorge Garcia's security guard, Rick, does mushrooms and trips in his van for the majority of Cooties' running time, and presents some of the film's funniest moments. Leigh Whannell as Doug is the absolute highlight of the film. To explain why and how would ruin several of the best moments, but suffice it to say, just pay attention whenever Whannel's in a scene, as he will steal it. Other than that, though -- you never really care about the characters, the jokes not made by anyone other than Whannel and Garcia fall flat, and Rainn Wilson's shtick as the gym teacher is irritating and pointless, at best. I'm sure he's meant to be absurd, and thus inspire all kinds of hilarity, but it just ends up falling flat. Wood's character features an undeveloped personality who's just a collection of irritating quirks, masquerading as a person. If you have an hour and a half, it has its moments -- almost all of which involve Whannel's Doug -- and it's always impressive when a director is willing to harm a child. By making each and every one of the creatures barely into double digits, directors Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott are committing to violating a pretty strong cultural taboo, and frankly, that's fucking amazing. Good on them. You can watch Cooties via Amazon On-Demand right now. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_he1HiLy0A[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: Zombiethon

Posted in mp3 on October 19th, 2015 by Nick – Be the first to comment
zombiethon header Each week, Halloween Horror Marathon does some themed posts. We sleep in on Sundays, then watch a zombie flick. We call it Resurrection Sundays. This week, we look at the compilation film Zombiethon What are the best parts of any horror film, for any teenager? The violence and the nudity. Here's a Wizard Video collection that functions as a highlight reel of any number of classic zombie flicks from the '70s and '80s. The films themselves, if you've actually seen them, are almost universally terrible. With the exception of Fulci's Zombie, all the movies presented here benefit greatly from being truncated and edited. Oasis of the Zombies actually seems interesting and fun (it is not), for example. I mean, if you reduce the absurdity of The Invisible Dead to a collection of scenes with naked Caroline Munro, it's obviously going to be something more intriguing than it actually is. The best part of the edited / reduced films is the way A Virgin Among the Living Dead is, essentially, just the added footage Jean Rollin shot for the film's re-release in 1981, meaning that this is literally nothing like the original picture in any way, shape, or form. zombiethon It all peters out at the end, with quite a short blasts from the oldest film here, Astro-Zombies. The flick's charmingly awful, but after a solid hour of breasts and blood, the cheesy cheapness of this "classic" feels anticlimactic. The interstitial wrap-around bits are quite fun, pretty funny, and even (in the case of the first one) shot fairly well. You could easily pull these bits and make your own highlight reel -- perhaps with stronger films. I'd love to see 10-minute cuts of Bud the Chud and Return of the Living Dead mixed up with Mutant and Messiah Evil. This is considerably more good-natured than the other Wizard compilation, Filmgore. Even the inclusion of wrap-around segments from Elvira can't keep that from seeming just a little bit nasty. This, though, is basically a perfect thing to throw on in the background of your Halloween party. Throw on some creepy film scores or funky disco -- either way, you can delight in the nakeys and zombies. You can snag this from Full Moon Features as a three-pack that also features Filmgore and Savage Island. [embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kVyEqHtS1s[/embed]

Halloween Horror Marathon: Hell Town

Posted in movies, reviews on October 18th, 2015 by Nick – Be the first to comment
hell town logo On Friday nights, we hit the movie theater to see a film, and tell you all about it the next day. We call it Cinema Saturdays. This week, we went to see Hell Town. Steve Balderson's Hell Town is a cool idea that seems more like a rough draft than a final product. Three episodes in the middle of the second season of a lost soap opera, with a murderer on the loose, seems like a solid idea, right? The concept -- that people binge-watch TV all the time and to recreate that experience, but theatrically -- is pretty cool, until you consider the fact that this has been done before, and most of the results (The Master Ninja, Time of the Apes) ended up being skewered on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Hell Town is not a good movie, but it is a pretty fun movie built on a solid concept that just needs a little work. Were that everyone understood that soap operas don't have f-bombs, nor is there a need to be playing to the back of the room, community theater style. Plus, nobody on even the most outré soap would use the phrase "69 position." It plays less like a trio of lost episodes and more like one of Charles Busch's scripts, only sans the whimsy. hell town 01 The acting is decent, with a couple of performances in which the actors which seem like they know what's supposed to be going on. A clever conceit is swapping the actress playing Laura Gable after the first episode, which actually results in a better performance. Beckijo Neill establishes the character, but Jennifer Grace fucking kills it. This woman knows soap opera. You play that shit straight, not with deadpan irony or overly arch winking at what's being done. Grace sells director Balderson's script like nobody's business, and every single one of her scenes is an absolute delight. If the rest of the cast were willing to commit to the premise, the film would've generated more outright laughter than light titters. Ben Whindholz as Butch plays his role like he'd studied Jake Gyllenhall's work in The Good Girl and amped it up with the ridiculousness of Bubble Boy. Funnily enough, what really hamstrings the production is that Hell Town just doesn't look like a soap opera. This movie actually looks too good to be mistaken for the real thing. The funny thing is, to make Hell Town look more like a soap opera would've cost more. To get the proper atmosphere, this should've been shot entirely on a sound stage, with far fewer locations and nearly no exterior shots. hell town All-in-all, it's not bad. As a slasher, it works fairly well. There are solid kills, with the deaths looking absolutely authentic. The attention paid them made the rest of this look better by association. Hell Town might not be the sort of movie I'd recommend catching, but it's certainly not something you should avoid. Upcoming screening information can be found here. [embed]https://vimeo.com/114389986[/embed]