Friday, 21 June 2013

August Underground Trilogy - Part 2

Last night I wrote about the first in the trilogy of the extreme indie movies, August Underground. Not one to turn down an opportunity for something to actually effect me it only felt right to give the second a look!

August's Underground Mordum. 

Vogel returns as the sick and twisted camera killer with two new buddies. His girlfriend who can only be described as a complete fucking psycho and her brother a long haired man child who takes sexual violence to a whole new level. This time around Vogel has something to really show us. While the first wasn't all that violent or visually disturbing and relied on humiliation to really unsettle us, Mordum is out there. It's again presented as a degraded VHS tape that's been way over used, we still get mundane stuff, the trio with their mates drinking and being stupid, going to see gigs, getting piercings, messing around together. This time however, it's more chaotic. The girlfriend who is unhinged and to be honest a ticking time bomb, her brother a simple mind. Childlike and obviously disturbed. I really cannot imagine what their back story would be if they had one. As well as being in a relationship with Vogels character, the girl is having sex with her brother! Disturbing enough for you?

Violence in this one is stronger, and more sexually motivated. Simulated blow jobs with severed penises, necrophilia, rape its all there and it's not pretty. One scene involving the gaping stomach wound and the brother's weird fetishes almost made me vomit in my mouth a little! A very late scene involving a small child is pretty nasty. The dialogue during was sickening and indicated there really is more to why they are like they are, the girlfriend in particular. One thing is, this will offend people. Not everyone but the majority of people, even a lot of horror fans will be upset by this. Children, babies and animals are killed even though this is mainly off screen and to avoid the animal death just don't watch after the credits.

Again the effects are spectacular. Realism is achieved perfectly. It's exciting as a horror fan to see such amazing effects even from 2003. If they can do it with barely a budget then Hollywood certainly can! The characters are realistic. I've met people like them, probably don't go around kidnapping and killing people but on the outside these characters are people we know and are generally normal apart from their hobbies.

I was disappointed in a few things. I thought sometimes it was too chaotic. Everyone these people know are killers of some kind. A guy later on in the film has quite the party piece in his basement and we are treated to witnessing his own sick killing. There is a real escalation from 2 mates pissing around to 3 people who are now seasoned killers. I don't know how much time is supposed to have passed between the first film and the second. I think it concentrated too much on the two new faces I kinda missed seeing more of Vogel! It isn't until the end when he quite obviously loses it with his girlfriends brother we see him properly or at least his other scenes just weren't as memorable as the other two. I also thought the sexual element was too much sometimes. However, Vogel and co wanted to gross me out and appall me and that they did. Again.

While I "prefer" the first, again I didn't enjoy it but this one is certainly more effective in what it sets out to do and hasn't put me off finishing the trilogy.... Part 3, August Underground's Penance coming soon.... Watch this space!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

August Underground Trilogy - Part 1

Its not often curiosity gets the better of me. I'm not a person to give in just because a film has a hype. Not many films get the same controversy as the August Underground Trilogy. When I first heard of it, I was skeptical given the way people described it. "no plot, lots of violence". It's pretty off-putting when even the most open minded horror fans describe it this way. I figured it must be pretty nasty, given the story that while Fred Vogel was travelling to Canada with copies of the films, they were seized and he was kept in a cell for 10 hours before they dropped the charges. On reading another person's review lately (you can read Dani Carnage's review HERE!) I thought sod it, got a copy and went for it.

August Underground: 

First things first, there is no plot. That is true, the film follows two killers. One behind the camera who we never see, only hear his sick giggles of enjoyment and excitement. The second killer played by Fred Vogel who also produced, wrote and directed the film is the star of the show and despite him playing a complete psychopath he's actually oddly likable in the same way as we all love Captain Spaulding in The Devil's Rejects. The film is highly degraded, like it was watched a lot, gives it that hush hush feeling about it. Like its been passed about by friends and collegues then discussed in hushed whispers. I love this! The authentic feeling that this is a well kept secret only the hardcore horror fans are privy to. Sound is pretty good. It's to be expected that the sound would be as distorted as the visuals but its actually quite clear. Now for the gory details, literally. Actually, August underground is not as shocking and gory as i'd come to expect. However, the effects are stunning. If I didn't know better I'd have questioned if it was in fact a truly authentic snuff.

Now I know I said this was absent of a true plot, the reason is it's supposed to be real. I'm yet to see a home movie with a well written story and strategically placed plot devices. This isn't Hollywood, this is raw underground with a shoe string budget. I wonder exactly how much was written in a professional script or if most of it was ad-libbed. The conversations seem natural. Clearly, Fred and his co-star are friends in real life. Their dynamics as a duo are spectacular. Just another thing to add to its realistic feel. There is also a lot of mundane shots, them being jokers in a store before turning on the customers by assaulting and humiliating them. Going to see bands play in local clubs, before being kicked out for fighting, just messing around together and with friends. While they can't seem to go anywhere without causing some sort of trouble they're pretty normal apart from the naked women and dead bodies in their basement.

To say I enjoyed this film would make me look pretty sick. There's no way a sane person can enjoy August Underground. Instead I feel impressed, I didn't "like" it but the film was so well done I have a great respect for all involved. Vogel definitely has talent. What I thought would just be a pure endurance film turned out to be a whole lot more. Dig deep enough you can see this may be missing the important factors like story and coherence but instead it's a character study through the eyes of a serial killer.

I am glad I was persuaded to give it a go. I had completely misjudged it, shame on me!!

Next up.... August Underground's Mordum.

Monday, 17 June 2013

UV supports Indie! - Legitimate (screener)

This week I had the pleasure of being contacted (Thanks to a friend) by a new and upcoming director, Izzy Lee. I had the privilege to see her screener of "Legitimate".

The film opens with a quote "if it's legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting down" (Todd Aken). At this point, I knew I was going to see something here. As a politician is led to his chair, given his usual drink and given a show from a beautiful stripper, bound in rope, becoming unbound as she dances. The politician seems to fall asleep, most likely drugged. Waking for a moment we're shown 3 women holding something grotesque in a jar. When he awakes again outside, confused we're treated to our punchline. 

It's difficult to make a point when you only have a few minutes to do so. Izzy Lee makes her point right from the off. The undertones of female empowerment are subtle even during the dancing. As the dancer get more into it she is unbound. From what I could get, freedom from male oppression. The punchline is where you really get the point. I did let out a chuckle. It tackles sexism and the vile view of rape that sadly, some people still have. While doing this, it doesn't become a feminist tirade. Instead, taking someones view, and twisting it so the shoe is on the other foot. I doubt the use of a politician character was accidental either. 

The filming felt professional, effects clever, while absent of real gore. 

I am thoroughly impressed with this short. It was intelligent without being pretentious. I like that. I look forward to what Izzy Lee gives us next!

I really have to see more! 

Sunday, 16 June 2013

An Extreme World - Battle Royale

When talking about Asian cinema, Japan is pretty hard to ignore. With directors leaving their mark with crazy storylines, awesome gore and twisted humour that makes us rub our eyes in disbelieve and ask ourselves, "what the hell am I watching?!" it's easy to see why J-horror is so popular. Now I'm a fan of more sensible stuff, things need to be on the right side of bonkers for me to enjoy but one film I enjoy again and again and features some disturbing and graphic imagery without being absurd is Battle Royale.

Battle Royale - Japan

Directed By - Kinji Fukasaku
Starring - Takeshi Kitano, Tatsuya Fujiwara, Aki Maeda.

Based off a popular Japanese manga, Battle Royale is set in the near future. Petty crime is common place and the youth of the country and wild and unruly. To deal with the problem the "Battle Royale Law" was created. The law states that each year a class of children, in their final year of schooling will be put on an island, given a bag with a weapon and some essentials and the last one standing will win. How do they win? By killing each other!

I've not long discovered Battle Royale. I went out as soon as I'd seen it while it was showing on Lovefilm instant and bought it. The story is basic, a simple kill or be killed story made fresh with side stories of love, friendship and betrayal. The film follows Nanahara and his friend, who is apparently in love with him (along with every other girl in the class apparently) Noriko. They are joined by an older boy, Kawada, who later reveals how he has played before and was the survivor. The only villains are Kiriyama, a bat shit crazy kid who volunteered for the game who silently blows one student away after another without feeling and Kitano- Sensei played by the fantastic Takashi Kitano. Kitano is the life and soul of this film. He's funny, bitter and sometimes moving. A deep sadness hides behind those eyes and it is revealed later on why.

The acting in this film is ridiculous. The characters that matter and are well acted and their lines well written. Otherwise it's hammy, over the top and sometimes just blatantly funny. Somehow, Battle Royale gets away with it! Usually bad acting will ruin a film for me but strangely, it enriches it and gives it a little more body. It doesn't take itself too seriously and I love it for that reason!

Cinematography is stunning. Wide and long shots of the beautiful scenery splattered with the blood of children. The score is perfect, a range of well known classical music. Almost unsettling given the violence that is going on. What makes it extreme is not it's graphic visuals but the way the film is showing children killing children. What is more senseless? The fact its entertaining seeing young people shooting and slashing at each other unsettles me.

Battle Royale isn't flawless. It's fun, violent, gory and has a re-watch factor which makes it worth every penny. The least extreme in the series and some might say it doesn't fit in with the likes of Martyrs but hey, I think its a pretty violent and extreme flick, maybe the best gateway drug there is before taking on the more extreme titles. I know it was mine!

My rating.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Review - Wilderness.

Directed By - Michael J Bassett
Starring - Sean Pertwee, Alex Reid, Toby Kebbell, Stephen Wight.

A juvinile prison guard takes several of his young inmates to a deserted island where they find themselves hunted by a man with a crossbow and his pack of blood thirst dogs.

Another film I stumbled upon quite a while ago on netflix. I seen it was British and starred a few actors and actresses I knew so gave it a whirl. It opens to a young prisoner being beaten by his fellow inmates. The first scenes display a campaign of bullying against the young man, Davie and his only friend inside, Lesley until Davie finally cracks and is found dead by the newest inmate, Callum (Kebbell). After Davies father visits the prison the governor demands the senior warden (Pertwee) takes them to "the island". At the island they seem to bond, or not so much at camp before they find a group of female inmates and their warden (Reid). When Callum finds a homeless man dead and rather torn up he is accused of the murder before the group are attacked by a mystery man with a cross bow and several nasty dogs under his command.

This isn't a complex film. No twists for you to see coming or complicated story lines. Simply just twisted justice and lots of killing! There are some great kills, a man is eaten alive by dogs, a girl hung from a tree and set alight by a cool booby trap. You can completely switch off and enjoy this film for what it is. Some people might find it a bit cliche, and honestly, sometimes it is. Despite that, it's a good time. Character development is there, but there is little of it but it doesn't feel like you're missing out on anything. You know who you want to feel sorry for and you know the ones who deserve their fate.

Cinematography wise, its basic but effective. A nice bloody POV shot of the dogs ripping into someone is the highlight for me. Lots of long shots show off the idyllic scenery.

In short, Wilderness is a fun flick that can be enjoyed without thinking too hard. A nice refresher for me personally given the subject matters of other films I've been watching lately. I really enjoyed this film, it's not without its flaws. Some parts are a bit hammy and could have been written better and sometimes it does get a bit cliche. However, I still felt it worthy of a buy and now sits on my shelf.

My rating. 

Monday, 10 June 2013

Review - Peeping Tom.

Directed by - Michael Powell
Starring - Karlheinz Bohm.

Mark Lewis is a strange man. He loves being behind the camera and works in a filming studio. His sexual repression is only released by the murder, and filmings of said murders of young women. Watching their fear as he goes. When he meets a woman who shows the affection he's craved his entire life Marks life changes and his secrets become harder to conceal especially from his new love interests blind but all seeing mother!

Made in 1960 when a certain Hitchcock horror movie was reaching great success, Powell's Peeping Tom was greeting with much less appeasement. Critics tore this film a new one. Powell never really had any success after that and the film was not appreciated until many years later. Now it is seen as a classic and praised the way it should have been 50 years ago.

Voyeurism is the main theme, at the time this was probably a taboo subject, even for a horror movie. While Peeping Tom wouldn't be classed as a horror movie to today's standards, the idea of having someone shove a camera in my face as he pokes a sharpened tripod leg into my throat is pretty horrific to me!

The best thing about this film is it's character development. At first glance Mark Lewis could be seen as just your run of the mill pervert but delving deeper, and seeing what his childhood and life is like, he become a sympathetic character. Craving some female influence and love. His father's treatment of him and how he used him in his own cruel experiments is difficult to comprehend.

The cinematography is beautiful to the eye. Every scene is crafted well, every line written and delivered is perfect, the violence is very tame for the average or hardened horror viewer of today but put yourself back 50 years you can feel that these scenes would have shocked an audience to the core. The only issue is the way the story just plods along. It can feel quite slow at times. This could be because I've become used to todays fast paced slashers. Even so it's enjoyable to watch.

I loved Peeping Tom from the first time I seen it years ago. It doesn't get the reception is deserves.

My rating


Saturday, 8 June 2013

An Extreme World - Martyrs

Extreme world horror is becoming more and more popular with the western world becoming desensitized to violence. Child abuse is reported on the news daily, as is domestic violence, rape and murder. Is it any wonder we turn to film to get away from the real life horrors going on daily. France again has used all these nasty real horrors to their advantage to create realistic and horrific cinema that makes us need a bath afterwards. Martyrs is the first film to do this to me.

Martyrs - France.
Directed by - Pascal Laugier
Starring - Morjana Alaoui and Mylene Jampanoi

Martyrs is a film I heard a lot about before eventually getting the opportunity to watch. I knew from reviews and chatter in horror forums that I was going to go into something horrific and would be taking on something that even I questioned if I was ready for.

Martyrs begins with a young girl, Lucie, of around 12 years old escaping from a warehouse wearing a filthy vest top, knickers and covered in dirt and blood screaming with terror and relief. She is taken to an orphanage where she is taken under the wing of Ana where she is taken care of. Lucie is haunted by something monstrous and terrifying which physically harms her as well as mentally torturing her. Later on, when Lucie and Ana are adults Lucie takes revenge on the people who hurt her in a bloody and shocking manner. Nobody is spared. Still haunted by the mysterious creature, which frankly, is a grotesque work of sfx art. Its only in the final act of the film we see what Lucie was subjected to and it's then the film take the most brutal and sinister turn.

To say Martyrs is down beat is an understatement. Nothing in this film brings any rays of light, no relief from the tension. Things just get worse and worse. The story starts out as a simple revenge plot we're all familiar with but as things progress you just know nothing will work out well in the end. No happy endings here and as the final part of the movie turns into an exercise in endurance, it could have been easy for the film to get boring and tedious as the violence against one of the characters gets progressively worse but the story is enough to prevent this film from becoming just another Hostel. For me, it wasn't the violence that was difficult but the claustrophobia of the entire film taking place in just a handful of settings with much of the final half an hour being in a dark and dingy cell. I felt dirty watching and I felt a desperate need to make the violence stop. I wanted to reach into the TV and stop it from happening! The director does a great job of drawing us in enough to feel almost like we are taking part but sitting and watching. The ending with undoubtedly have you questioning for days after watching.

One thing that is overwhelming in the film is the score. The music is slow, upsetting and sickly. It adds to the nihilistic feeling beautifully. Filmed almost like it's in first person. Like you are following their every move. The actresses are beautiful and play their parts with conviction. The effects in martyrs are scarily real. The creature that haunts Lucie is so realistic, it's hard to tell if it's real or imaginary. whether we are watching one woman driven crazy for the hell she has lived with or a classic vengeful ghost story reminiscent of Japanese supernatural horrors. It's this ability to blur lines that makes the film so successful.

One thing I can say for sure, Martyrs is the most difficult film I've ever sat through. I have done it twice and it wasn't any easier second time round. Infact, it was harder. This film for me is the best of the bunch in the French new wave category.

My Rating.


Thursday, 6 June 2013

An Extreme World - Kill List

The UK get a bad rep for horror really. There isn't a great deal of money being put into british film but with Film4 and the National Lottery funding independent directors have been bring some excellent british cinema. We also have some great horror directors around. Recently, we've started seeing a more extreme side to us. The latest being Kill List.

Kill List - UK
Directed by Ben Wheatley.
Starring Neil Maskell, MyAnna Buring, Michael Smiley.

I will hold my hands up now, I hated Kill List on first view. I found it confusing, dull and I didn't feel the payoff was worth it. However, after much convincing from friends and other horror fans I decided to give it another shot. It's currently on lovefilm free with my subscription so wasn't losing anything. Second time round, Kill List is a whole different experience. Yes I know what's going to happen but I also notice so much more!

Maskell's character Jay, a hitman, hasn't worked in 8 months since something went wrong on a job in Kiev. You get the impression that he is both mentally and physically affected by the job. When money runs out and pressures get on top of him, Jay agrees to do one last job with his friend and partner so he can live comfortably with his wife, played by MyAnna Buring and his young son.

It starts out as a bit of a domestic drama then a hitman movie. On first view, the horror just doesn't seem to play any part until the final 10-15 minutes. On second viewing I started to notice the overall feel. That nasty vibe where you know things just are not going to end well for anyone here. Religion plays a huge part here. Jay obviously is not a believer in any sort of organised religion. I got the feeling he had been at some point but history had caused him to lose that faith. Smileys character seems less skeptical and spends some time apologising for his partners behaviour. Right from the get go you know this job isn't what it appears to be. When the deal is sealed with blood being spilled. The thing that stands out for me on the first and second viewing was the explicit kills. One kill involving a hammer is just so brutal I was not expecting it. It appears all the effects are practical too! A welcome change from the CGI infested industry at the moment.

Storywise, Kill List plods along nicely, some bits feel long and drawn out on first watch but on second watch you realise it's importance. The scenes of family life, violence and friendship are all there to give that ending the kick that it needs. Cinematography is very well done. It feels gritty and realistic. Conversations don't feel forced and scripted. Some scenes you just want to see more and questions are left unanswered but the fun is in wondering, making up your own conclusion. Wheatley never spoon feeds.

Quite frankly, I regret ever slating Kill List. It is a great piece of british cinema and Britain needs more exposure in the horror world right now!

My Rating.