Monday, August 3, 2009

Fucked-Up Movie Night!

You don't know where this movie is going. That's a pretty bold statement. In this day of gory horror flicks, fans have been either numbed to most of what special effects crews can churn out, have learned to expect what is on the next frame of celluloid or have spoiled themselves with the invasiveness of the Internet. Well, I am in the hopes that if you have happened to hear about the 2008 movie Martyrs that you haven't heard much besides, "This movie is fucked up!"

Having listened to an episode of the Gentleman's Guide to Midnite Cinema I learned of the movie through another listeners voice mail to the podcast berating the Pascal Laugier film. The man voiced his opinion that the film was trash and needed to be discarded as pornography. As having been witness to violence himself he poses the thought that no one needs to see this film as it depicts what could morally be construed as garbage and in having watched it one is perpetuating violence upon women and fellow human beings. The hosts of the show rightfully defend their stance as film watchers and advocates of free speech. Violence aside, Martyrs is a fairly competent film. Yes, it depicts violence upon "helpless" women and their childhood counterparts but it goes further than that and explores what is rarely posited in mainstream consciousness; that the surrender to and acceptance of pain can lead to pleasure and other planes of consciousness.

The film arrives at this hypothesis in a most deliberate and graphic way but if one can get around that and just think about it on a deeper level one can arrive where the film is daring you to go. I truly doubt that Pascal Laugier means in his optional introduction to the unrated DVD that he dares you to hate him for the film that he has written and directed. He also goes so far to say that he is sometimes ashamed from what is Martyrs. I want to believe that his idea all along was to bring this thought provoking concept to an otherwise less than original revenge film and go so far as to say that his "apology" for the movie in the introduction is nothing other than a thinly veiled marketing stunt and controversy starter.

Whether or not this is true I can only guess. What I cannot guess at is the craft that this man has brought to his film. OK, so this is no 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it is far beyond the reach of the Platinum Dunes remakes that Michael Bay is bankrolling. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Martyrs is a French production and is immediately outside the influence of Hollywood. Or perhaps it is that the director simply knows what he is doing. Watching the making-of featurette, I came away with respect for Mr. Laugier. He commands his crew well and in turn, the film is much better for it. I'll be looking forward to future works from he.

Besides any implied or deeper meaning, the reason I, among other people, are seeing this movie is because of the bloodshed on screen and the realistic, albeit slightly over-the-top, depiction of it. From the beginning I was floored by the severity and brutality of the murders and torture committed by the actors. Several times I had the uneasy feeling that I get when watching true life medical surgery television; something rare for me while watching the typical horror flick. Laugier uses his craft, that so many others fail to do, to create an ever present unease with the viewer. His knowledge, accompanied by exquisite make-up artists, make his bold decisions in his film making pay off so much more than in lesser hands. In one particular scene, Laugier shuns the use of slow-motion photography during the massacre of an entire family by shotgun because of the ferocity needed. He felt that the viewer would be that much more knowledgeable that they were watching a movie if he used slow-mo. It's true. The exclusion of the slow-motion just ratchets up the impact of the scene. Oh, what a scene it is.

What follows is a non-stop barrage of slices, dices, bludgeons, screws being ripped from someones skull, gunshots, self mutilations and a climax that if I spoiled, it would be a damn shame. What I can tell you is that I couldn't believe it when I saw it but once I did...creamed jeans. Martyrs belongs on my DVD shelf as well as yours, reader.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Shatter Dead = Awesome!

After starting this blog I haven't felt the need to update on a more than weekly basis. In fact, it hasn't been updated even that often. I apologize to Jonah and Bryce(my only readers, I believe) for this. There haven't been a shortage of movies passing my eyes lately, I just don't have the compulsion to write about what has been written about by many a blogger, I guess. Terminator 4 and the Hangover I had the upper hand with. Sneak passes, you see! One of the first to write about, was I! Pushing material out to the interweb results in boring words. For now shit will flow when it flows.

Moving on.

After graduating from high school I happened upon the most magical of movie rental houses. Movie Madness, located on SE Belmont, houses a vast selection of titles separated by genre, director, actor, sub-genre, country, era, and more. Even before their expansion it felt as if you could get lost in movie heaven and if there was a chance of seeing daylight again that you wouldn't want to leave. Racks upon racks of movies before me. Never had I spent so much of a night trying to figure out what I wanted to watch. There was just too many choices and not enough money. Being able to purchase Red Vines by the piece is a nice touch.

Among the many sections that Movie Madness has amidst the walls of classic film memorabilia and official props was and is the Bizarre section. Being the person that I am, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check out what could be in the Bizarre section. Most of the titles were VHS tapes and still are as the DVD counterparts have never been distributed and require an upstanding rental history at Movie Madness or a $100 deposit. Movies like Nekromantic, Snuff, the Faces of Death series, the CKY series, Richard Kern films, Raymond Pettibone films and more shelved on just two cases but more than enough to peak my interest and taste. I spout these names off not because they meant anything to me at the time but because they do now. Being 18 at the time meant that I could rent anything and there were quite a few movies on those racks with an 18 and over sticker. One of those stickers meant a free pass for me and a trip to Movie Madness almost certainly ended with another morality bending film under my arm along with whatever else I originally came to get. Whether or not that sticker meant quality wasn't of concern. That sticker meant that I was about to watch something that no one I knew knew anything about.

Intrigued by the title and the cover art of a woman looking through a bloody hole in a door, I picked up Shatter Dead. Directed by Scooter McCrae and released in 1993, Shatter Dead was one of my first forays into the direct-to-video/shot-on-video horror genre. It has also become, in time, one of my favorite movies of all time. It was also a movie that I could watch alone in the basement at my parent's house without them wondering first what I was watching and second why I was watching it. Full of boobs, blood and killing, Shatter Dead gets three big points right off the bat for me. That is not to say that those are the only things that I look for in a flick but back in the days of high school and right after high school, they could have been.

Shatter Dead tells the story of a world where the Angel of Death descends to Earth and impregnates a mortal woman and, in turn, destroys the notion of dying and resting peaceably underground. After death, one retains consciousness and thought but are hunted and destroyed by the living minority. Among this world is Susan, a woman trying to get across town to her boyfriend and other friends, where there is safety and shelter. After gathering supplies from town she is relieved of her vehicle by a man known only as the "Preacher Man" and his undead congregation. She is left to walk away as he foresees that she will choose to come to their side as it is the righteous way and smarter path. After stealing a car and stopping in a neighborhood to sleep, Susan is awakened by a night patrolman and taken to a shelter where she can get off the street due to martial law. There she bunks with a woman and they both take a shower together because the woman she just met wants to give us an eyeful. In the Shower Susan discovers by the bruising of pooling blood in the new roommate's backside that she is another of the walking dead and proceeds to be talked out of blasting a hole in her head.

What follows is an unrelenting series of situations and images that are still ingrained in my head, begging to stay. And, stay, they will. Naked women, shotgun blasts painting a white room red, a voyeur jerking off while looking through a keyhole, zombies lit afire, birth from a shotgun wound, oral play on a pistol, actual vaginal penetration with said pistol, this film does not let up on "mature" storytelling devices and as a result, I love every moment of it.

Though the film was shot on a very small budget the ingenuity involved in its production forgives many of it's glaring defects. The acting is almost entirely horrible, the sound design is crappy and the script inspires me to crap one out. These aside, Shatter Dead is an amazing ride and I implore my friends to borrow this movie or distant readers(if ever I get one) to queue it up on Netflix Instant Watch. It's time for a great movie night!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Is Good Sci-Ii Making a Comeback?

Plain and simple, Moon is a movie to watch as soon as possible. Today marks the first time in a while that I have been to the Fox Tower theatre downtown since Juno was released. I don't like downtown but I think that I am going to have to venture there to visit this theatre more often as it houses the more independent movies in town. Actually, the Hollywood theatre and Cinema 21 do as well, but I'll just lump them in with Fox Tower.

I'm getting pretty tired of the big blockbusters and their rehashing of tired old stories. While the Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay movies serve their purpose a shift in the flow of my money that goes to those pictures is going to have to be diverted to more independent films. Not to say that I'm smarter than the upcoming 2012, because I'm not, I am very excited for that one, but I am more excited for the underdogs nowadays. I am excited for the filmmaker's attention to be focused on the story and tone and the craft of the film instead of money being thrown at effects. I love big effects movies and again, I bring up 2012 because I've never seen world destruction in a trailer look more convincing. But those movies will always be there. Films like Moon won't be. They are too risky and I can't see Moon raking in many millions. But I hope that it gains an audience in time or gets a wider release soon.

Intelligent Sci-fi is something lacking in today's cinemas. Knowing could have been it if there was about $100 million dropped off the budget, major recastings, and the ideas that were there, further explored. With only a $5 million budget, director Duncan Jones puts his efforts into the story and creating a believable world. The lunar effects are all done with convincing miniatures and practical mock-ups and the set is all interconnected, lending to a cohesive and claustrophobic feeling. Being the first in a planned trilogy of Moon films, this is a great entry in what is shaping up to be an amazing story arc.

Where the film really shines is in the performance of Sam Rockwell. Not really a big Hollywood leading name, Rockwell has stuck to a more supporting character role in his career up until last year's Choke and completely holds his own in this film. Being the sole person on screen for the majority of the film there wasn't a moment that I wished he hadn't gotten the role. This film has solidified Sam Rockwell as one of my favorite actors working today.

I am aware that I haven't written anything about the plot of the film and that has been intentional. All you need to know is that it takes place on our moon. Avoid the trailer if you can and go watch this movie. That's it. I'm done. You can go back to watching your soccer game.