1995 / Director. Joe Chappelle.
It's Halloween night and my family have all turned in. Time for more tasty treats. I had it in mind to watch one of the HALLOWEEN sequels and after deliberation (far too long) I zeroed in on part 6. I've seen the other films more times than I care to remember but 6 is the one I've watched the least. It's production is notorious to horror geeks and the final theatrical cut was a disaster. At the time it had taken a very affective and well structured franchise and turned it into something supernatural, which conflicted with our expectations. For all the years we have known Michael Myers to be a simple, stalk and kill movie villain. As his psychiatrist constantly reminded us, he simply "is evil" and his motivations are irrelevant. Some fans question where Myers disappears to between Halloweens and what he might do. It's often joked about that he plays bridge with friends and travels the world, taking in the culture. Jokes aside, what happens between his psychotic episodes is beside the point. Who really cares? We want to arrive at the start, see him kill and go home happy. And so HALLOWEEN 6 came along and attempted to fill those gaps. It introduced a pagan cult, which granted Michael immortality and cast him under a murderous spell that compelled him to kill his entire bloodline. It's stupid stuff in the context of the whole series. The film was doomed from the get go with countless re-writes, numerous directors attached and all sorts of re-shoots. Add to that the hassle of the franchise having been recently acquired by Dimension (who have fucked up several horror properties too). The end result was a theatrical cut, which confused audiences and made very little sense. Since then 3 alternative cuts have been made and none officially released. The only way to see them has been by way of bootleg. The consensus amongst fans is that The Producer's Cut is the definitive version. I would agree and when I do watch HALLOWEEN 6, this is the one I stick with. It is a much better film than the theatrical version. With over 45 minutes of alternative footage, re-arranged scenes and a different plot structure, this is a far more coherent story. The concept of the supernatural cult origins is still stupid, but this version of the film makes it more palatable. If you're willing to suspend your disbelief then there is still lots to enjoy. The film works in the chronological sense too and follows the ongoing narrative. Past events are referred to and some seemingly illogical events from part 5 are explained. Apparently when Donald Pleasance read the script he declared it to be the best since the original... I'm not sure where that information comes from but it sounds like movie-myth to me... ie something to please the fans. This was Pleasance's final appearance as Loomis and was indeed his final film. As with the previous instalment, he was the anchor. He gave credibility to the typical formula and brought some intelligence to it. As the films kept coming, his role became more manic and by the time number 6 arrived he was almost as stark raving mad as Michael Myers himself. Ha. But it sure is great to see him on screen. I miss Donald Pleasance. HALLOWEEN 6 is (imo) the weakest link in the chain, but has its moments. It doesn't ruin the legacy but it doesn't exactly help it either.
Side note: Thanks to fan campaigning, The Producer's Cut is set for a restoration and official dvd/blu-ray release. It has been screened to audiences recently with permission from Dimension.
Side Note: Director Joe Chappelle was attached as director of Hellraiser Bloodline the next year. He was eventually replaced and that film's production suffered the exact same fate as H6. Was HE the curse of Michael Myers? lol
1985 / Director. Larry Cohen.
Earlier this week I read a list of 30 underrated, undervalued and forgotten horror movies and given my consumption of rare cult movies, the list seemed strange to me. When I saw titles like ROAD GAMES, NAIL GUN MASSACRE and ORCA I scratched my head thinking that people really should try harder to find these movies - but then again a lot of you are like me and so you're probably all over it. It just so happened that one of the listed films was sitting on the table right in front of me and so BAM - in it goes! I love director Larry Cohen's films. He's a cult auteur who has brought us movies like IT'S ALIVE, FULL MOON HIGH and Q. As a writer he's given us even more. One my my favourite movies of his is THE STUFF. The article I read was right to include it in their list because it is hugely under-appreciated. It's about a gooey, white, yoghurt-like dessert that's taking the world by storm. Sold in tubs, people can't get enough of it but it's ingredients are unknown. The packaging claims "no artificial ingredients" and that's no false claim because THE STUFF is an alien organism, which was discovered in the ground by a mining company. This delicious treat turns it's consumers into zombie-like drones. Everything about this film appeals to me. Made in 1985, it feels much more like a product of the 70s. It's use of cheesy (but still effective) practical FX and classic b-movie structure lends it a nostalgic quality. It pays homage to films like THE BLOB and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS and in a way that only Larry Cohen knows how, the movie is full of social commentary and satire. Corporate greed, consumerism and marketing are all set up in Larry's line of fire. THE STUFF is very funny, often freaky and pretty gross... If you've never seen it, treat yourself to some soon!
1989 / Director. Albert Pyun (credit removed) Movie #8
& Rusty Lemorande
With respect to Albert Pyun, it's important that I acknowledge the fact that he voluntarily removed his name from this movie. This is another example of studio interference completely wrecking a film and it is yet again another moment in Albert's career when he was never given the respect he deserved. JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH was not the original working title and Albert had made the film as a sequel to his popular ALIEN FROM LA. Before he was able to complete it Cannon Films snatched the project from his grasp and spliced it together with a similarly themed film, which was being directed by Rusty Lemorande. What WERE two individual, fully envisioned & highly conceptual adventure movies ended up being mashed together and morphed into a steaming heap of shit. There is absolutely no coherent or tangible storyline whatsoever. It begins in Hawaii where a British woman finds herself stuck in a cave with two brothers and their little sister. Trapped when a volcanic eruption seals the cave entrance they are forced to move deeper into the twisted subterranean caverns. Eventually they fall into a gateway which leads them to Atlantis, the setting from ALIEN FROM LA. Suddenly the older brother and younger sister are absent from the rest of the movie. They simply cease to exist and the two remaining characters are unexpectedly set aside to make way for a new storyline about Atlantis planning a full scale attack on the surface world. Watching JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH made me angry. Not only had CANNON wronged two deserving filmmakers but they had also demonstrated an absolute contempt and disrespect for the audience. Weird dream sequences attempt to make use of extracted footage with weird monsters, trolls and goblins appearing from nowhere, contributing NOTHING to the story. Emo Phillips even appears for all of 30 seconds, which was a HUGE mind-fuck for me... I love the guy but seriously - WTF? The bulk of the footage used was taken from Albert's film and for what it's worth it looks great. He recaptured the same post-punk, grungy wasteland that made the first movie awesome and the subterranean characters are wonderful. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see Albert's intended sequel in it's entirety because he clearly had a vision. I can only imagine the heartbreak of having a project you've laboured over being ripped from underneath you and bastardised beyond recognition. Albert was right to disown the film, but out of respect for his craft and the work he put into it I feel that it's important to include it in this retrospective series.
2004 / Director. Jean-Jacques Annaud..
I've got two kids; one boy (12) & one girl (14) - Selecting a family film can be a harrowing task, causing bickering amongst them. Whenever we settle on a winning film, they're usually titles, which us parents choose. Last night all arguments were settled when I walked into the room and said "Right! Two Brothers". The film tells the story of two tiger cubs in 1920s French-ruled Cambodia. Living with their parents amongst the ruins of an ancient temple, their family-pack is disturbed by local scavengers and poachers who are on an expedition to steal relics and statues. With the father tiger shot dead, the two cubs are caught and separated. One ends up with a cruel circus and the other is raised for fighting by a royal prince. Similar to Jean-Jacques Annaud's previous film THE BEAR, the film replies on animal behaviour and humans are second to the animal performances. It's a film, which stirs up emotions. From gorgeous little kitty-cats to tortured and ferocious tigers... as a viewer you are put through the gamut. It evokes a whole lot of "naaaawww"s from you but also stirs up anger and heartbreak at the events, which unfold. Shot mostly on location in Cambodia, the film is majestic. The jungles, temples and indigenous communities are beautifully captured and the animal performances are incredible. Using up to 30 live tigers and combining very authentic-looking animatronics the life and journey of these creatures is breathtaking. The humans are secondary in this story and most are predators with Guy Pearce and Freddy Highmore playing the only two compassionate beings these two cubs encounter. Being set in the 1920s the film captures mankind at a different level of understanding. This is a time when killing elephants for ivory and skinning big-cats for trophy was acceptable and socially respected - and so if you're watching TWO BROTHERS with your kids, you may have to engage them with discussion. It's a confronting movie for little'uns but might just enlighten them.
1990 / Director. Frank Henenlotter.
Half way into FRANKENHOOKER my girlfriend turned to me and said "this is a really bad B-movie, isn't it?". Shock set in. What I wanted to say was "you're dead to me right now" but instead I replied "No way. This is prime B-movie". And it IS prime B-movie. FRANKENHOOKER and movies like it give genuine reason to love cinema. Director Frank Henenlotter was a king of seedy and subversive film-making in the 80s and his masterpiece BASKETCASE remains a staple part of any horror geek's collection. With FRANKENHOOKER he upped the ante. Taking the much loved, but over-worked Frankenstein story he has exploited the convention with an over the top, early 90s sensibility. It tells the story of Jeffrey, a scientific genius who's girlfriend is killed by a runaway lawnmower. Stricken by grief he salvages the parts of her that aren't mulch and sets upon reconstructing her body using dead prostitutes. With genetically modified crack-cocaine he lures a den of hookers and gets them high. What ensues is a room full of exploding whores! It's hilarious! The film is riddled with comedy, lunacy and above all else - TITS! The gore factor is lowered in favour of puerile dialogue and nonsensical acts of vulgarity. With intentionally terrible SFX Hennenlotter made a cult-classic that plays like Re-Animator meets Weird Science. For genre fans there is so much to love. The DVD and (and blu-ray) restoration is awesome and the movie has never looked better. As I said - FRANKENHOOKER is prime B-movie!
2013 / Director. Damian Lee.
Brendan Fraser movies tend to come with low expectations. I've never considered him to be a good actor but will grant him a few noteworthy performances. So approaching his new movie BREAKOUT was with an open mind and generosity. I am a sucker for wilderness thrillers with films like Shoot To Kill, The Hunted and First Blood being some of my favourites. BREAKOUT had a decent enough premise to perk my curiosity. Two children on a camp-out witness an execution in the woods by two criminal brothers who recently moved into a nearby cabin. One of the brothers is mentally retarded and the other is psychopathic and taking no chances, they are determined to hunt and kill the kids. Brendan Fraser plays the kid's father who is serving a prison term for manslaughter. Two weeks from release he finds out about the situation (contact via cell phone) and stages a breakout while on work detail in a nearby area of the woods (daddy to the rescue). This is a really stupid movie and its terrible. It looks like a bad midday movie with zero redeeming qualities. The cinematography is awful and absolutely no advantage was taken of the beautiful British Colombian landscapes surrounding the film. The world knows that Brendan Fraser is bald and yet he keeps showing up in movies wearing some of the worst hair-pieces ever committed to film. Ethan Surpee also deserves a reward for worst mentally challenged performance of all time (well close to it). Robert Downey Jr would agree that he make the critical error of going "full retard". I actually think that Dominic Purcell is an underrated actor but his talent is completely wasted here. BREAKOUT is a slow, boring and tedious thriller and belongs way at the bottom of the bargain bin and the only reason for you to watch it is to see if I'm overreacting. - You will regret you ever doubted me.
2012 / Director. Lachlan Ryan & Jarrod Theodore.
It would be wrong of me to criticise REVERSE RUNNER as an entire movie. I hit the eject button 15 minutes into it and so I will only address those minutes. I was in the mood for something stupid and something light. REVERSE RUNNER caught my attention a while ago but I never gave it much consideration. It's an Aussie comedy, more specifically a Melbourne comedy and what intrigued me was the fact that Stephen Herek had produced it. This is the same guy who made Critters, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, The Mighty Ducks and Mr Holland's Opus amongst others. And so I was wondering what could have drawn him to a low budget Aussie flick like this... and I'm still wondering. The story revolves around the competitive sport of reverse running and follows the life long dream of one guy to become #1. The film (at least the first 15 minutes of) was shot in rural Victoria, just outside of Melbourne and the scenery is gorgeous. Actually the rolling green hills and farm animals are about the only thing I found appealing. The script is crap, the performances are crap and the jokes are... um... crap. In fact the first 15 minutes of REVERSE RUNNER makes Yahoo Serious' second two films look like Academy Award winners. It seems that the writers of this movie think that running backwards is hilarious. So hilarious that they have written an entire movie around that one gag. Sadly (well, not really) I don't find much amusement in running backwards... I shouldn't say much else because I admit that I haven't seen the bulk of the film. For all I know it could be amazing. For all I know it could be one of the best comedies Australia has ever produced. Hell, this IS the movie that broke box office records at the Colac cinema, after all. All I know is that if a movie compels me to seek laughs from Crocodile Dundee 3 or Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course instead... then 'nuff said.
2013 / Director. Gus Van Sant.
Cinema is all about manipulation. I get that and that's what I love about it. It's exhilarating to be in the hands of a filmmaker who is able to elicit emotions and provoke a reaction. That said. I resist and often reject political manipulation and PROMISED LAND definitely sat a little funny with me. Of course it was directed by Gus Van Sant who is known for being politically outspoken and so I ventured into the film prepared. Matt Damon and Frances McDormand play two representatives of a natural gas company who's job is to convince small towns to sell their land for drilling and more specifically, fracking. Just as they're beginning to win the town over, a loan environmentalist arrives on the scene to challenge them and so begins a moral conflict with the community stuck in the middle as fodder. Lies built upon lies and ambiguous truths conflict the residents as they're faced with an ultimatum... sell up and get rich at the risk of the town's future or reject the offer and carry on struggling. As a human drama, it works. The performances are great and the script is strong. It conjured up memories of Erin Brockovich and The Rainmaker in it's telling of a big corporate body walking all over the people. But that's where the manipulation comes into it. I didn't trust the movie. Something didn't feel right and I got to wondering about who was behind it. After viewing it I did a simple google search and read that some controversy followed the film. Much of it's funding came from a foreign petroleum company who have a vested interest in preventing the natural gas industry. It wasn't quite the green resistance I was expecting but a questionable intent nonetheless. I'm sure more reading will raise more questions. Anyhow - The film looks great with it's beautiful sweeping landscapes and picturesque rural setting. It's shot really well and the township becomes it's own character. Danny Elfman also provides a nicely restrained score, which gives the film a modest and humble feel. Forgetting the political bullshit, PROMISED LAND does work on a basic dramatic level about the hardships of rural life and I am sure it's depiction of an honest, hard working faming community is accurate. Perhaps if the film hadn't taken such a drastic turn of events in it's final act I might have granted it more credit. I enjoyed looking at it but can't say that I entirely loved watching it.
2010 / Director. Brian Yuzna.
It is with affection when I say that AMPHIBIOUS is a piece of shit. Like the classic B-movies of the 50s, it's the type of turdish movie that you can only embrace. Like so many B-movie auteurs, I worship the ground Brian Yuzna walks on. He's been such an influential filmmaker to me that no matter what he delivers, I will lap it up. That's not to say I'm oblivious to their quality. Over the years as a writer, producer and director he's given us some amazing films; such as Re-Animator, Honey I Shrunk The Kids, Society, From Beyond, Warlock, Dagon and Romasanta (and that's just some). He has also delivered us some poxy movies like Rottweiler, Arachnid and The Dentist. As a cult genre fan I embrace this type of thing and like recent examples such as Sharknado, Sand Sharks and Mega Piranha - it's shonkiness is it's allure. The movie opens with a weird title sequence featuring a sunken Atlantis type of ancient society. Cut to a fishing platform in the middle of the ocean, off the coast of Indonesia. A group of smugglers and child labourers find themselves to be live-bait for a giant creature from the deep. With the arrival of a marine-biologist and her chartered captain we learn that the 2004 tsunami released ancient micronisms, which have grown into monstrous jurassic sized scorpions. Such a stupid premise lends to a fun-filled, gore infested schlock-fest. Yuzna's use of soundstage lends the movie a surreal aesthetic that reassures the viewer that it's supposed to be hokey (as opposed to unintentionally bad). Perhaps watching AMPHIBIOUS on 3D blu-ray was a mistake because the resolution was so sharp that the sound-stage revealed it's secrets. What are supposed to be pitch black night-time backdrops are clearly black curtains, which sway to the movement of an off-camera fan. There are also moments when markers on the green screen have been left in the final cut... it makes me wonder if the film was rushed to release or whether the editor said to Yuzna "hey, there's stuff we need to address here" and Yuzna has replied "meh. fuck it". In any case these hilariously inept mistakes give the viewer more to enjoy. It's far from Brian Yuzna's best and it's quite possibly his worst but it remains so bad, its good and a highly enjoyable slice of gobbledygook. Corman would be proud!
2013 / Director. Don Mancini.
The typical response from most people is cynically "ANOTHER Chucky movie?" - whereas MY response is "oh hell yes". This is a movie franchise I have always loved. The first movie is legendary and the two sequels following it were worthy additions. I think most people would agree that the series took a turn for the worse with BRIDE OF CHUCKY and SEED OF CHUCKY. They had their moments and were a lot of fun, but the horror was gone and the charm was lost... and so I understand people's hesitation at the thought of a new instalment. I've been eagerly awaiting it for 2 years now, since it was first announced. Having just watched it I can declare that I FUCKING LOVED IT! Chucky is back and he's the bad-ass we remember him to be from the original. A good-guy doll is delivered to a family living in a remote manor - It's sender is unknown. The family's little girl embraces her new friend and in a repeat of the original film, she claims that Chucky is talking to her. Director Don Mancini has listened to fans and thrown away the cheesy schlock of the previous two instalments and he's delivered a serious slasher. As far as I'm concerned this is easily the best since the first. Cinematically it's the best. The cinematography, the lighting and the editing recall a classic style of filmmaking. It has a rich gothic feel about it and I was taken back to the work of Argento and Bava. There is a definite European influence here. All the way through the movie I kept thinking of inconsistencies with the Child's Play canon but one by one the movie dispelled all of them and brought the story into line VERY nicely. Some fanboy critics will whinge about the use of CGI for some of Chucky's expressions but if that's all they got, then pffft. This is a fantastic return to form and delivers above and beyond. The movie's secrets are nicely revealed and the post-credit scene alone makes CURSE OF CHUCKY a rewarding chapter to the legacy. Mancini got it right!
2013 / Director. Michelle Danner.
HELLO HERMAN is a film with an important message and yet, sadly, it has been conveyed poorly. It tells the story of a 16 year old boy who walks into his school and opens fire, killing 45 people. He is arrested and sentenced to death and his execution is broadcast live to the nation. In his last days he requests an interview with a subversive video blogger and attempts to tell his story. With high school massacres becoming something of a pop-culture in the United States, there have been some important films dealing with the subject. ELEPHANT, BEAUTIFUL BOY and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN come to mind. They're all excellent films yet none of them actually explore the problem... but rather, they focus on the consequence. And so HELLO HERMAN can be commended for daring to peel back the layers of American culture and holding a proverbial mirror up the nation. It looks at issues like bullying, cyber-bullying, violent video games, absent parenting and various other contributing factors. None of these things are pinpointed as actual causes but are considered collectively. It could have been a very powerful film but it was packed with a whole lot of disappointment for me. Firstly it looks like a midday movie of the week with it's dull and uninspired cinematography and design. There is nothing appealing or visually arresting at all... and perhaps the film's biggest ruin was its opening title card, which read "Sometime in the not too distant future". This is a cop out for some incredibly flimsy constructs, which remove most of the film's credibility. This unknown future setting has given the filmmakers licence to exploit an ill-conceived satire as well as a preachy premonition. The film makes ludicrous leaps and demands a HUGE suspension of disbelief when it expects us to accept that a 16 year old boy would not only be executed but his death would also be televised to the nation. On top of that we are expected to believe that he goes from arrest to execution within a matter of weeks. Such massive absurdities take away any power that the story might have had. And then there's more... an irrelevant subplot involving the video blogger's misguided youth takes up a lot of screen time and distracts from the more important themes. On a positive note, most of the performances are good. Norman Reedus (Walking Dead, Boondock Saints) is well cast and young Gerrett Backstrom does an excellent job as the confused and neglected teenage killer. Another oddity is the appearance of Andy McPhee, the Aussie tough-guy actor who most people down under will recognise. The director is Michelle Danner, one of the most respected and revered acting coaches in the world. She has been celebrated by the likes of Spielberg and Scorsese, amongst others and yet she also appears in HELLO HERMAN as the killer's mother - and to say that her own performance is terrible is an understatement. Really, it's that bad. It bums me out that a film with so much potential can be so badly made. This is an example of too much social commentary and not enough focus.
1988 / Director. Albert Pyun Movie #6
When I watch Albert Pyun's ALIEN FROM LA my eyes light up like a giddy school boy at Christmas time. Yet again, this is the stuff of my childhood. Movies like this fuel my passion for cinema. Taking queues from Jules Verne, the story redefines the legend of Atlantis. An archaeologist believes that thousands of years ago an alien civilisation landed on Earth and their space craft served as a floating city until it sank when the seas erupted from beneath. The city was lost but the inhabitants survived. When the archaeologist falls into bottomless pit while on expedition in Africa, his daughter follows in search of him. She too falls into the hole and finds herself in a weird and incredible subterranean civilisation. The initial set-up is really hokey but once we find ourselves in this fantastical undiscovered world it becomes such a wonderful ride. Visually this is about as good as Albert gets. The underworld landscapes and architecture are wonderfully conceived and the colours are vibrant and surreal. The movie plays like Wizard of Oz meets Mad Max... The music is forced at times but with such a bizarre otherworldly aesthetic it adds to the charm. The clarity of the picture on the DVD I watched was fantastic. The movie's never looked so fresh... unfortunately the DVD was modified for a 4:3 presentation and so much of the film's charisma was lost. I would LOVE (love love love) to see ALIEN FROM LA in a widescreen presentation. If I can get my hands on that, I will screen the movie for you... for free. If you love movies from the 80s like The Neverending Story or Big Trouble in Little China then you have to check this out... It's essential 80s viewing. One year and two movies later Albert returned and made a sequel, which was plainly titled JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH. I will get to that shortly. What a double feature it would make!
2013 / Director. Mark Steven Johnson.
Roman Polanski's DEATH AND THE MAIDEN and William Friedkin's THE HUNTED are two exceptional films and I reckon if you were to mash 'em together you would get KILLING SEASON. It's a survival film about retribution and repentance and the personal cost of war. Robert DeNiro plays an American war veteran who served in the Bosnian war. He lives a reclusive life in the wilderness where he fights his personal demons. Travolta plays an ex Serbian soldier who has spend 20 years plotting a brutal revenge on the man he holds responsible for acts against humanity. Posing as a European hunter, Travolta's character befriends DeNiro's and during a day of hunting together things take a violent turn. It becomes a game of cat and mouse with the upper-hand switching between the two at every advantage. I really liked it and I have read nothing but poor reviews, which leaves me bewildered. I can definitely see the film's flaws, granted, but it is by no means a terrible film. The weakest link is John Travolta. I cant place a perfect Serbian accent in my head and so it would be unfair for me to criticise his handle of it, but something about it did feel off to me. And then there's his hair... what the hell is with his hair? With a stencilled brow-line he looks like he's worked a tin of boot polish into his scalp. He does look ridiculous and the movie would have hugely benefited from a different actor in the role. That said, he still has his moments. DeNiro is great and it's good to see him returning to some meaty roles lately. After a decade of mediocre films he's starting to show signs of the DeNiro we knew from all those years ago. The action is handled really well with some flinch-inducing archery sequences and a whole lot of graphic torture. It's not for the faint hearted. Director Mark Steven Johnson drives the film well and it's easily his best film to date (although Simon Birch might come close). I do wish he'd taken advantage of the magnificent Appalachia mountains because, while his focus was on a close-up survival story, a greater sense of wilderness would have given it more depth (First Blood and Deliverance come to mind). Interestingly the screenplay has been doing the rounds for years and was originally conceived as a follow up to Face/Off with Travolta and Nicholas Cage set to team up again. John McTiernan was to direct it before it all fell through and it would have been set in the 1970s. I wonder what kind of film it would have been if made under those circumstances? I doubt it would have been as violent and graphic and I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. Anyhow KILLING SEASON is not nearly as bad as the user ratings would suggest and I think a second viewing will reveal a lot more of the psychological subtext. The question of morality and what all humans are capable during wartime is threaded throughout and both of these characters have their fair share on blood on their hands. I'm keen to hear more thoughts. Do you think it's been unfairly critiqued or am I being too generous?
2012 / Director. Jeff Nichols.
My love of childhood adventure resonates throughout this site and adventurous coming-of-age films always tap into something deep with me. They take me back to my own childhood, which was full of exploration and discovery. Now whenever I write my own scripts they are almost always influenced by my own adventures (and there were many). MUD is a film that struck a huge chord with me. It tells the story of two young boys in Arkansas who discover a man living on an isolated island in the Mississippi River. His name is Mud and his presence is shrouded with mystery. His only possessions are the shirt on his back and the pistol tucked into his jeans. He is hiding from something big and these boys have landed in the middle of it. They befriend him and he takes advantage of their naivety by having them bring him supplies. That's all I will reveal because, while other revelations aren't exactly spoilers, they would still take away much of the film's mystique. It's full of great performances none better than 14 year old Tye Sheriden who's character carries the film. Watching him on screen, with the tone of the film in mind, reminded me of Jennifer Lawrence's turn in Winter's Bone and I sure hope that this young actor enjoys the same propulsion in his career. All of the support actors are strong too with Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon lending modest performances. Michael Shannon is perhaps the most modest of all with a small, yet important role as the uncle of the other boy. Were it not for a somewhat overblown final act I would tout MUD as a perfect film. Watching it brought up memories of Tom Sawyer and its setting and aesthetic is clearly influenced by Rob Reiner's Stand By Me... it even conjured up some of the great themes from Sling Blade. With our modern society consumed with iPhones, video games and social media the kids of this generation are oblivious to the amazing outdoorsy thing around them. Creeks and rope swings... tunnels and bridges... they're all foreign to today's kids and so movies like this are a dime a dozen. How lucky we are that one has some along that's so rich and textured and celebrates that childhood sense of wonder... MUD rates highly and if I were to have a top 10 list of the year, it would easily make it. Well written, well acted and respectfully paced... damn, now I wanna watch it again.
2010 / Director. Albert Pyun. Movie #47
Of all of Albert Pyun's films, BULLETFACE is the most challenging. It's also unlike anything he's made previously and aside from a few trademarks you wouldn't pin it as "Pyun". Right from the get go this is one fucked up movie. A DEA agent (Dara) finds herself arrested and locked up in sort of penal colony in Mexico. Regular gang rape and beatings are just part of the seedy and corrupt happenings in this place and we soon learn that the prison officials are harvesting prisoner organs... as if this isn't fucked up enough her brother is murdered on the outside by a drug lord who is cooking up a new drug from the spinal fluid of living humans. The addicts of this new drug include law enforcement and in a deal to help bring down this drug lord, Dara is let out for 60 hours to exact a bloody revenge. BULLETFACE really is unlike anything else. It was a gutsy story for Albert to take on and I guess with his new found independence at the time, it was a risk worth taking. The film was shot on a DV Varicam and it takes some time adjusting to the style - but before long it becomes clear that Albert has control and he uses the DV format as though it were film. The framing and angles are top-notch and he resists the hand-held look (thank God) wherever possible. The editing is also impressive and a lot more experimental than Pyun usually allows. It is an ugly and unforgiving film with some truly abhorrent stuff put on screen, but all of it is essential to telling this story. If you're a fan of subversive film making then this might be worth a look to you. Having watched it once I have been feeling compelled to see it again. I did have a few issues with it, however, including an over abundance of title cards through out the film. It became irritating that for almost every change of scene, a title appeared to tell us the location. These weren't necessary and my irritation distracted me a fair bit. Having said that, the film otherwise flows well. I haven't hit the message boards and forums yet but I imagine a whole lot of back-lash surrounding BULLETFACE. Its going to upset a lot of people and it's going to be misunderstood. If you see it I think it deserves to be processed before forming a conclusion. Let it stew in your mind for a while... it's still mulling around in mine.
Note: Albert has recorded a commentary for the film but I haven't had a chance to check it out. When I do I will report back with some further insight.