Saturday, April 26, 2014

'The Blair Witch Project' (1999)

Hello, all! I've been gone for awhile and recently came upon the movie that capitalized the 'found footage' genre that I've already began in my disturbing film journey.

It's hard to remember, but when The Blair Witch Project was first released, it created a sensation. There was massive media press and even a website that claimed everything was true, and the filmmakers were really missing and presumed dead. The cast went so far as too disappear while the film was being publicized. This caused immediate pop culture status and with the help of Scary Movie, a joke in on-itself. How mainstream culture was becoming too sarcastic, too jaded, that a subtle look at essentially a ghost story (that turned out to be untrue) could wake people up again.

I for one always liked the film for what it was. At the time of it's release, I was still merely a child and once the rumor wore off, it was downhill from there. However, watching it as an adult, I still really like Blair Witch and appreciate for what it is: a horror film. It's characters are annoying, loud, and stupid, but they are never bland. It's villain is invisible, never appears, but seems to exist. It takes place solely inside a dense, unforgiving, evil (!) forest (always a plus for me), and the acting, and uh, improvised dialogue is really top notch.

The first half of the movie for me is a study on human behavior and how people deal in times of crisis. Heather is loud, pretentious, always with camera in hand. Josh and Mike are merely second players compared to Heather who carries the film, in my opinion. The second half of the movie is sheer terror and panic.

The key to watching The Blair Witch Project is imagination. You have to forget about the internet marketing, the story behind it, and all the hoopla. The scenes in the tent, after Josh has disappeared, are unforgettable. The terror that something might be out there really reaches through the screen. And the last 10 minutes of the film inside the house where the murders took place are amazing. It's incredible how they made such a low budget go as far as it would.

Call me crazy, but I really like the film and always will. I'm glad I got around to seeing it again after witnessing the Guinea Pig series and one-part of the August Underground trilogy. Really makes The Blair Witch stand out even more.

Disturbing Elements: **
Film Overall: ***1/2

Friday, February 7, 2014

"Guinea Pig: Devil's Experiment" & "Guinea Pig: Flowers Of Flesh and Blood" (1985)

'Snuff films' have always been something of a legend. There are no legitimate documented material that has found to be snuff films. Of course, there have been instances where the public has made extreme cases for the possibility of a snuff film. Cannibal Holocaust and Faces Of Death made reliable choices for some, but for others, including Charlie Sheen of all people, the Guinea Pig series has remained controversial. There are over 5 films in the series, but the first two installments (Devil's Experiment and Flowers of Flesh and Blood) are the most infamous.

Devil's Experiment starts out very eerily with a straw bag being strung in a tree. It's swinging back and forth, it's rainy outside, and there is a droning music playing in the background. It sets the tone perfectly for the movie (on a side note, I love atmosphere like this in films), which is unfortunate because from there, things go downhill. The plot of the film is simple: a group of Japanese men abduct a woman and subject her to various amounts of torture. They spin her around in a chair for hours on end, they make her listen to white noise for hours, they burn her, they beat her to the point of unconsciousness, and finally, put a needle through her head which pierces her retina.

I'll admit, for 1985 standards, Devil's Experiment is remarkable. At times I felt like everything was real and these were a bunch of sickos carrying out a dirty deed.

It's sequel, Flowers of Flesh and Blood is often noted as more controversial, disturbing, and infamous (Charlie Sheen obtained a copy and got in touch with the FBI who in fact where already researching the origins of the film). I wasn't expecting too much, but the film does fail on several parts. First of all, it's more stylized then Devil's Experiment. It looks more like an actual film. Also, there is a story. Flowers of Flesh and Blood lets the viewer know that this story is about a samurai (!) in modern day Japan who kidnaps a girl and tortures her mercilessly. There's also a very distracting soundtrack that is a tad bit ridiculous which I won't get into, but it totally ruins the ending.

In the end, neither film is really anything to write home about. Devil's Experiment is interesting and seemingly authentic (although not entertaining) and Flowers of Flesh and Blood is just another movie that has fantastic special effects (although not entertaining. The Guinea Pig series has a solid reputation, I just wish the films were much better.

Devil's Experiment
Disturbing Elements: ***1/2
Film Overall: **1/2

Flowers of Flesh and Blood
Disturbing Elements: **
Film Overall: **

Saturday, January 25, 2014

"August Underground's Penance" (2007)

Keeping in the line of the 'found footage' film-making that was first mastered by the previously reviewed "Cannibal Holocaust", and also a film that I realized I had not seen and couldn't wait, I decided to tackle the third installment of the August Underground series, Penance.

If you're not familiar with the series, it deals with two psychopaths (always different) who film themselves mostly goofing off and running around the droves of the undergrounds of cities. Oh, and they also are nomad serial killers who kill at random and have no mercy for their crimes. August Underground's Penance is the third and final installment in the series and the reason I'm reviewing it first is simply the reason this was the last one I needed to see.

Penance opens up, rather boringly with our chubby killer Peter messing around with our homely, red-headed nutcase Crusty. The two hop around the outskirts of what I believe to be Pittsburgh, it's all very stupid and not entertaining. But soon, the two start kidnapping people, disemboweling them, and brutally torturing them while filming it all. The best thing about Fred Vogel (the director of all three films) is that the violence is disturbingly real. Every body part, every blood spatter, every bit of torture - it's feel all too real.

This what makes not only Penance, but the rest of the series just as disturbing. When found footage films are done right, they can be terrific. Paranormal Activity got it wrong, Blair Witch got it right. August Underground perfects it. If you can handle the intensity and disgusting nature of two psychopaths who film themselves murdering people on video in a realistic, graphic manner, then it is a disturbing, yet seemingly worthwhile experience.

The scene involving a home invasion takes what was done in Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer and takes it too the next level. It was a moment I thought about long after it was over and commend the filmmakers for making such a disturbing film.

Disturbing Elements: ***1/2
Film Overall: ***

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"Cannibal Holocaust" 1980

Last night, I thought about what film I should start off this long marathon with. I contemplated doing something a little less famous and/or controversial, but I couldn't help myself. I had not seen the film that is often dubbed the most disturbing film ever made, the most controversial movie ever made, and the most dangerous film ever made.

It's clear Cannibal Holocaust was made to shock people. But, what shocks me the most about the film is how well made it actually is, which brings me to my next point about the film being instantly controversial. Director Ruggero Deodato was actually put on trail and had to prove the film was a film. He brought the actors in court and they all appeared alive and well, so the charges were dropped.

Without this film, we would not have The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, or any other film that follows a 'found footage' formula.

Cannibal Holocaust is the tale of a anthropology professor who goes to the Amazon to look for a group of missing filmmakers. Along the way he discovers the very tribes he has been studying to be cannibals and not surprisingly, the group has become dinner. He returns to NYC with the found reels of footage the filmmakers were working on. He is stunned to find out the group is nothing but a bunch of scumbags who cause havoc to be sensational. It becomes clear, the Amazon tribe had had it with the Americans who:
  • raped one of the female tribe members because virginity is sacred to the tribe, thus the woman will be killed because she is 'tainted'.
  • randomly kill animals so they can eat them on film.
  • burn down a hut of nearly half of the tribe.
  • interfere with the botched abortion attempt with the tribe, which ends in the baby and the woman dying.
  • AND perhaps killing their Amazonian guide via snakebite.
They were not helpless victims, they caused they ultimate fate. Even when the tribe goes after them at one point, they could have simply fled, but for the sake of sensationalism they keep filming the attack only to be killed one by one.

I had severely mixed feelings about Cannibal Holocaust. On one hand, it is extremely well made. I can totally see why people thought all of this was real back in 1980 - the killings look geniuine and it's amazing how much they were able to pull off. The acting is surprisingly good for this level of cinema. (I was shocked to learn that the professor, whom I thought was best in cast, was actually a porn star) And the story is really interesting and I was engaged in the film throughout. However, there is something disturbing about the film, and that is the real murders of animals on-screen. They are shocking, graphic, and disgusting. I literally turned away when a muskrat was slaughtered in closeup. And don't even get me started on the turtle scene - it is the stuff of legend and it should have never happened.

I was bothered by Cannibal Holocaust and it certainly is disturbing. It left me with a sick feeling and surprisingly, it's nearly just because of the animal killings. It's about how as society (even in 1980), violence is always glorified and cheap theatrics always gets people talking and paying. All in all, a great way to start this marathon off!!

Disturbing Elements: ***1/2
Movie Overall: ***

...And Now For Something Completely Different!

So, For all the lovely people who still read my blog, I feel for you since I've lead you in two different directions within the last month. This was supposed to be my comeback. Well, Sage Slowdive has decided to take a different root for the new year. I'm going to watch and review the films that many critics begrudge as the most 'disturbing' of all time. I've compiled this list of films from various sources choosing the films that were named most often.

So, stay tuned for some sick ass films, nothing Oscar worthy about it.