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Archive for May, 2008

Hatchet For the Honeymoon

Posted by On May - 22 - 2008
Originally written by Prof. Aglaophotis

Plot Outline: John Harrington is a man with a couple of chips on his shoulders: first of all, he’s married to a nagging wife who, despite their unhappiness together, promises to never leave him till’ death do they part (THAT’S always reassuring) and he seems to suffer from a paranoiac disorder. Every time he murders a young bride on her honeymoon, he remembers a forgotten memory in his life that never makes sense in his head, but the memory remains like a puzzle piece in his brain; it’s in there and he has to remember every piece of the memory in order to find out what it means. Of course, working at a bridal gown tailor that he inherited from his mother’s death and dealing with brides on a daily basis, it’s an easy task for John to accomplish the bloody deeds. However, the police start coming on to him, his wife is growing into a bigger pain than she already is and John is developing a little crush on the new model that just arrived in the business. Will John be able to reveal the shrouded memory deeply veiled by his subconscious before he is caught? Or will he lose against the pressure and suffer the consequences of taking a few lives for lost memories?

The Review
I’ve always thought it rather hard for me to really enjoy a horror film that lacks a lot in violence and gore, yet here I am reviewing one of Mario Bava’s thrilling horror classics and the first Bava film I have owned and seen on a positive note. Hatchet has a very unique atmosphere of intrigue through its cinematography, effects, acting, and psychological character analysis that can get a viewer involved regardless of its small focus on the violence involved. Between its expressionistic visuals and artistic style, Hatchet weaves its own feelings to the screen in a very involving way. Hatchet has its imperfections of course, boasting a somewhat small budget in various scenes, a very touching theme song that makes too much of a first appearance for us during a time of artistic yet chaotic opening credits, and maybe not enough killing scenes to get the full feeling of suspense, but all of which adds up to a wholly different and entertaining cinematic experience.

The cinematography was enriching and often times dazzling to the eyes as the viewer is presented with distorted mirror shots and kaleidoscopic effects starting with the opening credits sequence featuring stop motion blue powder moving over red and black photos of the main character to every time John has a flashback and so on. The acting was pretty well played for the majority of the cast as Stephen Forsyth brought a sweaty, haunted, sociopath to life and everyone else remained fairly believable from the cruelly annoying yet oh-so-lonely Mildred to the playful and comforting, yet naïve new model Helen. The dialogue also showed some intelligence as inspector Russell makes his first appearance and juxtaposes John’s hot-house with the criminal mind. I will admit that there are some moments where Steven Forsyth’s character seems incredulous, seeing how he obviously left finger prints at his establishing murder scene at the beginning of the movie and how he covers up a murder in the movie by making the police think that the victim’s scream was on a horror movie that he was watching previously, but still, not every serial killer is caught out of clever wits but dumb luck and sometimes a character is more believable when he has his obvious faults as Forsyth’s character proves here. The Music did seem to clash against one and the other as the visually chaotic opening credits was filled with peaceful, tranquil orchestration that, though peaceful, we get to hear it at least thrice in the film and it only fits in at one moment. Though the wiggy synthesized psychotic music fits in when John gets a knack for some cleaver wielding and the harmonic flute and harp music fit various moments of relaxation, the soundtrack also sports an electric guitar at various moments, inappropriate for the scenes or not, though later in the movie the use of the electric guitar works for one or two crazy moments that the protagonist goes through. I did happen to find the theme that John’s mysterious ghost has to be a rather sad song that fit the purpose pretty well. As mentioned before, the movie presents very little in onscreen violence much less blood, yet the direction for each murder scene is set-up in a very artistic fashion that still makes the implemented murder vivid to the viewer. All of which fits a very perfect description of Bava’s work with film as horror is expressed far from the common shower of blood and the shock of a violent butchering.

The Conclusion
Although it seems embarrassing to admit that Hatchet for the Honeymoon was released with a PG rating, Hatchet remains as an intriguing and visually artistic film of suspense and mystery that has the potential to entice a viewer looking for classical suspense as the movie has done for me, even if initial mystery and light atmosphere may sound easy to piece together and pass up to some mystery solving viewers. I especially found the psychological theme of our main character returning to the womb rather interesting as expressed in the séance scene where Mildred is briefly possessed by John’s mother. Hatchet still remains a great spiritual suspense film that I would recommend for anyone looking for a prenuptial chill up the spine.

Reviewed By: TheSwampFox

Plot Outline: The Yakuza brutally rape a young woman and dope her up on “Angel Rain”, a pure form of cocaine with the intention of selling her into slavery. Before the Yakuza’s nefarious plot materializes, the woman escapes only to commit suicide in front of a psychiatrist who swears to revenge her death. Unfortunately, for the psychiatrist, the Yakuza discover the plot and brutally rape and kill the psychiatrist—or so they thought. The psychiatrist comes back to life as a large demon with a monster penis hellbent to enact a bloody revenge.

The Review: This is one of those movies, horror fans will either love or hate. If you want something scary, look elsewhere. If you want good special effects, definitely look elsewhere. If you want a completely screwed up and very poorly made exploitation film, then this is the movie for you. The special effects are absolutely horrendous—to the point where they are downright hilarious. For example, when the young woman commits suicide by jumping off a building, the camera cuts to a watermelon splattering on the ground instead of the woman’s body—as if the audience couldn’t tell the difference. I laughed so hard I nearly cried. There’s a head crushing scene later on in the film that is almost as badly done. And the list goes on and on. There are also several rather lengthy rape scenes as well as one quasi-consensual scene involving sex for drugs. The rape scenes are quite graphic, bloody, realistic and of course, very disturbing. The realistic rape scenes starkly contrast with the shoddy special effects. I’m not sure how long the rape scenes last, but it seems like they take up almost half the movie. They really do feel that long. It’s truly sickening.

Now, I couldn’t write this review without discussing the “penis monster” in detail. Basically, it looks like a fleshless man with a rather large penis with teeth. The penis monster is only in the last few minutes of the film, but the picture’s finest moment is when the penis monster has sex with a Yakuza girl and then explodes out her chest. Other than that, the penis monster might as well not have a penis because he doesn’t really use it in any other scene. Overall, the film is fairly gory, but as I said, most of the gore is very unconvincing. However, there is one scene where the Yakuza literally hack up a turncoat to pieces that was done quite well. Therefore, it makes me believe that the director could have made the special effects much better, but just didn’t care (or he ran out of money). Whatever the case, there are a few decently produced scenes in between the junk.

Believe it or not, but the acting was tolerable. It certainly could have been a lot worse. The directing, on the other hand, left something to be desired. There were a few scenes that left me asking what the hell is going on—especially when the psychiatrist decides to avenge the young woman’s death. Maybe something got lost in the translation (the film is in Japanese with English subtitles); however, this really seemed to make absolutely no sense. This strange woman comes into the hospital and this psychiatrist (who doesn’t even know the woman personally) sees her commit suicide and now all of a sudden wants to single handedly take on the Yakuza. That makes less sense than the penis monster. Then there’s a scene where the psychiatrist hypnotizes a Yakuza to kill the rest of his gang. This harebrained scheme goes about as well as you can imagine. The hypnotized Yakuza gets the living tar beaten out of him before getting hacked to pieces with large knives and the psychiatrist gets caught by the Yakuza.

Don’t get me wrong. I liked this film, for what it’s supposed to be—something you mock and ridicule with your friends. This certainly isn’t high-class cinema. It’s splatter-filled Asian cult exploitation horror. This is one of those movies that you will know whether or not you’ll like ahead of time based on your movie-going preferences. There are no surprises here. I mean, c’mon there’s a penis monster in the film for Christsakes.


Bubba Ho-Tep

Posted by On May - 22 - 2008
Reviewed By: TheSwampFox

Plot Outline: Elvis is alive and well, and he’s Bruce Campbell. That’s right. Just when you thought movie plots couldn’t get any weirder, Bruce Campbell, playing an old, decrepit Elvis impersonator who thinks he’s actually the one true King of Rock and Roll, teams up with Ossie Davis, an aging black man who thinks he’s President John F. Kennedy, as the two of them try to rid their nursing home of a 3,000 year old Mummy. The Mummy has been terrorizing Elvis’ Texas nursing home ever since it was stolen from a museum and the thieves drove the get away bus (with the Mummy in it) off a nearby bridge. Since the accident, the Mummy sneaks into the nursing home every night to suck the souls out of the asses of the elderly, but not for long if the King has anything to say about it.

The Review: I should start out by saying that I bought this movie because Bruce Campbell starred in it and I love several of his movies, especially the Evil Dead series. Unfortunately, with the excessive make up and the Elvis accent, it didn’t really seem like Bruce Campbell in this film. Even so, he’s still fun to watch and the film production and acting were both quite impressive. I also should note that I had to watch this movie twice in order to give it an accurate review because this film is not anything like I expected when I first popped it into my DVD player. This caused me to be disappointed after the first viewing. Now, after watching it a second time, Bubba Ho-Tep is starting to grow on me like the cancer on Elvis’ penis in the film—well maybe it’s not growing on me in actually the same way, but you get the idea.

Some might consider this film a Horror/Comedy, but I think it works much better as just a comedy. For those of you that like gory horror films, look elsewhere. There just isn’t any. There’s very little violence at all. The Mummy takes most of the souls without much of a struggle. This could have been potentially a very disturbing movie. After all, the Mummy does take the souls of the elderly by sucking the soul out of the anuses of senior citizens. Also, the picture makes many references to a cancerous growth on Elvis’ penis. However, the film never shows the growth or the ass-sucking scenes. This is a good because I could probably do without seeing both of those things. However, these missed opportunities are indicative of the movie as a whole. The film consistently sacrifices horror for comedy by not showing anything too disturbing. To be fair, there were a couple of entertaining fight scenes between Elvis and the Mummy, including one scene where the Mummy was a large scarab and Elvis catches him in his bed pan. However, these scenes were few and far between. On the comedic front, the movie works much better. Bubba Ho-Tep is full of zany characters: a cancerous penis massaging nurse, a man who thinks he’s Elvis, a black man who thinks he’s President Kennedy, a senior who thinks he’s a Wild West bandit, a couple of clumsy morticians and of course, a 3,000 year-old Mummy. Mix them all together and you’re in for a wild ride. In addition, the movie has some decent one-liners, but nothing as memorable as some of Bruce Campbell’s other classic lines. Still, all in all, the film kept me giggling throughout.

My biggest problem with the film is the beginning. Elvis spends what seems like an eternity in bed during the beginning of the film while Bruce Campbell does a voice over saying how bad the King’s life has been lately. These bed scenes are full of self-loathing, which can get a little annoying once in awhile. Also, this flys in the face of the first golden rule of screenwriting–show, don’t tell. Bubba Ho-Tep does a lot of telling through the use of excessive voiceovers. Still, there are plenty of fun things going on and once Ossie Davis’ character (the black guy who thinks he’s J.F.K.) enters the picture, the movie starts to take off. I noted earlier that the acting and the film quality were both quite good. In my opinion, Ossie Davis really steals the show in this film. He actually convinced me that he thinks he’s John F. Kennedy. And some of his one-liners about the C.I.A. replacing his brain with a “bag of sand” and his paranoid ramblings about L.B.J. coming to murder him are quite humorous. In addition, the unique plotline kept my interest throughout the story. All in all, it was an entertaining ride—the second time I watched it. The first time I saw the film, I was utterly disappointed. I expected it to be more of a horror film, with some witty lines and a zany cast of characters. Well, two out of three ain’t bad. Bubba Ho-Tep is a good film, but you might have to watch it more than once in order to appreciate it.



Posted by On May - 22 - 2008
Plot Outline: When a young judo player finds great success in his field, he takes his rising star a little hard and finds solace in drinking at his club that he now owns and then gambling with what little money he generally makes. However, he isn’t that lucky in the world of gambling and is growing in debt. Enter into the picture a young woman looking for work as a singer at his club, and a young judo player looking to take on a legend. Thus begins our tale of renewal, sports and the search for acceptance as only Johnny To could tell it.

The Review: Even though I have been on it for a while now, I’m still comfortably riding on the Johnny To bandwagon and desperately searching out any and every one of his films I can get my hands on. Throwdown is just the next step in my desperate search. When I first heard the premise for Throwdown, I knew i just had to see this film. I love Johnny To’s work, and as a fan of mixed martial arts I am also a big fan of Judo. Putting the two together sounds like a swell idea to me! Throwdown however, as you might expect from To, isn’t your average martial arts film. Truthfully, the martial arts only play as a background for the world in which our characters interact with one another. Focusing more on sportsmanship, friendship and the ties that bind us – Judo just so happens to help link the whole world together. To takes the conventional story of young martial artists seeking to find someone better at the art than themselves for the ultimate challenge, and turns it on it’s head by having the master Judoka being a drunken gambler who is more than just a little bit on the pathetic side, and his self appointed partner being a failed actress. The Judo expert is the focus of the story, but each character is rich with their own history and story.

Traditionally the only present martial art shown throughout Hong Kong film history has mainly been that of Kung Fu and the many variant forms. However, I am very happy to see films like Throwdown garnering some success alongside the popular SPL and Flash Point. Even though it is not a traditional martial arts film, meaning that there are sparse fight scenes throughout and truthfully fighting, matches and even Judo are not the main focus of the film. However, Judo and the art of it are very much a factor within the film and are used as a device that in essence explains the will of the characters and the strength and motivation of competition within this sport and others. Competition is a strong word within this film as well, and I think it certainly defines this film in many ways. Johnny To crafts a film world where men are truly men, and have only one power that drives them; that thrill of competition. The immortal search of finding the soul or souls who are better than yourself; in order to grow and be even better than they are. This quest is the essential heart of Throwdown, and at its center Throwdown has a positive charm that radiates throughout it and carries a message with it that even though you might lose your way; it’s not too late to go back to what you love and to find yourself in the process. I know, kind of sweet right? Well let’s not forget this is most definitely a guy movie – and dudes most certainly get tossed right on top of their heads. It is a film about Judo afterall.

Throwdown is one of To’s personal films, financed by his more succesful work he is able to throw out these quirky smaller gems every once in a while – but much like the completely different in every other way Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike; even when To is making the most commercial product he can muster; he still makes something unbelievably original and masterful. Running on Karma is a shining example. Throwdown is not my favorite Johnny To film, but out of the handful of films I have seen thus far from Mr. To, it seems even his worst films (which this is not) are better than most “good” films. Throwdown is a sports related drama, and anyone expecting a Judo related bananza of fight scenes and breathtaking choreography behind every corner will not walk away the most satisfied person on the planet but if you’re looking for another great Johnny To film and want to see him handle a sports related drama with more than a few Akira Kurosawa references; Throwdown is a top notch choice. I’m giving it four out of five, because if I haven’t made it clear at this point: it is a beautifully moving drama with tons of emotional depth and leaves the viewer in their seat long after the movie is over: smiling, and satisfied. That same type of feeling you get after reading a good book. Where you feel as if you followed these characters on such an interesting journey; and although you wish you could see more, understand that this is where the journey ends, and unfortunately – this is where this review ends.



Posted by On May - 22 - 2008
The Plot: Within the Wo Sing triad crime family within Hong Kong, they have regularly held elections to decide the president of the orginization amongst the elder council within the family. This year the choice is between Lok, a middle-aged and mature businessman who has been a leader of his own kind within the family – or Big D, a young and brash man who has earned a lot of money for the family over a relatively short amount of time. However simple the decision may seem, when money is involved and bribes are carried around – things get interesting. The film displays how sides consistently change and how something so simple can snowball into something so monstrous… and violent.

The Review: Johnny To has made a mad dash, jump and quadruple sommersault right into the top of my list of favorite filmmakers in just a month and some change. This is due mainly to me playing catchup with his career. I was somewhat aware, as I had seen the absolutely amazing Fulltime Killer several years ago, but only just now have I began to explore further into the depths of his vast catalog. Election stands out as a great example of what makes To such an exciting filmmaker. A shining mix of convention and iconoclast concepts thrown into a blender, then served in a tightly scripted and beautifully shot package that presents a chic and hip flavor in a film generally dominated by middle-aged or elderly men. In the post Infernal Affairs marketplace, Hong Kong has went gaga for tightly scripted crime genres with lots of emotional depth packed in with the regular mobster stories of regret, loyalty and honor – and call me a sucker if you want, but I couldn’t be happier with this turn of events.

The first time I saw such a film, I think would have to be the South Korean big budget “Shiri” many years ago. Hong Kong is delivering their own version of this American blockbuster thriller concept, with very traditional values and inserting the Triad philosophies within them. Election inserts the generally bland concept of the rogue gangster trying to take the place of the senior within a crime organization but gives the plot just enough of a twist to make it vibrant; by setting this drama amidst a democratic election for the top honor of the godfather position within the family. Now, I read a fair amount about criminal organizations and societies but this I have never heard of, and the concept creates a tense political atmosphere and along the way To I am sure is taking some shots at the justice system as essentially all of those running for the position essentially buy their votes with the head council members. However, as the politics unfold the film veers into a cat and mouse search for an ancient baton passed along from godfather to godfather. Violence is dealt, alliances broken and generally a neverending series of tradeoffs and swapping of the “upper hand” takes place in the taut minutes that follow throughout the film.

Election is being left behind somewhat by what is often considered the greater film in it’s sequel Triad Election, but I think Election certainly has to be seen by all fans of To and those looking to get into his films or Triad Election. It certainly helps the audience to better understand some characters and their motivations. Election, if there is a problem with it, could be the pace of the film which I will say is quite deliberate in how much it takes to get moving. As stated earlier, Election is certainly a tense film but it takes the audience member sitting back and becoming immersed within the film. I personally had no problems and found myself completely wrapped up in the swapping of good guys for bad guys and the inevitable betrayals, alliances and sabotage. Some, however, feel differently. I can certainly see where viewers are coming from with the criticisms, but like a great love – it’s hard to truly be blind to bias when you are so wrapped up in the vision of a filmmaker or a certain cinematic rythm that speaks to you.




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Varied Celluloid is a film website intent on delivering views on movies from all genres. Started in 2003, the website has been steadfast in its goal and features a database of over 500 lengthy reviews. If you would like to contact us about writing for the website or sending screeners, please visit the about page located here.