Archives for October 2008 | Varied Celluloid

Archive for October, 2008

The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 29 - 2008

As the Halloween Horrors begin to wind down, the cinematic pace just lights right up as I tackle the new Japanese splatter epic The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers. How is that for a mouthful? Pretty outrageous. I won’t go out on a limb and say we’re talking about anything spectacular with this film, you should know what you’re getting into. There will be blood, and there will be boobs. A well scripted plot however, is nowhere to be found. Check your brains at the door though and you’re bound to have a pretty good time, read on and discover for yourself!

The Review: Japan has been a burgeoning wealth for the underground splatter scene for quite some time, but has really been making headlines recently with many titles that have been grabbing gorehounds by the ear. The Machine Girl, Meatball Machine and many other sleazier titles. The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers (from now on, referred to as: Rebel Force) is just another in that long line of films putting cheap gore back in the spotlight. Unlike the previously mentioned films however, Rebel Force is a V-Cinema (films made purely for the Japanese video market, usually pure exploitation and often not all that good) pure bred. No outside producers stepping in, no artistic pretensions: this is a cartoonish gore flick about schoolgirls who get naked a lot and battle evil demons. There’s definitely a level of style to the film, no doubt about that, but the intentions are completely in the forefront from the very beginning and no matter how you scratch it; Rebel Force is only here to deliver a lot of what you want and then make off like a bandit in the night. There are a lot of body parts flying around, arterial spray gushing like fountains, high school girls who are naked more often than clothed and a plot that makes less and less sense as the movie carries along. Let’s just say, at this point you know what you’re getting into. I guess the only fair way to judge this film is to say: did it exceed genre limitations? Was it bloody enough? Yes, and then some. Were the chicks hot enough? Ahhh, yes and no in some cases. Was it entertaining? Yes, it was but there’s a certain amount of intelligence you have to leave at the door to get full satisfaction out of it.

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Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers, The

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 29 - 2008
The Plot: Aki is the new girl in school, where the womens swim team is one of the most prized establishments. Aki is having a rough go of things, and her mysterious past confuses most everyone around her. However, Sayaka finds the girls intriguing and sets out to get her to join the swim team so that she can compete with them in the competition that is just a few short days away. However, things take a turn for the dreadful after everyone in school is given a vaccination shot that just so happens to turn them into zombies! The only ones not affected are members of the swim team and those who have recently been in the pool. Now it’s up to Aki and the swim team to find the person responsible for this zombie invasion and save the entire school!




The Review: Japan has been a burgeoning wealth for the underground splatter scene for quite some time, but has really been making headlines recently with many titles that have been grabbing gorehounds by the ear. The Machine Girl, Meatball Machine and many other sleazier titles. The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers (from now on, referred to as: Rebel Force) is just another in that long line of films putting cheap gore back in the spotlight. Unlike the previously mentioned films however, Rebel Force is a V-Cinema (films made purely for the Japanese video market, usually pure exploitation and often not all that good) pure bred. No outside producers stepping in, no artistic pretensions: this is a cartoonish gore flick about schoolgirls who get naked a lot and battle evil demons. There’s definitely a level of style to the film, no doubt about that, but the intentions are completely in the forefront from the very beginning and no matter how you scratch it; Rebel Force is only here to deliver a lot of what you want and then make off like a bandit in the night. There are a lot of body parts flying around, arterial spray gushing like fountains, high school girls who are naked more often than clothed and a plot that makes less and less sense as the movie carries along. Let’s just say, at this point you know what you’re getting into. I guess the only fair way to judge this film is to say: did it exceed genre limitations? Was it bloody enough? Yes, and then some. Were the chicks hot enough? Ahhh, yes and no in some cases. Was it entertaining? Yes, it was but there’s a certain amount of intelligence you have to leave at the door to get full satisfaction out of it.

The acting within Rebel Force is simply awful. You know, it’s not all that often you can notice these sort of things when you’re watching a movie with subtitles – but you know the performances have to be on a completely new level of bad whenever people who don’t even speak the language can see how bad you’re doing. It’s either that Asian operatic style of comedy you often see (mostly in Hong Kong comedies, where crossing your eyes or a man dressed as an ugly woman with a mole is considered top tier humor), but taken to a new degree of over the top drama – or these guys are familiar with Lloyd Kauffman’s work. Either which way, no one really equits themselves looking like great thespians here. That’s not enough to merit the quality of the film though is it? After all, those of you reading this probably don’t speak the language anyway so you’re only tortured by facial expressions. If you want to judge this like it’s a real movie (which I’m not too sure of what exactly to classify a flick like Rebel Force as) then the scripting has to be the largest bankruptcy of the film. Such lazy writing really shouldn’t be tolerated, but with zany non-narratives such as this you can’t help but smile. I believe there are around three Deus Ex Machina’s in the finale to Girls Rebel Force, and not a-one of them has any kind of set-up throughout the entire hour that came before them. I don’t know for sure, but I would like to think that maybe this insane wild ride is based upon a Manga – but I can’t say with certainty. It would be the best excuse for having so many twists and turns from out of nowhere, but honestly, that’s not much of an excuse. Rebel Force is simply less about making sense and more about delivering an energetic gore filled T&A show with an impossibly awesome title. Although fitting all of that on a marquee would probably prove to be more difficult than it’s worth, so I guess it’s a good thing we’re talking straight to video fluff here.

In the end, if you’ve been around the block even one time and you’ve experienced enough of the Japanese cheapies you’ll know what to expect from this film – however, I enjoy the fact that it reaches farther and tries to place itself so far and out of range of any normalcy that it becomes a true spectacle. In a world with films like Machine Girl, Meatball Machine, Fudoh and various other ‘out-there’ Japanese exploitation flicks, it does solidify itself in that “real life manga” style that the other films also seem to have – but it doesn’t excel past that. The Girls Rebel Force of Competitive Swimmers will ultimately be a film that entertains a lot, but you’re not going to walk away with anything all too new. I may kick myself in the morning, but I am giving it a four out of five. Pretty crazy, considering how shallow it may be – but for the select demographic who aren’t looking for a whole lot more than boobs, gore and plenty of craziness this will certainly fill that hole in your heart. If you can get it, it’s certainly worth it for that “party” flavor or if you’re just looking for a good time with a b-movie.

Return to Sleepaway Camp

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 22 - 2008

Halloween Horrors are here again, with Varied Celluloid covering the latest in Horror cinema and the greatest of old. This month is a tribute to all things of the macabre, with this front page being taken up by horror reviews and thoughts. Check back daily for new reviews, as the rest of this month will be littered with sessions dealing with the obscure and the grotesque! And today we have the continuation of everyone’s favorite tranny teenage killer movie! It has been quite a while since Angela was last slaying teenagers, but who could be the killer now? Watch the movie and find out!

The Review: The Sleepaway Camp series as a whole is generally listed amongst most horror fans as guilty pleasures. The first movie is most certainly the best remembered, namely due to a brilliant twist performed in the third act – but after revisiting the film a while back I discovered it wasn’t as poorly put together as I had thought during my first viewing of it so long ago. I suppose I wasn’t as used to poor acting back in those days as I have grown to become now. That first film had some pretty atrocious performances to be sure. Robert Hiltzik is the man responsible for the series and the creator of the first film. After that it was all but taken out of his hands and two sequels were produced, directed by Michael Simpson and starring Pamela Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen’s sister) as an older Angela who has come back to the camp as a counselor looking to punish all the bad children. The series quickly moved from the more serious tone of the first film into outright horror comedy as Angela looked to one-up both Freddy and Jason in body count and in puns. These sequels, although not truthful to Hiltzik’s vision, were certainly a ton of fun for most of us horror fans. However, after that train slowed to a crawl one last sequel had began in the Sleepaway Camp series. Unfortunately Sleepaway Camp 4: The Survivor only made it part of the way through production before falling apart and now only about thirty five minutes or so of footage exist of this mini-feature. After that, everyone all but assumed the series was doomed to remain an artifact of the past. However, thanks to the guys over at SleepawayCampFilms.com (official site for sequels 2, 3 and 4) and SleepawayCampMovies.com (official site for 1 and Return) interest for the series was found to be as high as ever and director Hiltzik was actually brought back to the series due to the demand of fans and the persistence of those webmasters. Now, here we are with Sleepaway Camp 5: Return to Sleepaway Camp due to be released shortly, there has been a lot of talk about the film and a lot of folks curious about whether or not the film could possibly live up to all the promise of the predecessors. Well, it all depends on what you might expect. It’s unfortunate that after so many years that the problems that plagued the original film could still remain a problem to this day – but in much the same way the things that were fun and intriguing about that first film are still as fresh and innovative here.

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Return to Sleepaway Camp

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 22 - 2008
The Plot: Alan is a major league jerk. There’s no getting past it, he likes to bully all of his bunkmates at Camp who are defenseless nerds, and he generally dumps on everyone around him. However, once the tables turn and all of the older kids really start letting Alan know how big of a pest he is – he doesn’t like the results so much. As the bigger kids start really letting Alan have it – bad things start to happen. Slowly campers and counselors as well start to come up dead – and a select few begin to suspect a killer from the past who committed very similar atrocities about twenty years ago: Angela, from the original Sleepaway Camp. However, is Angela the culprit despite being locked up in the mental institution for all these years (this film rejects the sequels starring Pamela Springsteen) or is it simply the troubled young boy who has been pushed all too far?




The Review: The Sleepaway Camp series as a whole is generally listed amongst most horror fans as guilty pleasures. The first movie is most certainly the best remembered, namely due to a brilliant twist performed in the third act – but after revisiting the film a while back I discovered it wasn’t as poorly put together as I had thought during my first viewing of it so long ago. I suppose I wasn’t as used to poor acting back in those days as I have grown to become now. That first film had some pretty atrocious performances to be sure. Robert Hiltzik is the man responsible for the series and the creator of the first film. After that it was all but taken out of his hands and two sequels were produced, directed by Michael Simpson and starring Pamela Springsteen (Bruce Springsteen’s sister) as an older Angela who has come back to the camp as a counselor looking to punish all the bad children. The series quickly moved from the more serious tone of the first film into outright horror comedy as Angela looked to one-up both Freddy and Jason in body count and in puns. These sequels, although not truthful to Hiltzik’s vision, were certainly a ton of fun for most of us horror fans. However, after that train slowed to a crawl one last sequel had began in the Sleepaway Camp series. Unfortunately Sleepaway Camp 4: The Survivor only made it part of the way through production before falling apart and now only about thirty five minutes or so of footage exist of this mini-feature. After that, everyone all but assumed the series was doomed to remain an artifact of the past. However, thanks to the guys over at SleepawayCampFilms.com (official site for sequels 2, 3 and 4) and SleepawayCampMovies.com (official site for 1 and Return) interest for the series was found to be as high as ever and director Hiltzik was actually brought back to the series due to the demand of fans and the persistence of those webmasters. Now, here we are with Sleepaway Camp 5: Return to Sleepaway Camp due to be released shortly, there has been a lot of talk about the film and a lot of folks curious about whether or not the film could possibly live up to all the promise of the predecessors. Well, it all depends on what you might expect. It’s unfortunate that after so many years that the problems that plagued the original film could still remain a problem to this day – but in much the same way the things that were fun and intriguing about that first film are still as fresh and innovative here.

You remember all the cheesy dialogue of the original Sleepaway Camp? Well, if you’re like me and you thought that was simply a byproduct of 80’s cinematic cheese – well, think again. Unfortunately, that same naive dialogue and the silly childish taunts are back in full force with a cast that seems noticeably older. Essentially, the wit of the dialogue can be summed up in terms like “fat, fatty, fatty” or our leading sociopath Alan’s personal catchphrase “Hey… your ass… STINKS!”. It’s enough to make you throw your hands up in the air and say good grief. At times the film is like an afterschool special about the dangers of bullying, but after about thirty minutes into the film everything starts to sort of fall into place. Return to Sleepaway Camp is not what you would expect a very good film to be. It’s hard to even consider it a “so bad it’s good” sort of affair, since the over the top manner of the film isn’t even all that goofy. Return to Sleepaway Camp tries very hard to be that same sort of film that the first movie was – and how much you’re going to enjoy this film can be best summarized by how much you enjoyed the original. Everything I have said so far about this film, could easily be found in a review for the original Sleepaway Camp. Both films are pretty atrocious in the acting department, both feature some awful dialogue but both flicks also do feature some highly innovative kill scenes and very engaging plots. The kills in Return, although not terribly gory (neither was the original), are pretty freakin’ cool I must say. [SLIGHT SPOILERS]With characters being forced to stand upside down over vats of boiling grease before being dunked headfirst, one character having his stomach pumped full of gasoline before having his mouth taped up and a lit-up joint being shoved through the tape and promptly causing a full body explosion – these are great enough reasons to see the film but[/SLIGHT SPOILERS] then there’s the epic final half hour when the bodies start to really pile up. If there’s a real reason to see Return to Sleepaway Camp, that has to be it. As mentioned, it’s a film full of tremendous death scenes and when they finally start to get rolling you can’t turn away. Then there’s the twist! I can’t go into it, but you can’t go wrong when keeping with a successful formula, especially when horror fans are your target audience. Although there’s absolutely no way possible to top the original.

Return to Sleepaway Camp has a whole mess of problems working against it, I can’t lie. This isn’t going to leave a regular run of the mill horror fan fulfilled. I imagine many will watch it and think it looks too cheap (although leaps and bounds better than most indie fare I run across) or that it’s way too corny to enjoy. Valid complaints, but for those who have followed the series and for horror fans looking for a film that really does harken back to the simpler times – I think Return to Sleepaway Camp might just be the ticket for them. Unlike Rob Zombie or other filmmakers who take a stylish approach to trying to mimic and ape those older films, Hiltzik and company were there and still remember the reasons they made these films. Throw in as imaginative a death scene as you can manage, throw in a decent “whodunnit” plot and at the end of the day try your best to scare one or two people and you’ve done your job. That simplistic outlook gets complicated far too often, but in my opinion its what makes flicks like this so special. Not everyone will enjoy it, I can’t say they will, but target audiences should know who they are. I have to give the film a rating, so I’m going with a three out of five. It almost gained a four due to how much fun I had while watching – but I have to be a realist too and say that no; there’s a lot still to hope for from Hiltzik and the level of performances he gets as well as the base dialogue in the script. Regardless, I hope genre fans find that they can rally behind this one because I can say without a shadow of a doubt that I had a good time and I know that they can too.

Philosophy of A Knife Review

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 20 - 2008

Halloween Horrors are here again, with Varied Celluloid covering the latest in Horror cinema and the greatest of old. This month is a tribute to all things of the macabre, with this front page being taken up by horror reviews and thoughts. Check back daily for new reviews, as the rest of this month will be littered with sessions dealing with the obscure and the grotesque! For today’s update we have one of the most talked about “underground” flicks on the market right now, with Andrey Iskanov’s insanely disgusting Philosophy of a Knife which covers the same group of psychopath doctors who experimented on live subjects as documented in Men Behind the Sun. Will it be the definitive film about Unit 731? Read the review and find out!

The Review: Andrey Iskanov is a filmmaker I have heard a lot about, but seen nothing from. His work has all been snatched up by Unearthed Films – and if there’s any company out there that I trust when it comes to horror, it’s Unearthed. They rarely let you down, have a true love for horror and release some incredibly wicked stuff. Iskanov is best known for his previous expressionist works like Nails and Visions of Suffering; films I have not been fortunate enough to see. However, from what I’ve seen in the trailers Philosophy of a Knife carried over a lot of the same visual style from the director’s previous work and falls right in line with his directorial style. Let me go ahead and state the obvious right off the bat, this film is not going to be for most audiences. It really isn’t. There’s so much going on with Philosophy of a Knife I don’t even know where to begin. Some people are going to really appreciate the creativity behind it and the brutality and unflinching manner in which the director tackles this subject matter. Then a lot of people are going to see it as self indulgent exploitation trying to cover it’s exploitative roots with arthouse pap. That’s just the way it is. I imagine both opinions have their merit and are right in a lot of ways. I personally reside somewhere in the middle, whereas I really enjoy Iskanov’s visual direction, love the overbearing sound FX and think it’s a film that is insane with creativity. However, with a running time of four and a half hours – I couldn’t help but watch the film as both an audience member and a film fan and wonder why this film couldn’t have been trimmed down at least an hour or so. This definitely isn’t going to be the sort of flick to walk in uninitiated, and truthfully I doubt anyone is going to make it all the way through in one sitting – so, preperation is the key with Philosophy of a Knife. With the right frame of mind, the decisions the filmmaker commits to are at least understandable – although that doesn’t mean they aren’t debatable. Some controversy with the film that popped up over the summer happened when Dread Central posted up a review for the film that was completely and utterly negative on all counts; receiving a zero out of five rating with that site. Although I understand how the reviewer may feel that way, I personally usually reserve a rating like that for films that have no technical merit nor anything as far as entertainment. Regardless, the review inspired negative responses from both the folks at Unearthed as well as a very spite-filled letter from Mr. Iskinov himself. You can take either side of the argument and agree with one or the other, which speaks as much for the film as well as this particular situation.

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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.

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