Archives for October 2008 | Varied Celluloid - Page 2

Archive for October, 2008

Philosophy of a Knife

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 20 - 2008
The Plot: Philosophy of a Knife is best described as “documentary”, focusing on the Japanese medical prison where live human beings were used as guinea pigs for various experiments having to do with biological weapons and human endurance. Many died, but the way in which they died were far more brutal than most of the world could imagine. Director Andrey Iskanov delivers the true story of all those involved in very brutal fashion, as many of the horrendous experiments are re-created so that we can fully understand the anguish and horror of the situation.




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.

Iskanov is a filmmaker who has become relatively well known here and the world over at this point, his films are reviled and beloved by quite a few people and I have to say I didn’t expect to find myself having such troubles with the editing. I know, I know, it’s a four and a half hour movie – but with the bevy of respect Iskanov is usually given I didn’t expect such a crawling pace or for the film to have so many shots that simply feel like “filler”. There are a seemingly infinite number of scenes in the film that are comprised of either stock footage of frozen Japanese landscapes or shots of interior walls and hallways in vacant buildings – accompanied either by a spooky piano tune score or simply buzzing sound effects. I really do think that if you went through the film and cut down these sequences that seem to go nowhere – you would shave down roughly an hour off the film. I literally found myself fast forwarding the DVD through many of these shots. Not neccesarily because I wanted to get to the gore or anything like that – but no one wants to sit through four hours worth of this. If you can run through some of the filler at least you get some of your time back out of the experience. I realize why Iskanov might have found this to be neccesary, aside from simply giving the audience a break away from the immense cruelty throughout, it seems like he strives in creating an atmosphere of slow dread like that of those forced into this unbearable situation – however this is to the audience’s detriment. No matter how brilliant a proffessor at any school may be, if his classes are six hours long and it takes him half of that time to get to his first point; no one is going to come back to that second class if they can help it. I don’t mean to be so hard on Iskanov, but I think under a lot of this excess Philosophy of a Knife could very well be a really great film. An unbearably hard one to sit through because of the gory horror of it all no doubt, but a great none the less.

A major selling point for me checking out Philosophy of a Knife was when first hearing about the film, I found a top 100 most violent films ever made list over at the RueMorgue forums that featured this very film at the top of the list. That’s a lot of hype to live up to for sure, being ranked above the likes of Premutos, Infantry of Doom and Peter Jackson’s Dead-Alive… that’s going to take a very special kind of film! Is Philosophy of a Knife that film? For my personal tastes, no it is not. There’s no doubt about it, this is one incredibly grotesque film for sure. Faces are essentially melted down with tumors, legs and arms are frostbitten until they become gory mangled bits of flesh and even worse. All the more disturbing is that it is all based upon too real of events, but for gory mayhem it’s hard to give it the prize just because it’s longer than the other films on that list. Really, the first hour is made up almost entirely of backstory involving Unit 731 and the events that lead to it. Then after nearly every gory sequence you’re given those breaks that last between three to five minutes – and the feature sometimes weaves between repetitive segments. You’ll get something like this: Gory Experiment – Interview with Russian Translator – Strange Montage Sequence – Shots of ‘Love Story’ Subplot Between Female Prisoner & Guard – Gory Experiment; and then repeat. Then towards the last half hour of the film the Russian translator being interviewed kind of takes over as he regails the audience with his stories and conspiracy theories that have little to do with Unit 731. A lot of this seems to me like things that could have been left once again on the cutting room floor. His insinuations that Americans have laid the blame for the dropping of the A-Bombs on Russia for some reason (I must assume he means our desire to scare the Russians for our post-war talks, but this is hardly a means of blaming anyone) are pretty outrageous, then he tries to bring out something about American POW’s taken in by the Japanese considered themselves on vacation due to their money being placed in a bank for them the entire time they are captured… I know, didn’t make any sense to me either, especially since Americans captured by the Japanese during WWII were almost always entirely more likely to wind up dead than if captured by the Germans. I wonder if he has any conspiracies on maybe how the Bataan Death March never happened or something. So, I guess I’ve made the point that this is going to be a hard film to love haven’t I? Well, some actually might, I don’t want to fool you. This actually is a very well put together film from a stylist point of view. I see the vision within Philosophy of a Knife and think it’s an incredibly brutal look at one of the most tragic cases of human torture on a large group of people. However, as a dramatic recreation of that I think it might be missing out on a lot of opportunity. I give the film two out of five, because anything less than that would be to negate how dark and absorbing it can be – and anything higher would be rewarding it despite being so terribly slow and awkward. At the end of the day, I think if you’re a fan of extreme cinema you pretty much have to see it. However, if you’re into WWII history and you’re looking for a film to tell this story – this probably won’t be your cup of tea.

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer Review

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 18 - 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! Now we get to one of the most respected and sought after indie horror/comedies to come along in a long time: Jack Brooks Monster Slayer. Could it be the film to pick up the torch that the Evil Dead/Peter Jackson films dropped so long ago? I can’t say that, but it’s definitely a blast. Do enjoy!

The Review: Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer kind of crept up on all of us I think. It did for me at least, having just read about it for the first time this past month in Fangoria and then reading praise from my friend Mike Bracken – I knew this one had the promise of being a real classic. The horror-comedy is a tricky genre to master, since comedy in itself is one of the most subjective areas to tackle already. What makes one audience laugh might not appeal to another. In recent years a lot of horror-comedies have breaken with tradition and create new entities within the genre. We’ve seen films that can appeal to the horror fanbase and include them in on the happenings, as with Shaun of the Dead. Another approach is to take things to their silliest points and try to deliver chuckles while remaining within genre context, as with Dead & Breakfast which audiences either reacted very positive or very negative to. Then you’ve got the complete smudges on the face of all that is funny or scary with the entire Horror-Spoof genre created with the Scary Movie series. Jack Brooks however reaches back to the old days of horror comedy, when the comedy wasn’t so self-referential and actually asked its audience to believe in the characters and the crazy predicaments that surround them. I won’t stick my neck out here and now and say that Jack Brooks is the new Army of Darkness, Re-Animator or Dead Alive. However, it could very well be your next favorite horror flick if you’ll give it a chance and enjoy the witty and wild fun of it all – and take in all of the absolutely beautiful latex monster work on display. The film harkens back to the glory days of horror, but doesn’t sink into any mires that new horror fan/filmmakers seem to get wrought in.

Click Here To Read More

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 18 - 2008
The Plot: Jack Brooks is a man with a lot on his mind. His whole life it seems he has been fighting everyone around him. With a temper that sends him over the edge into fury over the most mundane of annoyances, Jack has a hard time making a lot of friends. He’s lucky that he’s been able to hang on to his beautiful girlfriend, even though he’s pretty sure he hates her. Where does this anger stem from? Monsters. As a child, Jack’s entire family was whiped out in front of his very eyes by a hairy monster beast in the woods. No one ever believed Jack’s story, so he ultimately just kept it to himself. After all these years though, that secret is dying to come out. When Jack’s professor needs a drain unclogged at his house, Jack is happy to oblige. He shows up, snakes the pipes – but unleashes something more than just a little sewage. Buried in the back yard is a secret, an unholy evil that just so happens to be resting next to one of those pipes and it isn’t long before that evil is unleashing itself on the world around Jack.




The Review: Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer kind of crept up on all of us I think. It did for me at least, having just read about it for the first time this past month in Fangoria and then reading praise from my friend Mike Bracken – I knew this one had the promise of being a real classic. The horror-comedy is a tricky genre to master, since comedy in itself is one of the most subjective areas to tackle already. What makes one audience laugh might not appeal to another. In recent years a lot of horror-comedies have breaken with tradition and create new entities within the genre. We’ve seen films that can appeal to the horror fanbase and include them in on the happenings, as with Shaun of the Dead. Another approach is to take things to their silliest points and try to deliver chuckles while remaining within genre context, as with Dead & Breakfast which audiences either reacted very positive or very negative to. Then you’ve got the complete smudges on the face of all that is funny or scary with the entire Horror-Spoof genre created with the Scary Movie series. Jack Brooks however reaches back to the old days of horror comedy, when the comedy wasn’t so self-referential and actually asked its audience to believe in the characters and the crazy predicaments that surround them. I won’t stick my neck out here and now and say that Jack Brooks is the new Army of Darkness, Re-Animator or Dead Alive. However, it could very well be your next favorite horror flick if you’ll give it a chance and enjoy the witty and wild fun of it all – and take in all of the absolutely beautiful latex monster work on display. The film harkens back to the glory days of horror, but doesn’t sink into any mires that new horror fan/filmmakers seem to get wrought in.

Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer (JBMS) could be best described as a character driven horror/comedy with a lot more heart than budget. Horror fans are used to low budget affairs though, so don’t take that as a negative. JBMS however does provide some very slick looking visuals though and manages to escape the “cheap” feel that such films usually have. If anything could be said, the visual pastiche sometimes comes off a little bit like a made for TV (particularly the scifi channel) movie. What can you do though, it is what it is and the filmmakers worked with what was provided. Regardless of a massive infusion of style, JBMS remains wholly character centered and takes us through the world of Jack Brooks. The character, played with brilliance by Trevor Matthews, is an everyday kind of guy. A bit of loner who keeps to himself, and is easy to identify with. Matthews plays the character with such conviction, when he gets angry it is both hilarious and even a slight bit unnerving due to how real his character feels. He’s a man seemingly ready to snap at just about anything, and he’s so much fun because you never know what is going to put him over the edge or how he will react to any given situation. He has no super powers, but his anger and willpower make him more than just a simple man. He isn’t the one-liner spewing, full of self confidence Ash from the Evil Dead films. If Ash is the Arnold Schwarzenegger of horror/comedy, then Jack Brooks could be seen as a Bruce Willis type of character. Kind of some crazy comparisons, I know, but they do fit the roles accordingly if you ask me. The rest of the cast all equit themselves very well in their roles, with no real amateur performances to speak of. Robert Englund as Prof. Crowley is an absolute joy, and it’s great to see him really tap into some potential in a more comedic role and something other than a dark Freddy Krueger-esque character. He really hits one out of the ballpark as the exceptionally nice Crowley, who resembles a lot of the same qualities Englund exudes in his off screen appearances. If you’ve ever seen the man interviewed outside of a Freddy costume, he really seems like a genuinely nice and caring person and the Crowley character shows a lot of that.

The film isn’t perfect, it is just the introduction for the Jack Brooks character (a sequel is now being planned) after all. The budget seems to restrain the film in many ways, especially after hearing what the director has had to say in recent interviews – and I really can’t wait to see what else might come from these filmmakers. The Jack Brooks series could turn out to be something really special, can’t help but want to recommend it for other horror geeks. You won’t want to miss this one, it’s just too much silly fun to pass over.

 

The Midnight Meat Train Review

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 16 - 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! Today we have the more recent Clive Barker/Ryuhei Kitamura production and I’m here to say, it’s pretty friggin’ good. I really enjoyed it a lot, and it shows the growth of Kitamura as a filmmaker as well as how good Barker’s stuff can be when adapted for the screen with a little nerve and originality. Check this one out and queue it for your horror movie marathons on Halloween!

The Review: Hollywood doesn’t exactly have the most stellar track record with their treatment of smaller horror films, they also don’t have the greatest of results when great filmmakers from the East make the travel over to the states. Put the two things together and what do you get? Well, I can tell you nothing that is detrimental to the filmmakers or the quality of this particular film. Unfortunately, the fine (read: moronic) people over at Lions Gate who dumped the film in a little over 100 low end theaters for a quick release before shuffeling it off to what they consider a slow death in the DVD market. However, controversy more often than not brethes life into any and all projects – so I won’t be surprised to see the film do well on the DVD market. Especially after Barker came out in defense of the project and completely bashed Lions Gate and the people responsible for holding the film back, and tried to start an e-mail campaign to get the film it’s true proper theatrical release. It’s unfortunate that they weren’t successful, as I do think The Midnight Meat Train had everything in it to make money and holds a lot of what the horror market could use right now. That is, a good dose of originality and a decent amount of fun and not just the same “torture porn” or “retro horror” that seems to be all the rage these days. The Midnight Meat Train is far from a classic on the same level as a Friday the 13th or Halloween, but if you’re looking for some good old fashioned American horror written by an Englishman and directed my a tremendous Japanese director – The Midnight Meat Train really does deliver.

Click Here To Read More

Midnight Meat Train, The

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 16 - 2008
The Plot: Our film begins with a man waking up on a subway train, he wanders down the aisle before slipping in a massive pool of blood. He gets back to his feet and comes to the next car – to find a mountain of a man, using a sledgehammer to bash in the heads of the passengers. We cut to Leon Kauffman (Bradley Cooper) who is a struggling photographer in the big city just looking for his break. He takes photos in the seedier sides of town and wants to really show off the grimier aspects of our society. When he is given the opportunity to show some of his work to the brilliant Susan Hoff (Brooke Shields) he jumps at it, but is slightly rejected when Susan tells him he doesn’t take his work far enough. She wants to see real danger, real confrontation. Leon is hurt, but realizes she may very well be right. Armed with this knowledge, he leaves home one night at 2am and walks down to the subway. There he finds a group of hoodlums attempting to rob a young model, he scares them off by pointing out the subway security camera and bids the model fairwell. He captures a few more shots as she boards the train and a barrel chested man holds the door open for her. The next day, as Leon eats at the diner his girlfriend works at – he finds an article in the newspaper about that very same model coming up missing. He goes to the police with his pictures of the young thugs, but to no use as the police feel there are more important matters at hand. Leon now begins his search to find out what happened to this model, and also why so many people are coming up missing on the subway.




The Review: Hollywood doesn’t exactly have the most stellar track record with their treatment of smaller horror films, they also don’t have the greatest of results when great filmmakers from the East make the travel over to the states. Put the two things together and what do you get? Well, I can tell you nothing that is detrimental to the filmmakers or the quality of this particular film. Unfortunately, the fine (read: moronic) people over at Lions Gate who dumped the film in a little over 100 low end theaters for a quick release before shuffeling it off to what they consider a slow death in the DVD market. However, controversy more often than not brethes life into any and all projects – so I won’t be surprised to see the film do well on the DVD market. Especially after Barker came out in defense of the project and completely bashed Lions Gate and the people responsible for holding the film back, and tried to start an e-mail campaign to get the film it’s true proper theatrical release. It’s unfortunate that they weren’t successful, as I do think The Midnight Meat Train had everything in it to make money and holds a lot of what the horror market could use right now. That is, a good dose of originality and a decent amount of fun and not just the same “torture porn” or “retro horror” that seems to be all the rage these days. The Midnight Meat Train is far from a classic on the same level as a Friday the 13th or Halloween, but if you’re looking for some good old fashioned American horror written by an Englishman and directed my a tremendous Japanese director – The Midnight Meat Train really does deliver.

The Midnight Meat Train is a film that takes horror seriously, something that seems sorely lacking in today’s climate as everyone seems to one-up each other in sheer entertainment factors. Barker’s bloody tale is brought to life here under the watchful eye of Kitamura, who really branches out into new territory with this film and creates something unlike anything I have seen from his work previously. Not in a bad way either, like when John Woo made Hard Target. Kitamura still very much shows an affection for style and gritty natural looking urban environments, but is simply relocated to North America for this particular trip. Although his love affair for CGI and technology in his films is only found here in light degrees (anyone complaining about too much CGI here is just off their rocker), if you’re familiar with his work this still feels like a Kitamura film. Most especially when it comes to the bloodshed, because Kitamura is all about delivering pints and pints of the red stuff here. The mallet, swung by the ever-massive Vinnie Jones, completely destroys everything. Body parts in the way? No problem. A human head in the way? He’ll just smash that off the body and fifteen feet down the aisle with one quick swing! It isn’t the most realistic physics you’ll ever see, but doesn’t it just sound like a lot of fun? The previously mentioned Vinnie Jones is of course fantastic in his role, something I’m growing to expect from Jones. The guy knows how to deliver a character, even when having almost no dialogue in the film whatsoever. Bradley Cooper in the lead role equits himself very well also, giving the project a lot of life and playing his character as a tougher everyman. I was expecting more of an artistic wimp of sorts after reading a summary, but Cooper plays the character straight up and allows the audience to respect him a little easier. Really, the performances were all done so well it’s almost not even neccesary to mention them. When you see the actors, you believe in them and you believe in their goals. Kitamura did a great job working with the crew and getting the film that should have been made, made. Something not always easy for someone foreign to the market. As a fan of Versus, Alive, Heat After Dark and Aragami – I’m proud to see him come to Hollywood and make a very dark and atmospheric horror film with seemingly little limitations put on his abilities; even if the distributers did ultimately screw the film over. Kitamura excused himself courageously and I think The Midnight Meat Train speaks for itself.

The Midnight Meat Train is likely to find a home in the DVD market and I hope to hear about it for a long time. It’s a bloody trip through the underbelly of the inner city, and although the conclusion is likely to confuse or possibly distance some in the audience – I think it is part of what makes the film special. The willingness to go where you wouldn’t expect. The horror community can always use a little more originality, that’s for sure. I know I had a great time with it and hope that I won’t be alone in my enjoyment. I give the film a solid four out of five, do check it out!

NAVIGATION

VIDEO

TAGS

Sponsors

About Me

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.

Twitter

    Photos