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Archive for October, 2010

Halloween Horrors #29: Dark Water

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 31 - 2010
Today is the day! The last day of October and we’re just shy of three reviews! Three reviews that I will be posting throughout the day, so get prepared! First up we have Hideo Nakata’s classic J-Horror Dark Water! Enjoy!

The Plot: Yoshimi is a young woman dealing with a bitter divorce and trying to retain custody of her sweet young daughter Ikuko. Yoshimi’s husband is doing everything that he can to sabotage her custody however and is using her mental breakdown from years back against her. This mental fatigue came at a time when she was a proof-reader for a large publisher, but was forced to go through many disturbing and violent books. So many that her mind began to run away from her. Yoshimi is forced to find an apartment for her and Ikuko quickly, if she is to impress the board put in charge of her case. The only apartment that she can seemingly find is in this creepy building that suffers from a growing leak in the ceiling. As Yoshimi and Ikuko start to settle down in their new home, they begin to notice peculiar things going on. There is a red children’s bag that shows up which may very well have belonged to a young girl who went missing in this very same apartment building several years ago. Yoshimi returns the bag to the Lost & Found, but the bag soon comes back and Yoshimi fears that her ex-husband may very well be playing a game to try and force her to lose her mind. As Yoshimi balances her new job, these court proceedings and these mysterious circumstances that continue to pop up, she begins to look into the missing girl named Mitsuko who used to live in their building. Apparently the young girl was a product of divorce, like Ikuko, but when she went missing her father stayed and waited on her but she never came back. Will a similar fate fall upon Ikuko? Is Yoshimi simply going mad? You’ll have to tune in and watch in order to find out!




CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Halloween Horrors #28: Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 30 - 2010
We’re back with some truly amazing cinema! You get a Vampire Girl and then you get a Frankenstein Girl, you put them together in a death match and you get Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl! No shortage of kitsch in this one!

The Plot: Monami is a transfer student with eyes for a young man named Jugon. The only problem is that the popular (and slightly insane daddy’s girl) Keiko also wants a shot at the young man. This seems to be a very typical love triangle until Jugon finds out that Monami is actually a vampire! The young woman pleads her love to Jugon with a chocolate candy that he proceeds to eat, but unknown to him the candy is filled with her blood and this turns him to a half-vampire. She offers him the chance to become a creature of the night (err, and “day” too or so it seems) but Jugon isn’t so sure. He finds the idea of killing and drinking the blood of innocent people slightly immoral. Keiko sees this blossoming love affair going on however and she sets off to teach Monami a lesson! An argument ensues and Keiko accidentally falls of the high school roof, which leads her father (who is the assistant principal by day and mad scientist by night) to try and piece her back together using a sample of Monami’s blood that was found in the high school medical office. Now, with a Vampire Girl and Frankenstein Girl on the loose, what will happen to our leading man?




CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 30 - 2010



The Plot: Monami is a transfer student with eyes for a young man named Jugon. The only problem is that the popular (and slightly insane daddy’s girl) Keiko also wants a shot at the young man. This seems to be a very typical love triangle until Jugon finds out that Monami is actually a vampire! The young woman pleads her love to Jugon with a chocolate candy that he proceeds to eat, but unknown to him the candy is filled with her blood and this turns him to a half-vampire. She offers him the chance to become a creature of the night (err, and “day” too or so it seems) but Jugon isn’t so sure. He finds the idea of killing and drinking the blood of innocent people slightly immoral. Keiko sees this blossoming love affair going on however and she sets off to teach Monami a lesson! An argument ensues and Keiko accidentally falls of the high school roof, which leads her father (who is the assistant principal by day and mad scientist by night) to try and piece her back together using a sample of Monami’s blood that was found in the high school medical office. Now, with a Vampire Girl and Frankenstein Girl on the loose, what will happen to our leading man?




The Review
There’s a moment in Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl where two of the main male characters simply turn to one another and exchange a puzzled stare that definitively paints out their own confusion, much less the confusion that the audience is experiencing at the time. Taken out of context, this scene really speaks volumes about the content of the film in general. This scene I am talking about of course comes right after Frankenstein Girl has taken her arm off (with an electric screwdriver) and attaches it to her head so that it spins at such a velocity that she takes off flying like a helicopter. Although you can’t help but consider the entire movie a cinematic failure, like most of Yoshihiro Nishimura’s work it is full of an extensive amount of imagination and purely creative ideas. Even if juvenile at times, you still have to admire the childlike enthusiasm for the creation of these monstrous creatures that dominate films of this sort. Based upon a manga (Japanese comic book), one can’t help but wonder what this original book looked like. The oddities that are created seem so genuinely Nishimura in their design and the lack of a coherent plot seems like it would fail even worse if you actually tried to write this entire story down on paper. While I didn’t hate the movie nor even dislike it really, I have to admit that if this movie were a person it would have died relatively young after eating a candle stick or a TV controller. What I’m getting at here is that the movie isn’t what I would consider intellectually stimulating.

Intellectually stimulating probably isn’t the phrase you want to go for when discussing any of Nishimura’s work, but I couldn’t help but sneer at the massive amount of plot inconsistencies and generally lazy screenwriting. Nishimura and co-director Naoyuki Tomomatsu instead deliver a script and story that can only be compared to the works of Lloyd Kaufman and Troma. Aside from the cheese this comparison also comes from the bizarre sense of black comedy that is prevalent in both Kaufman’s work as well as this film here today. Vampire Girl Vs. Frankenstein Girl has something in it to offend almost all audiences. From the black-face makeup that a group of teen girls wear who desperately want to be African Americans (they wear B-Boy style clothing and gold chains as well), to the wrist-cutting emo girls who have made their addiction into a sporting contest. If the gory violence doesn’t turn you off straight off the bat, then some of the stereotypes that are made fun of will probably rub you the wrong way. Even if none of this actually does offend you, chances are the lack of a continual narrative will prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. If that doesn’t do it though, then there’s a good chance that the absolutely terrible soundtrack would do the trick. Featuring roughly four musical cues, we go from the heavy metal theme that plays over all of the fight sequences, to the lovey-dovey theme that plays during any romantic scene, the operatic theme that is essentially a continuation of the heavy metal song and finally the incredibly annoying funky little number that plays over almost EVERYTHING. The movie will wear you out on its music, no questions about it.

The element that the film actually excells with, as if you couldn’t already guess, would be the gore and creature FX. Nishimura has made his name crafting some of the most strange and odd creatures that film-go’ers have seen in many years. Taking concepts from Shinya Tsukamoto and David Cronenberg, who both have body modification fetishes, Nishimura has melded this idea of flesh and machinery as one being into a successful filmmaking genre of sorts. This new wave of Japanese splatter has certainly borrowed heavily from Western ideas (as most of these movies have been heavily marketed towards Western distributors, if not made entirely for them) but there still remains some heavy influences from Japanese culture. The Funimation DVD release of this film actually starts off with a tacked on opening that explains on Valentine’s Day in Japan, it is customary for girls to give chocolates to the boys that they have feelings for. While watching the film, I felt glad that Funimation actually did this because if I did not have this tidbit of information, it probably would have made the opening thirty minutes of the movie far more confusing than it already is. Even in terms of cinematic Japanese cultural influence, there is still a great deal of Japan within these films. The arterial spray, the Tsukamoto influence and the high school concept are all stridently Japanese. The mixing and mashing of ideas makes the film vaguely interesting outside of the horror movie aesthetics.

The gore is essentially what you come into this picture for though; I don’t think anyone would argue with that. The very opening for the film really sets the stage for what is ultimately to come, as we begin watching Monami the Vampire Girl take on three miniature versions of the Frankenstein Girl. The sequence is brutal in its violence and reminiscent of Peter Jackson or Olaf Ittenbach in their prime. Vampire Girl dispatches of one girl by biting into her neck and then pulling the flesh from her skull like a Mummy’s bandages, all while gallons of blood spew in the camera. After that she knocks the one skull into the face of another mini-Frankenstein Girl and we watch as this skull literally bites and rips the flesh off of this other girl’s head. The combination of these two kills alone will probably earn a “rental” from any horror movie gorehound, and the movie tends to stack up more and more violence as it goes along. Unfortunately Nishimura also blends an incredible amount of CGI into the movie which tends to cheapen the produce somewhat. The majority of the gore and creature FX remain cosmetic thankfully, but the moments where we have to endure the bad CG definitely puts a damper on things for gory horror purists.


The Conclusion
I see this one tearing audiences. It is hard for me to imagine anyone truly loving this film and considering it a classic for the ages, but you have to admit its better than Samurai Princess. However, it doesn’t come close to Tokyo Gore Police or The Machine Girl, in my humble opinion. I give the movie a three on the general premise that it is incredibly strange, has some great creature FX and does its best to offend just about everybody. Those are all three good qualities when it comes to this kind of cinema! You should know whether this type of movie is for you and if it is, give this one a spin via Netflix. I wouldn’t go all out with a blind buy.



Halloween Horrors #27: At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 30 - 2010
Hey everybody, we’re dwindling down to the final hours of our Halloween Horrors. Can you feel it? It’s a little sad, but I’m also a little happy about it as well. I honestly can’t wait to watch something non-horror, haha! Next week famed Asian cinema website Wildgrounds is hosting a blog-a-thon of sorts for Japanese cinema and we here at Varied Celluloid plan to take part in the festivities. So keep an eye out for hopefully some Asian cinema content here on Varied Celluloid and on the VCinema Blog!

For now, check out this review for the classic piece of Brazilian horror At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul starring the immortal Coffin Joe!

The Plot: Ze do Caixao (Coffin Joe, director and star José Mojica Marins) is a mortician who desperately wants a child to continue on with his name. Unfortunately his wife is barren and unable to provide such a child. Coffin Joe, who has no real moral compass, decides he will do what it takes to have his child and continue his blood. Ze has an affection for the young Terezinha, but she is Coffin Joe’s best friend’s (Antonio) girlfriend. When he makes his move on Terezinha, she is obviously disgusted but reminds him that he has his own wife waiting at home for him. This angers Joe, but he decides she is right and heads out to cure himself of his marriage. After chaining up his wife and forcing a poisonous spider to bite her, Joe is free to pursue Terezinha but he now has to deal with Antonio as well. As Coffin Joe begins his onslaught of terrible acts, he is reminded by the local gypsy woman that even though he may get away with these atrocities for now – at some point the souls of those he has done harm will come back, and at midnight they will surely take his soul!




CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW HERE

At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul

Posted by Josh Samford On October - 30 - 2010



The Plot: Ze do Caixao (Coffin Joe, director and star José Mojica Marins) is a mortician who desperately wants a child to continue on with his name. Unfortunately his wife is barren and unable to provide such a child. Coffin Joe, who has no real moral compass, decides he will do what it takes to have his child and continue his blood. Ze has an affection for the young Terezinha, but she is Coffin Joe’s best friend’s (Antonio) girlfriend. When he makes his move on Terezinha, she is obviously disgusted but reminds him that he has his own wife waiting at home for him. This angers Joe, but he decides she is right and heads out to cure himself of his marriage. After chaining up his wife and forcing a poisonous spider to bite her, Joe is free to pursue Terezinha but he now has to deal with Antonio as well. As Coffin Joe begins his onslaught of terrible acts, he is reminded by the local gypsy woman that even though he may get away with these atrocities for now – at some point the souls of those he has done harm will come back, and at midnight they will surely take his soul!




The Review
I have been meaning to catch some of Coffin Joe’s (José Mojica Marins) work for the longest time, simply because of his rather odd name and the respect his work tends to get amongst fellow genre fans. I have many friends who have a great deal of respect for the man and I don’t mind jumping into some older material every now and then, so I figured this may be the very best time to check out Marins’ first and most successful turn as the memorable Coffin Joe! At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is a strange mix of varying cultures, ideas and influences that all ultimately combine to make a very bizarre and dark piece of horror. The inspiration for the movie seems to lie in between the classier horror films that were prevalent at the time mixed along with the gore filled works of H.G. Lewis. Although the gore on display in At Midnight… is minuscule in comparison, one can’t help but double check the year of release. You can truly understand how such a film would have shocked and frightened away audiences in 1964, because there are still some effects that may actually leave you wincing.

Although it has traces of that burgeoning gory style of horror filmmaking (In fact, Blood Feast had only been released one year previous to this film so Marins may not have seen it), the majority of the film is made up of that naive and spooky atmosphere that you might find in many Universal monster movies. The film actually begins with two monologues spoken directly to the camera, as Coffin Joe ponders “what is existence?” while his voice is shrouded in a echo type of effect. After this we meet the gypsy/witch lady who will play a prominent role throughout the movie and she is actually more over the top than even Marins attempted. Her voice too is covered up with an echo-reverb effect and although this sequence is a bit on the cheesy side, I can picture the effect of watching the movie in a large theater with the sound amped up. Some times when an actor or an actress is so committed to their role and willing to simply play that “creepy” card, they can take it past the point of being over the top and come full circle right back to creepy and weird. I think much of what At Midnight… does correct, is based upon this principal.

The character of Coffin Joe is a walking example of this fact. Despite the film apparently taking place in modern times (I have no reason to believe it takes place any earlier than 63), Coffin Joe (or Ze, as everyone refers to him) wears the costume of a mortician from Transylvania circa 1745. The top hat, long fingernails and cape have become synonymous with José Mojica Marins who delves into the role as director/actor with much enthusiasm. On the outside looking in, the character at first seems so artificial that it becomes rather humorous. Who wears a cape in the first place? It is an article of clothing that serves no purpose other than the addition of style, but even at this point in fashion it seems incredibly outdated. There’s also the fact that at this point Coffin Joe has no size to him and rather than an intimidating force, he has the look of a nerdy computer programmer who happened to grow his beard out. Yet, when his eyes turn bloodshot and he feels pushed, the man turns into a monster of sorts. After these first few instances of seeing his rage unleashed, it becomes easier to see how everyone in this small town fears him.

The most interesting thing about the character of Coffin Joe, and this film in general, would probably be the religious ideas expressed throughout. This gives the film some kind of subtext and depth while watching as it seems to ultimately be about man, mortality and faith. Ze is a man who challenges all forms of faith and instead of focusing his attention towards anything that might be above himself, he instead apparently subscribes to a perverse vision of Nietzsche’s Superman concept, similar to that of the famed killers Leopold and Loeb. With no god or supernatural to cause him to question his own moral compass, he instead does whatever he wants and could care less who stands in his way. The film is ultimately about the battle between this cold and calculating reality that Coffin Joe lives in and the world of faith and the supernatural, that essentially all other characters live within. Although the ideas that the movie throws about can be clunky at times, it gives the film a third dimension and makes it that much more engaging.

I have already mentioned it at this point, but the violence on display in At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul was certainly harsh for its time. A highly successful film in its native Brazil, where it is claimed to have been the very first local horror movie, people were likely intrigued simply by the onscreen debauchery that could not be found in any other place. Many of the special effects throughout are obviously hokey and bad, but there are a few really stand out moments. The most notable would be a sequence where Coffin Joe removes some poor guy’s fingers with a broken bottle! The scene caught me off guard, because I honestly didn’t expect it to be that graphic despite what I had read about the film previously. This scene would definitely be the goriest of all of the violent sequences, but there is also an eye removal scene later on in the movie that definitely fights for contention. Aside from those two bits of gore, the rest of the movie seems to focus on “violence” rather than “gore”. The savage beating and rape of a young woman by Coffin Joe, somewhere at the half way point, is far more disturbing and grotesque than these two gore sequences could ever dare be.


The Conclusion
At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul is certainly a movie worth owning, I can’t deny that. I’m glad to have picked it up and I’ll probably search out more of Coffin Joe’s work soon, but its not a movie I can recommend without some fare warning. These are not films that I would watch with an audience, because the camp could turn the experience into something completely different than what I experienced. I give the film a three out of five, due mainly to audience expectations, but I think that this is a film that could just as easily be a four out of five depending on my mood. Search this one out and enjoy a piece of classic horror film history!



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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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