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WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/18/09

A look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

SPECIAL EVENTS:

The Wizard of Oz (1939) – 70th Anniversary Hi-Def Event:  Finally, flying monkeys in high definition!  This remastered re-release of the fantasy classic, with bonus features, is playing on Wednesday, September 23 only, in theaters across the country (click here for the list).  Definitely an event.

SCREENINGS (NEW YORK CITY; TEMPE, AZ.):

Devil Girl (2007):  This low budget “hallucinatory” horror road-trip features strippers, a drug-addled clown, and a literal devil girl.  It’s getting a token release at the Times Square Art Theater in New York City tonight only, and at a single theater in Tempe, Arizona tonight and tomorrow night (Sep 18-19); scheduled to arrive on DVD in early November.  Devil Girl official site.

NEW ON DVD:

An American Werewolf in London (1981):  This werewolf black comedy is more offbeat than weird, but on release it was was a trailblazer in the modern horror/comedy genre, and the film has a definite cult following who may be interested in a new, remastered special edition release. Buy from Amazon.

Army of Darkness: Screwhead Edition (1992): Read our capsule review of the third entry in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy here.   It appears Anchor Bay’s contract to distribute Army is up, necessitating a new release from Universal.  Unfortunately, this means that the excellent bonus features on the Anchor Bay release are now out of print, and this new release is sparse on extras, with no commentary.  The Screwhead edition does include an alternate ending and the new featurette “Creating the Deadites,” but it rabid fans believe this release must have been created by a bunch of primitive screwheads.  Completists can buy from Amazon.

Deadgirl (2009):  Controversial, provocative fable about horny high-school boys who discover the plastic-wrapped body of a naked woman in an abandoned mental hospital; is she dead, alive, or neither, and what will they do about it?  It appears to be an extreme allegory on the objectification of women; many audience members were reported to have walked out of theatrical screenings due to the (ahem) “strong” scenes. Buy from Amazon.

Grace (2009):  Indie horror about a mother whose baby is born undead; first time feature director Paul Solet expanded Grace to a full length movie from an award-winning short that Fangoria called “superbly bizarre.” Buy from Amazon.

John Carpenter: Master of Fear:  Four of sometimes cult director John (Dark Star; Big Trouble in Little China) Carpenter’s lesser horror efforts collected in a single budget set.  Includes The Thing (1982), the jewel of the set, along with Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), and the mediocre 1995 remake of The Village of the Damned.  The four movies are on two discs, so extras are unlikely. Buy from Amazon.

Phantasm II (1988): Reggie Banister and Angus Scrimm return in this belated sequel to Phantasm (read entry), already certified as one of the 366 best weird movies ever made.  Dedicated Phanatics seem to love it, but most mainstream reviewers were unkind; at any rate, this long out-of-print film definitely deserves a revival. Buy from Amazon

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

An American Werewolf in London (1981):  See the DVD listing above. Buy blu-ray from Amazon.

Army of Darkness (1992):  See the DVD listing above. Buy Blu-ray from Amazon.

Hero [Ying xiong] (2002):  Beautiful looking, poetic epic martial arts film with a Rashomon-style storyline.  It became an international crossover hit, and is available on this standalone release and a bundled release (see below). Buy from Amazon.

The Ultimate Force of Four:  Another budget blu-ray bundle of some of the more renowned wuxia films: Iron Monkey (1993),  Legend of the Drunken Master (1994), Hero (2002) (see above), and The Blind Swordsman Zatoichi (2003).  A nice selection of films to start a collection in this genre. Buy from Amazon.

NEW FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) ON YOUTUBE:

Fear X (2003):  Danish thriller with John Turturro, mysterious visions, and an ambiguous ending.  Watch free on YouTube.

BMC: B-MOVIE CLASSICS:

Even more free online viewing experiences, courtesy of the American Movie Classics cable channel.  The main drawback is low picture quality, and the fact that a lot of these are public domain movies that could be viewed elsewhere commercial free.  Selected titles are listed below, or you can browse all the selections here.

Carnival of Souls (1962): We’ve certified this sublimely creepy low-budget wonder about a church organist out-of-sync with reality as one of the 366 best weird movies of all time (read entry); here’s another way to watch it.  Watch Carnival of Souls free.

Dark Star (1974):  John Carpenter’s sci-fi spoof feature debut.  Watch Dark Star free.

The Prisoner (1967): Not a b-movie, and in fact not a movie; this is the existential/surreal BBC spy series starring Patrick McGoohan as a “retired” secret agent (known only as “Number Six”) trapped (for undisclosed reasons) in a village on an remote island patrolled by deadly balloons.   The bizarre final episode blew everyone’s minds in 1967, when minds were hard to blow indeed.  Watch The Prisoner free.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/11/09

A look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

IN THEATERS (WIDE RELEASE):

9: Mainly of interest do to the involvement of Tim Burton as producer, this feature by Shane Acker was expanded from a short film.  Early word is the visuals are spectacular; the story, far less so.   9 Official Site.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Ink: At critics has compared this visionary thriller about a father entering the nightmares of his daughter to save her to the work of Terry Gilliam and Jean-Pierre Jeunet; the official press release compares it to Brazil, Dark City and Donnie Darko, among others.  Opening this week in Los Angeles, and currently booked in only a few scattered US theaters the week after, this looks like it’s trying to position itself as the cult film of 2009 (although, of course, we’ll be the ultimate judge of that!)  Ink official site.

SCREENINGS (NEW YORK CITY, MUSEUM OF MODERN ART):

Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly (2008): The feature debut of the Indonesian director known as “Edwin” is a surrealist-influenced series of interwoven stories on identity, using the identity of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia as a launching pad.  Stevie Wonder’s mediocre hit “I Just Called to Say I Love You” is the glue that binds these disparate stories.  Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly Official Site.

NEW ON DVD:

Crank 2: High Voltage (2009):  This deliberately ridiculous popcorn film about an action hero who must constantly recharge his battery-operated heart by sucking on electrical wires escaped our notice on its theatrical release, but subsequent reports lead us to believe this could just possibly be just demented and over-the-top enough to be considered weird. Buy from Amazon.  Also on Blu-ray.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Requiem for a Dream (2000):  Although there may be a few hallucination sequences, there’s nothing in the description of Requiem, a bleak and depressing story about drug addiction, that implies it’s truly weird (though, not having seen it yet, I could be wrong).  It’s mentioned here because it’s visionary director Darren Aronofsky‘s sophomore followup to the his (recently reviewed) weird debut Pi. With Ellen Burstyn, and Jennifer Connelly in a (reportedly) graphic and disturbing sex scene. Buy from Amazon

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

366 EXCLUSIVE: “9″

We are pleased to debut Alfred Eaker and Robbin Panet’s short film film “9” on the web.  This is the movie they made for the 2009 48 Hour Film Festival.  The rules of the contest festival are simple: every team has only 48 hours to complete the film, and each must incorporate three elements given by the festival : a character name, a line of dialogue, and a prop.  Look for a character named “Professor Sherman Kane,” a ball, and the line “I’m not talking to you.”

Rather than making a straightforward short that looked like everyone else, “9” takes an experimental approach, becoming a sepia-hued exploration of domestic abuse through the generations, in a Western setting.  The bizarre free-association poetry of John M. Bennet replaces traditional narration.  It runs approximately seven and a half minutes.

Alfred’s description of the making of the film can be read in his Reflections on the 48 Hour Film Festival and the “9” Diary.

9

[Our license to display “9” has expired.  We will inform you if this film is released, on DVD or otherwise, in the future.]

At the producers’ request, this film will not be released to YouTube or other video hosting sites, and will be available here for one month only.  UPDATE: Because this film was reviewed and linked from Rogue Cinema, we are leaving the film up for another week, until October 12, 2009.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Here’s what’s coming up on the site next week…

The exclusive web debut of Alfred Eaker and Robin Panet’s short film, “9” (no relation to the Tim Burton feature).  This is the movie they made in two days for the 48 Hour Film Festival, as described in the article Reflections on the 48 Hour Film Festival and the “9” Diary.  This is the first exclusive video we have ever hosted, and we’re excited about it!  It will only be available for streaming for one month.

Also, reviews of Darren Aronofsky’s paranoid experimental debut, Pi (1998), and Godfrey Ho’s nearly nonsensical kung-fu pastiche, Ninja Champion (1985).

Weirdest search term used to locate the site this week: “nuns movies with the cross in the cover.”  Winner, brutal honesty division: “stalker 1979 wtf?”

Here’s the ever-growing reader suggested review queue to give you an idea what will be coming further down the road: Nekromantic (still looking for a copy), Pi (next week), Angel’s Egg, Institute Benjamenta, Pan’s Labyrinth, Ex Drummer, Waking Life, Survive Style 5+, The Dark Backward, The Short Films of David Lynch, Santa Sangre, Dead Man, Inland Empire, and Monday (2000).

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: AFTER HOURS (1985)

The “Reader Recommendation” category includes films nominated by our readers as deserving of consideration for the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of all time.

by reader “Rajiv”

DIRECTED BY: Martin Scorsese

FEATURING: Griffin Dunne, Rosana Arquette, Catherine O’Hara

PLOT:  One night, Paul Hackett ( Griffin Dunne), New York computer word-processing

Still from After Hours (1985)

consultant, is trapped in SoHo because his last dollar has flown out of the cab window on his way to a late night date with a woman he’s just met.  His dream to score with a pretty woman ends up to be a waking nightmare when one mishap after another strands him in a hostile neighborhood in his quest to return home before morning.

WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LIST:  From the plot description itself, we should aware that this is a weird film.  The execution is also very weird.  This is technically a black comedy, but it plays like a suspenseful thriller.  A lot of surprisingly unpredictable things happened to force Paul Haggis, who just wants go home that night, stay in SoH.

COMMENTS:  A strange, original, and totally underrated movie from Mr. Scorsese. This film is a little bit ‘Coen brothers-ish,’ full of fantasies and surprises.  This film proves Scorsese is a master filmmaker.  He can create a moments with any subject matter, and make the audience feel certain feelings.  Watch out especially for the ending of After Hours, it will make your feelings turn 180 degrees, it’s a shock!  After Hours really deserved more attention as one of Scorsese’s best works.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 9/4/09

A look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

Sadly, there’s nothing of even marginal weird interest debuting in American theaters this week.

NEW ON DVD:

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Horror—House of Wax (1953) / The Haunting (1963) / Freaks (1932) / Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1941):  All good movies, but it’s Freaks, Tod Browning’s one-of-a-kind disquieting exploitation fable, that catches our attention here.  Weird freaks might also get a kick out of seeing Ingrid Bergman’s head used as a champagne cork in Dr. Jekyll. This two double-sided disc set is an interesting way to start a high-end horror DVD collection if you’re not interested in the extras you would get from buying each individual film (all of these films are out on single disc DVDs in more lavish editions). Buy from Amazon.

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: Science Fiction2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)/ Soylent Green (1973)/ Forbidden Planet (1956)/ The Time Machine (1960): All good films, but the obvious weird draw here is 2001, Kubrick’s trippy and ambiguous sci-fi parable about… well, there are lots of theories as to what it’s about.  Apply the same caveats about this set as about the Horror collection above—no extras here, in case you want a definitive edition of a particular movie, but a good way to start a collection of smart science fiction films.  Buy from Amazon.

Not weird, but potentially of interest to some, is TCM’s collection of classic murder mystery/film noir movies including the beloved The Maltese Falcon (1941) along with The Big Sleep (1946), Dial M for Murder (1954), and The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Buy from Amazon.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Fire and Ice (1983): Seldom seen animated sword-and-sorcery fantasy by weirdish Rotoscope auteur Ralph Bashki (Coonskin).  Animation fans may want to check out the Rotoscoping, which is said to be much better than the story.   Poster/book cover artist and chainmail-bikini fetishist Frank Frazetta was involved in some capacity. Buy from Amazon.

NEW FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) ON YOUTUBE:

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953):  A boy dreams that his piano teacher is enslaving children on surrealistic sets in this classic weird children’s musical movie with nonsense lyrics by Dr. Seuss.  Show your kids at a young age to ensure they grow up weird.  Too good to watch on YouTube, but if you can’t resist… Watch The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T free on YouTube.

Freakmaker [AKA The Mutations] (1974):  A scientist experiments with mixing human and plant DNA in this bizarre grindhouse wonder that’s almost a remake of Tod Browning’s FreaksWatch Freakmaker free on YouTube.

The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield (1968):  The most exploitative biopic ever made, mixing Jayne’s most salacious footage with the slanderous sexcapades of a “lookalike,” ending with totally tasteless footage of Jayne’s fatal car crash and grieving family.  Incoherent and unbelievable; will leave you feeling fascinated but very dirty.  Watch The Wild, Wild World of Jayne Mansfield free on YouTube.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.

RECOMMENDED AS WEIRD: JANNIE TOTSIENS [JOHNNY FAREWELL] (1970)

The “Reader Recommendation” category includes films nominated by our readers as deserving of consideration for the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of all time.

by Trevor Moses, film archivist at the National Film, Video and Sound Archives (South Africa)

DIRECTED BY: Jans Rautenbach

FEATURING: Cobus Rossouw, Jill Kirkland, Hermien Dommisse, Phillip Swanepoel, Katinka Heyns, Don Leonard, Lourens Schultz, Patrick Mynhardt, Betty Botha, Sandra Kotze, George Pearce, Jacques Loots.

PLOT: A catatonic mathematics professor with an Oedipus complex (as if the poor man didn’t have enough hassles already) is committed to an asylum which is a microcosm of South African society, circa 1970.  The inmates band together to attempt to restore him to life once more and when one of their number commits suicide because of him, they then attempt something more on his behalf: murder.

Still from Jannie Totsiens (1970)

WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LISTJannie Totsiens is rather like Milos Forman’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, only far, far more weird, disturbing and funny than that Oscar winning film.  Jans Rautenbach’s film is a microcosmic view of South Africa circa 1970 and an indictment of the blinkered Afrikaner Nationalist enforced attitudes and very dubious morals of the time.

COMMENTS: Allegedly autobiographical in tone, this was South Africa’s first film in the avant-garde genre, one of its very few horror films, and also its first black comedy.  It is now known to be an allegory about the South African situation in 1970 – showing said situation and the country’s inhabitants in the milieu of a home for the insane whose inmates’ lives are flipped by the arrival of a catatonic, mute mathematics professor, the “angel of discord”, as he is referred to by one of the loonies.  Among this merry little band, we find a jilted bride (Hermien Dommisse) whose wedding portrait depicts her holding the hand of a faceless man who locked her up in this house until she went insane, a knife wielding nymphomaniac with Bible thumping parents (Katinka Heyns), an ex Ossewabrandwag soldier with an uncanny resemblance to John Vorster (Don Leonard), a judge (Jacques Loots) who went mad (and consequently hangs up the plants in the asylum’s hothouse in a makeshift gallows) after his daughter’s killer was let off scot free, and a psychotic, lovesick woman (Jill Kirkland) who continuously writes unsent letters to her dead daughter.  Other characters include the sane, disabled artist Frans (Phillip Swanepoel) whose parents locked him up in the asylum because they were ashamed of him, and the Director of the asylum (Lourens Schultz), a weak-willed, gambling, drinking good-for-nothing, almost as mad as those he cares for, whose only purpose in life is to give injections and make his inmates swallow pills.  The seemingly mad and mother-fixated Jannie Pienaar  was supposedly based both on director Jans Rautenbach’s treatment by the critics and some of the more sensitive sections of the South African community, and Rautenbach’s experiences as a clinical psychologist.  He finds himself restored to life because of two major factors: a love triangle which involves him and two of the inmates and the horrific finale when, on the suicide of one of those inmates, Jannie is condemned to death by hanging.  For real.  Not by his neck, but by his feet.

One would have to go very far back or far forward into the future of the South African film industry’s history to find a film as horrific, comic (yes, it is very funny in parts) and perfect as this, with brooding photography (courtesy David Dunn Yarker and Koos Roets, ACS ), an eerie credits puppet show in which the spectre of death intrudes and is frightened away, haunting music by Sam Sklair and oppressive, claustrophobic set and art design.  To unsuspecting first time viewers, this film’s impact is still felt months and years later.  Judging by its’ initial reception in 1970, it is clear that the movie going public in South Africa did not know that they were actually looking into a mirror with themselves as the subjects, notwithstanding the fact that each viewer of this film feels like they have just been dinged on the head with a very large, heavy board when the film ends.

Bruce Lee says in Enter The Dragon, “Boards….. don’t hit back.”  This one does.

This film is available solely in the Afrikaans language and can be purchased from kalahari.net.

REVIEW WRITING CONTEST #1 WINNER

The winner of the review writing contest, and the A Clockwork Orange Blu-ray, is Pamela De Graff for her review of Happy Here and Now (2002).  Ms. De Graff’s review will be published on these pages on Sunday, September 6.

Thanks to all who contributed!  We will also be publishing the other entries we received under the category “Reader Recommendations.”  Look for a new reader review contest in the future.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Here’s what’s coming up on the site next week…

Reviews of the Jeunet/Caro weird cannibalism black comedy Delicatessen and “Weird Al” Yankovic’s cult star vehicle, UHF.

Alfred Eaker will be finishing up his series on the westerns of Budd Boetticher with Comanche Station.

The winner of the review writing contest will be announced on Friday, Sep. 4. You still have time to get an entry in as long as we receive it before midnight (US Eastern time) on Sep. 3!

Cameron Jorgensen will present another Saturday Short (even I don’t know what it will be!).

Weirdest search term used to locate the site this week: “pommel horse bondage.”

Here’s the ever-growing reader suggested review queue to give you an idea what will be coming further down the road: Nekromantic (still looking for a copy), UHF (next week), Delicatessen (next week), Pi, Angel’s Egg, Institute Benjamenta, Pan’s Labyrinth, Ex Drummer, Waking Life, Survive Style 5+, The Dark Backward, The Short Films of David Lynch, Santa Sangre, Dead Man, and Inland Empire.

Enjoy the week!

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 8/28/09

A look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs, and on more distant horizons…

Trailers of new release movies are generally available on the official site links.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Orgies and the Meaning of Life (2008):  The story of a man living inside his own head and fantasizing about orgies, all while writing a novel about a stick figure trying to find his way into the third dimension.  Beyond quirky, definitely verging on weird.  Also, not very popular with either audiences or critics.  Playing in Los Angeles—looks like a token theatrical release before it arrives on DVD in a couple weeks.  Orgies and the Meaning of Life official site.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Children of the Corn (1984):  Adapted from a Steven King novella (usually not a sign of weirdness, unless Kubrick‘s doing the adapting), this story concerns a small town of children who kill all the adults and start a cult worshiping “He Who Walks Behind the Rows.”  In a slow week for weird, this horror movie with a small cult following may be worth a look, especially if you like the idea of seeing Linda Hamilton crucified. Buy from Amazon.

NEW ON YOUTUBE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE):

Black Sunday (1960):  Mario Bava’s black and white classic with bewitching Barbara Steele in dual roles.  Not weird, but full of great Gothic atmosphere that evokes the Universal horror cycle.  Watch Black Sunday on YouTube.

Track 29 (1988): Described as “bizarre black comedy about a love-starved woman, her nerdy husband who’s obsessed with model trains and a stranger who claims to be her long lost son.”  A very overlooked movie from the great Nicholas Roeg, with Gary Oldman, Theresa Russell, Christopher Lloyd, and Sandra Bernhard.  Watch on YouTube.

What are you looking forward to? If you have any weird movie leads that I have overlooked, feel free to leave them in the COMMENTS section.