WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 8/10/2018

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

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

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Madeline’s Madeline (2018): Read G. Smalley’s positive review and Giles Edwards’ less positive mini-review. This experimental drama about a mentally unbalanced teenage girl in a theater troupe split our reviewers, but no one denies it’s a breakout work for director and rising star Helena Howard. Opening this week in New York city, then on to Los Angeles and other major cities in the late summer. Madeline’s Madeline official site.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Lowlife (2017): Read Giles Edwards’ List Candidate review. Shout! Factory picked up this festival hit that’s a little like Pulp Fiction, but with luchadores; now on DVD, Blu-ray, and VOD. Buy Lowlife.

Zama (2017): A Spanish official posted to a remote South American colony longs for reassignment in a “subtly surreal and bizarre” film festival programmers said “often feels like it was made to purposefully confound the viewer.” Strand Releasing makes it available on all the usual platforms, including Blu-ray. Buy Zama.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

Cube (1997): Read the Certified Weird review! Existential horror; a pulpy Exterminating Angel in a cube. Watch Cube free on Tubi.tv.

NEPOTISM CORNER:

House of Shadows: Although it won’t be open until October, Alfred Eaker is already hard at work on the murals for the scare shack that bills itself as “Oregon’s Most Extreme Haunt.” Here’s a preview of his work, featuring a character some of you may recognize. Mark your calendars, Portlanders and other Oregonians! The House of Shadows website.

Caligari

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.

344. TWELVE MONKEYS (1995)

AKA 12 Monkeys

Must See

“I think we should try to avoid defining things precisely. Too many films are packaging the world too neatly for us, and I don’t think the world should be packaged neatly. But hidden things and unknowns… The more you can encourage that on the screen, the better for the mental state of the world.” –Terry Gilliam, “FilmScouts” interview

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , Madeleine Stowe,

PLOT: The future is a grim world where most of humanity has been wiped out by a virus and the rest live underground. James Cole, a prisoner in this future, is recruited to travel back in time on a mission to discover the source of this virus and help his present time develop an antidote. Thanks to unforeseen mishaps and the shaky technology of time travel, his mission goes off track.

Still from Twelve Monkeys (1995)

BACKGROUND:

  • This feature was inspired by La Jetee, ‘s 1962 experimental science fiction short film done almost entirely with black and white still photographs and narration. Terry Gilliam knew the structure of the film, but did not view it before making Twelve Monkeys (obviously, screenwriters David and Janet Peoples were intimately familiar with the earlier film). The core story of James Cole witnessing an execution while stuck in a time loop is the main element surviving from La Jetee. The virus, Brad Pitt’s character, and Madeline Stowe’s role are all the scriptwriters’ invention, as well as an updating and cultural shift to an American setting.
  • One scene that does survive from La Jetee is a character tracing the timeline of their existence on a cross-cut tree stump. Gilliam makes a double-homage by showing the scene from Vertigo during a convenient film marathon showing at the theater where Willis and Stowe hide out.
  • Gilliam cites a trip to the dentists’ office, with its multiple layers of protection for everything to keep it sterile, as inspiration for the protective gear—including the “body condom”—Bruce Willis wears in his trips to the world’s surface.
  • Brad Pitt had never played an unhinged lunatic before Twelve Monkeys; Gilliam was excited at the prospect of casting him against type. Later, Pitt would become known for his manic portrayals in films such as 1999’s Fight Club.
  • On-set rumor has it that Gilliam got Pitt to be a more convincing crazy person by confiscating his cigarettes during filming; Pitt was acting while experiencing nicotine fits.
  • There are TV screens present at some point or another in nearly every scene of the film; Gilliam’s intended to show us as dehumanized by media. Gilliam firmly asserts his place in the cyberpunk genre with the quote: “I’ve always had a problem with the belief that technology was going to solve all of our problems.” Twelve Monkeys continues this theme from 1985’s Brazil.
  • Twelve Monkeys received two Oscar nominations: Pitt for Best Supporting Actor and Julie Weiss for Costume Deign. It won neither.
  • The SyFy Channel original series 12 Monkeys is a spinoff of this movie.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Insert the obligatory lament that there are so many indelible scenes that it’s hard to pick one. We’ll go with the giant “video ball,” a metal sphere festooned with lenses and video screens, which is always hovering in front of James Cole as the scientists interrogate him in between time hops. It’s a signature of the film’s “complex style over function” motif and the most sure moment where you can walk into the film cold and still say “Aha, this must be a Terry Gilliam movie!”

THREE WEIRD THINGS:  “Mentally divergent” Cassandra Complex; tooth surgery;  giraffes galloping down the freeway

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Besides Terry Gilliam’s trademark rococco visuals, off-the-wall plotting, and larger-than-life characters, Twelve Monkeys has something else that sets it apart from other time travel movies: it is completely without plot holes, and even without paradoxes except that of the stable time loop which gives us the story. Upon first viewing, the story seems to be chaos. Repeat viewings are necessary to assemble a clear story out of the puzzle pieces, every single one of which fits perfectly down to the tiniest details. It’s such a flawless whole when fully mapped that constructing it was a cerebral feat on the order of Fields-medal mathematics.

Original trailer for Twelve Monkeys

COMMENTS: Warning: this review contains spoilers.

Make no mistake: Twelve Monkeys is a very clear, coherent narrative. You just need a wall of pushpin charts, a ball of yarn to connect all Continue reading 344. TWELVE MONKEYS (1995)

WEDNESDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: THE MAKER OF “MANDY”

From my vantage point on the less-esteemed side of the velvet rope, I saw my quarry, Panos Cosmatos, posing for innumerable photographs with various industry and festival bigwigs just before the Canadian premiere of his new movie, Mandy. I had been shuffled around no fewer than four times before being planted right underneath a bright spotlight a few feet from the director. Eventually, he came over—and I got my four minutes.

366: I’m with 366 Weird Movies, and we’re a big fan of your previous movie, Beyond the Black Rainbow. It beat out 63 contenders in a readers’ choice poll to be certified on our list–

PC: A list of “weird movies”? Nice.

366: Yup. We’re looking for  366 of best, weird movies we can find, one for each day of the year including leap-year.

PC: Love it.

366: I have a few questions for you. In Beyond the Black Rainbow, we saw some and influences; I was wondering if you might remark on some of the directorial influences specifically for Mandy?

PC: Honestly, for this film, I felt more that I was just tapping into myself, just following my instincts a little bit more and seeing where that took me.

366: In Beyond the Black Rainbow, there’s a melancholic, sort of space-y feel. Obviously it’s a very different tone from Mandy.

PC: Yeah, it’s more “melancholic and barbaric”.

366: Nicely put. Now, tapping into yourself, I know that your father was involved in any number of motion pictures. I was curious personally in regards to your mother, who was a sculptor. Did she influence you artistically in any way?

PC: Very much so, yes. She nurtured my creativity from the beginning and had an incredible way of looking at the world, and that’s a big part of me.

366: Now your previous movie and this one, they both take place in 1983, and you’ve indicated in a number of interviews your reason for that. 1)1983 was the first year that a young Cosmatos went to the store “Video Addict”, during which time he would imagine the stories behind the box covers of horror films he was not allowed to rent. Obviously it might be too early to ask about future projects, but do you think you’ll be sticking with the year 1983 in the future, or do you think you might eventually go forward or backward?

PC: *laughs* I think the next film will probably go forward — but never the present. Never the present.

366: Your previous film was largely self-funded–

PC: Yup.

366: –This was a larger production. Were there any problems with “strings attached”, or were you able to maneuver things?

PC:Amazingly I was given basically complete freedom, that’s why I got involved with SpectreVision, because they vowed to protect my vision and nurture it all the way through, and they lived up to that.

366: That’s excellent. I’m from the United States, and I’m fearful I might not be able to catch this movie again; do you know anything about wider distribution?

PC: I think it’s getting released on about 300 screens in the US on September 14th. Where in the US are you from?

366: Upstate New York.

PC: Cool! I always romanticize that area in my mind, having never been there. But I do have that romanticized version of Upstate New York in my mind.

366: Well, Upstate New York is very flattered.

PC: *laughs*

366: In regards to Mandy specifically, where in Heaven’s name did that “folk song” come from?

PC: The lyrics were written by me and Dan Boeckner from the band “Operators”. He wrote the verses, I wrote the chorus. And then Milky Burgess wrote the instrumentation and Randall Dunn produced it and we kind of just threw it together in the recording studio in a day or two.

366: It is, in its way, a very good song–

PC: *laughs*

366: –and it certainly conveys that fellow well. And one question I like to close all my interviews with, what’s your home town and do you have a restaurant you can recommend?

PC: Where I live now? Vancouver, and I would recommend “Kingyo”.

366: Thank you very much for your time. Fantastic movie, and I wish you the best of luck.

…and with that, mere minutes before the film’s start, he was summoned for further photographs. 

References   [ + ]

1. 1983 was the first year that a young Cosmatos went to the store “Video Addict”, during which time he would imagine the stories behind the box covers of horror films he was not allowed to rent.

LIST CANDIDATE: MANDY (2018)

Recommended

DIRECTED BYPanos Cosmatos

FEATURING: Nicolas Cage, Andrea Riseborough, Linus Roache,
Bill Duke

PLOT: Red Miller is a lumberjack, but when a gang of cultists murder his girl, he’s not okay.

Still from Mandy (2018)

WHY IT SHOULD MAKE THE LIST: Oh-ho, there are lots of reasons. The first one that springs to mind is that it’s the only movie I’ve ever seen that requires Nicolas Cage to be utterly berserk just to keep apace with the surrounding madness.

COMMENTS: Word was that tickets had sold out within an hour of being made available. I heard it was a fulfillment of “a seven-year-long promise”. And the special press-only screening was fuller than many general screenings I’d attended at the Salle J.A. De Sève. Even after some hours of contemplation, I’m still processing what it was I saw. Obviously, I saw Mandy—but I imagine you get my meaning. The notes I took were more of a mess than is usual even for me, and halfway through, I stopped bothering. With Mandy, Panos Cosmatos has done nothing less than rip a crimson nightmare from the quintessence of vengeance and pour its spectacle into your eyes and ears.

The establishing shot, in which we learn about Red Miller (Nicolas Cage), a lumberjack in “the Shadow Mountains”, sets the grainy-dreamy visual tone. His wife, the titular Mandy (Andrea Riseborough), is a bookish death metal nerd. They have a pleasant life together of quiet love until Mandy catches the eye of some cultists who are passing through. Their leader, a failed folk singer Jesus-wannabe named Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache), commands his minions to kidnap Mandy and make her his lover. A demonic biker gang is summoned to nab the girl. When the drugged Mandy ridicules Jeremiah’s advances, the cult leader exacts his petty revenge, setting Red on the path to vengeance against those who have wronged him. All of those who have wronged him.

It may have been the high volume, the sound mix, or my own increased awareness, but this was yet another movie where the score stood out. Jóhann Jóhannsson’s unsettling doom metal compositions complement the unnerving, red-soaked darkness. Cosmatos’ febrile images on the screen become audible with the music—which, in a film with this little dialogue, is key. A fellow reviewer was somewhat dismissive of Mandy‘s visuals, quipping “You’re really into “Twin Peaks“— I get it.” While there is a grain of truth in that, it does not do justice to what Cosmatos is up to. Mandy is unrelenting in its stylized nightmare, rarely giving the audience a breather in its first half, and virtually never in the second. Like the score, one would best describe the film’s tonal flavor as “Doom Lynchian”: as if Cosmatos caught the football thrown by Black-Lodge-Lynch and ran another sixty yards.

And finally there’s the star himself, Nicolas Cage. Mandy seems tailor-made for him as an actor, aware both of his range and his history. When he’s trying, few can compete with Cage for sheer mania. His performance is feral at times, but the intensity fits with its surroundings. Nothing other than a force of nature could hope to survive the infernal journey that takes place in Mandy. I’d go so far as to say no other actor could be relied on to make Red seem both reasonable and completely unhinged at the same time. Whether he’s armed with a box-cutter, a dueling chainsaw, or the sickest-looking axe this side of a bad dream, Nicolas Cage bloodily carries us through Cosmatos’ Bosch-Dante deathscape.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…by no means a perfect film and is likely going to turn off a fair number of viewers who aren’t on board for its concentrated, unadulterated weirdness. But for those who are willing to take the ride, you’re in for a bizarre, bloody treat featuring a particularly extra Nic Cage, giving his best performance in years… Mandy is destined to become one of the quintessential cult movies, and a sort of arcane codeword amongst devotees of weird and wild films.”–Dan Casey, Nerdist (Sundance screening)

2018 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: THE FINAL SLICE OF STRANGE

Au Revoir

The Festival’s second half proved to be quite worthwhile, with a few gems tucked away in the final days. It was good, but my eyes started to hurt.

7/29: One Cut of the Dead

One Cut of the Dead Poster (2018)This should have appeared in the previous week’s “slice”, but for a couple of days I toyed with doing a fuller write-up of Shin’ichirô Ueda’s “found footage” horror exercise. I’m going to ask that you trust me on this, because I cannot say any more without compromising your viewing experience. But you Really, Really Should see this if you can. For those like me who regard the zombie genre as effectively run into the ground, this movie—despite what it seems the premise is—breathes so much life into the tired, tired tropes of zombie-this, -that, and -the-other. Top-notch cast, top-notch direction, top-notch notch. (Highly recommended.)

7/30: The Scythian

Still from The Scythian (2018)I had unfortunately missed seeing this on the big screen as both screenings conflicted with other films. However, even on a modest 41″ television in a darkened cubicle, Rustam Mosafir’s proto-Russian adventure fantasy proved itself to be one heckuva ride. Filled with sword fights, betrayals, mysterious pagans, and some crazy berserker-juice, The Scythian was everything one could want in a medieval adventure yarn. In particular, the score (which is something I’ve noticed I’ve been noticing a lot more) heightened the historical and mystical tones. Both the diegetic music from traveling performers and the ambient tribal chanting grounded the old world feeling; things cut loose a bit more during a fine bit of fighting when the chants were paired with some sick heavy metal guitar. While criticized in its homeland for a lack of historicity, I was more than happy to overlook incongruities from a millennium ago.

Cinderella the Cat

Still from Cinderella the Cat (2018)With four directors covering 86 minutes, you get about twenty-one minutes per director. I’m not sure how the assignment was divvied up (though conceivably they could had one for the animation, one for the voice acting, one Continue reading 2018 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: THE FINAL SLICE OF STRANGE

FANTOMAS: THE COMPLETE SAGA (1913)

Fantômas (1913) is ‘s first crime serial, and probably the best (a fourth serial, 1918’s Tin Minh, has survived and is purportedly on par with the three better known series, but has oddly never been restored or released on home video).

Based on the novels of Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre, Fantômas, which was released as five separate films (Shadow of the Guillotine, Juve vs. Fantômas, The Murderous Corpse, Fantômas vs. Fantômas, and The False Magistrate), sets the pattern for the Feuillade serials that followed. Despite its age (105 years old!) it is insanely entertaining and the most surreal of the director’s massive body of work. It was among the first films to utilize a sustained narrative plot, to be shot in actual locations (as opposed to being studios), and was one of the first mystery films. As played by Rene Navarre, Fantômas himself was arguably cinema’s first completely unsympathetic, purely evil protagonist with no redeeming qualities. It would take a strong lead to inspire us to root for such a character; with his menacing charisma, Navarre pulls it off in spades. He is probably the best of Feuillade’s genre leads, and collaborates superbly with the director; together they stylishly craft a milieu of intrigue and heightened suspense that revels in amorality. Fantômas was an epic influence on ‘s Dr. Mabuse (whose films we should cover someday). As this Houdini of thieves and assassins goes through his considerable resume of opponents and victims, plotting grand conspiracies, he does so with such suave aplomb that we find ourselves unapologetically rooting for the “Emperor of Crime.” Although marginally science fiction, Fantômas ventures into fantastic surrealism, presenting the arch-villain as a shape-shifting master of disguises (he has a secret identity too, making him a proto-super villain) who will present his victims with a blank card, only to have their name “appear” when…

Still from Fantomas (1913)Naturally, with a do-gooder on his trail—inspector Juve (Edmund Bréon)—we are guaranteed a cataclysmic battle of wits. We are not disappointed. Fantômas plots grand conspiracies, absurdly fantastic escapes, elaborate train robberies, jewel heists, grave robbing, wanton violence, indiscriminate murders (from one-time accomplices to a judge of the high courts, gruesomely dispatched), disappearances and reappearances (largely unexplained), and a bizarre, utterly weird “switcheroo” with a fellow villain who takes his place at the guillotine. Fantômas vs. Fantômas, the aptly titled fourth film, is set in a grand masked ball with no less than three versions of Fantômas —which means triple the mayhem—made all the more kinetically surreal through its outlandishly stylized tableaux.  In an effort to evade an assassin of the night, Juve even gets a queer scene like a 1913 version of Rambo, complete with spiked traps and poisonous snakes. None of it is “believable” for even a second, and you won’t care one damned bit. It’s easy to see why 1913 audiences made this the first genuine worldwide blockbuster smash hit.

Fantômas, always escalating his criminal oeuvre, is never given a motive. He has no Freudian backstory to explain his lack of conscience. He is simply an ambitious sociopath whose life’s goal is to taunt, seduce, craft chaos, sow discord, betrayal, maim, and murder, leaving a trial of broken victims and corpses.

Despite its innovations, being the first of his serials, it is indeed the most aesthetically archaic (the editing is extremely choppy). Yet it’s also strangely contemporary.  All of this adds to its otherworldliness. If you must limit yourself to a single Feuillade serial (although I don’t know why anyone would wish to), make it Fantomas.

It goes without saying that Kino outdid itself in this essential release that includes a documentary on Feuillade and two shorts: one with a disappointingly traditional religious theme, and the other venturing into mild territory (before Browning).

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Only 23 more titles to Certify Weird!

Next week, Alfred Eaker continues your cinematic education with the third part of his series on ‘s Gothic serials with Fantômas (1913). Then, Giles Edwards delivers his eulogy on the just-concluded , with another slice of mini-reviews and coverage of the Fest’s big closer, -fueled revenger Mandy. And Pete Trbovich wraps us up with one from the reader-suggested review queue: Terry Gilliam‘s time-traveling brain twister Twelve Monkeys.

As far as weird search terms go, we’re once again frustrated by privacy filters. Basically, we saw no—none, nada—Google (or other engine) searches this week that would merit consideration as Weirdest Search Term of the Week. The closest we could come up with was “coco shop under the bed at end of shop is a large secret room thats driving me crazy what is in there?” That one’s more badly phrased than weird—we have no idea what the questioner is asking about. We guess is it’s a video game for which they neglected to share the title, assuming Google is omniscient and would know what the hell they are talking about. It’s a good reminder never to assume that everyone’s frame of reference is the same as yours; but, sadly, not that weird of a search term. Well, on to next week, when we hope stranger spirits will move our searchers.

Time for our weekly disclaimer regarding the reader-suggested review queue below: since we will probably not be getting to many of these (though we will pick out a few, as you’ll see this week), you can consider this a list of “honorable mentions” for your own perusal and amusement. That out of the way, here’s how the ridiculously-long-and-once-again-growing reader-suggested review queue now stands: 12 Monkeys (next week!); Genius Party; The Idiots; “Premium” (depending on availability); Spermula; Killer Condom; Sir Henry at Continue reading WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 8/2/2018

Our weekly look at what’s weird in theaters, on hot-off-the-presses DVDs and Blu-rays (and hot off the server VODs), and on more distant horizons…

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

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

Revengeance (2016):  A comic biker noir about a “low-rent” bounty hunter hired to recover an item stolen from “Deathface,” a former pro-wrestler turned U.S. Senator. Indie animation legend  completed this feature in 2016 (with the aid of a Kickstarter campaign), but it’s debuting this week in NYC, with a screening next week in LA (with DVD and/or VOD presumably soon to follow). Revengeance official site.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Piranha II: The Spawning (1981): A scuba diver tries to figure out where all these mutant flying piranha (!) are coming from. Debuting director was fired from this picture after just one week, arguably making a hopeless project even worse—but it still gets a “collectors edition” Blu-ray release from Shout! Factory. Buy Piranha II: The Spawning.

UPCOMING SCREENINGS:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) [IMAX]: Although prints of Stanley Kubrick‘s weird sci-fi classic have been touring all summer, Warner Brothers will be re-releasing a -supervised remastered version of 2001 specifically for IMAX theaters beginning on August 24. The reason we mention it now is that, although the film will screen in 350 locations in the U.S. and Canada, there will be only be four IMAX theaters screening it in 70mm: Universal Citywalk (LA), Lincoln Square (NYC), Metreon (San Francisco), and  Ontario Place Cinesphere (Toronto). Tickets for those four venues go on sale today, and are sure to sell out. You’re on your own finding tickets (hint: try Google), but you can’t say we didn’t give you a heads up. Here’s Warner Brothers’ full press release.

CERTIFIED WEIRD (AND OTHER) REPERTORY SCREENINGS:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). We won’t list all the screenings of this audience-participation classic separately. You can use this page to find a screening near you.

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.

Celebrating the cinematically surreal, bizarre, cult, oddball, fantastique, strange, psychedelic, and the just plain WEIRD!