SATURDAY SHORT: [USER ASSUMES RISK] JUNE 18, 2008

If there’s one thing we like more than a talented, unconventional film director, it’s one who also writes extraordinary music.  John R. Hand is one of these talented artists. His band, User Assumes Risk, mixes their disturbing electronic music with horrifying, gruesome images for a live performance that would make Marilyn Manson envious. CORRECTION: Although Hand is also a composer, the music in this video was actually written by Lemmie Crew.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 2/26/2010

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):

A Prophet [Un prohète] (2009): A huge stretch for weird interest, but since there’s nothing else in theaters you may want to go see this, the French nominee for “Best Foreign Language Film” Oscar.  It’s a gangster drama about the rise of an North African within an organized crime gang operating from inside the walls of a French prison, and it reportedly contains a few dream sequences.  Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes. A Prophet official site (English).

SCREENINGS – NEW YORK CITY:

ODDSAC (2010): A 53-minute “visual album” matching experimental visuals to the equally experimental music of Animal Collective. The trailer will verify that the visuals and audio are both definitely trippy. Playing at the Visual Arts Theater March 2 & 3; the official website indicates that both screenings are sold out. Screenings are taking place throughout March in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, ahead of a June DVD release.  We’ll remind you of screenings in your area, or you can check ODDSAC‘s homepage for future dates.

NEW ON DVD:

$9.99 (2008): Read our review.  Claymation adaptation of the absurdist short stories of Etgar Keret, including one about a young man who buys a book that promises to give him the meaning of life for $9.99 cash. Definitely weird at times, at other times flatly dramatic; as a whole, the movie has difficulty finding a workable tone. Buy $9.99.

The Box (2009): Read our review.  Opinions were split (even in-house) on the merits of Richard Kelly‘s mystifying sci-fi parable about a box offering moral dilemmas; if you missed it in theaters, now is your chance to weigh in on one side or the other. Buy The Box.

Dead Snow (2009): The Norwegian Nazi zombie movie.  Gory zombie comedies once seemed weird, but they’re fast becoming mainstream—even derivative. Buy Dead Snow .

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

The Box (2009): See entry in DVD above. Buy The Box [Blu-ray].

Dead Snow (2009): See entry in DVD above. Buy Dead Snow [Blu-ray].

Ichi the Killer (2001): Back in August, we prematurely announced this was coming to Blu-ray. This time we mean it! This perverted and extreme sadomasochistic classic from weird director Takashi Miike finally gets the Blu-ray treatment. No longer will viewers have to suffer the agonies of low-definition arterial spray! Ichi the Killer [Blu-ray].

Poutrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2007): More Troma madness. Zombie chickens arise from the grave when a fast food franchise is built on an Indian burial ground. Buy Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead [Blu-ray].

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.

REVIEW WRITING CONTEST #2: WIN A COPY OF “FRANKENSTEIN’S BLOODY NIGHTMARE”

Review Writing Contest #2 prize: Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare Well, our first review writing contest went fabulously: we landed Pamela de Graff, who’s turned into a valuable contributor for the site.  So, we feel it’s time to trot out a second review-writing contest.

Now, multiple people have contacted us with offers to write reviews, but haven’t followed through.   If you’re one of them, here’s your chance to write that review and get a some swag for your trouble!

The prize is a “like new” DVD of the experimental, surreal horror movie Frankenstein’s Bloody Nightmare, which has only been previously viewed for review purposes.

Just like last time, the rules of the contest are simple:

  1. Write a review of a movie that you think should be on the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies, but that hasn’t been covered here yet.  Including the following sections: DIRECTOR, FEATURING (listing the most important actors), PLOT (a one sentence synopsis), WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LIST (a one sentence to one paragraph description of why you think the movie is weird), COMMENTS (one to two paragraphs describing the movie in more detail). If you have a suggestion for a still to represent the movie and/or a quote from a critic on the film, you can include those, but they are not required.
  2. In rare cases, a well-thought out “second opinion” on a movie that we have already considered, but that you think we got wrong (either by putting it on the List when it shouldn’t have made it, or rejecting a film that should have made it), will be an acceptable subject for a review.  We would still prefer reviews of movies we haven’t yet covered.
  3. Submit your work on our contact form. By submitting your entry on this form, you agree to allow 366weirdmovies.com to publish your work, either whole or in edited form, on this website. Your work may be selected for publication even if you are not chosen as the winner.
  4. The contest is open to anyone whose work has not previously been published on 366weirdmovies.com.  If you submitted a review to the last contest and did not win, you are still eligible to enter this contest even if we published your review.
  5. You may not write a review promoting a film which you were involved in the production of, or in which you have a financial interest.
  6. This site strives to remain “PG” rated; do not use profanity in your review.
  7. The contest will remain open for one month, until March 25, 2010, at which time the editor will select the best entry. The winner will be chosen on the basis of writing style, insight, and appropriateness of the movie chosen. The deadline may be extended, depending on the number of entries received.
  8. In order to be eligible to receive the prize, you must supply a valid email address and a valid mailing address. International addresses are acceptable. If the winning entrant does not supply a valid mailing address, or declines the prize, the DVD will be given to a randomly selected entry with a mailing address in the United States. If no entries are from the United States, then the deadline to complete the contest will be extended.

TIPS: Avoid merely summarizing the plot in your comments. Avoid giving away “spoilers” in your descriptions that might ruin the enjoyment of the film. Obscure titles are fine—in fact, they may be worth bonus points—but try to pick a film that is available on DVD, or is at least likely to be released. If you write on a film no one will be able to view or locate, the movie may be judged as inappropriate.

One final tip: don’t be scared away by thinking you have to write something profoundly insightful. Simply consider it as a chance to describe and recommend a film to that narrow audience of people who are interested in the same kind of weird movies as you are.

Have fun! The winner, and even the runners-up, may be invited to become regular contributors to the site!

50. GOTHIC (1986)

“I passed the summer of 1816 in the environs of Geneva. The season was cold and rainy, and in the evenings we crowded around a blazing wood fire, and occasionally amused ourselves with some German stories of ghosts, which happened to fall into our hands. These tales excited in us a playful desire of imitation. Two other friends (a tale from the pen of one of whom would be far more acceptable to the public than anything I can ever hope to produce) and myself agreed to write each a story founded on some supernatural occurrence.  The weather, however, suddenly became serene; and my two friends left me on a journey among the Alps, and lost, in the magnificent scenes which they present, all memory of their ghostly visions. The following tale is the only one which has been completed.”–Mary Shelley, preface to Frankenstein

DIRECTED BY: Ken Russell

FEATURING: Natasha Richardson, Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, Myriam Cyr, Timothy Spall

PLOT: Romantic poet Percy Shelley takes his lover, Mary, and her stepsister Claire to visit Lord Byron and his biographer, Dr. Polidori, at the poet’s sprawling Swiss estate.  The fivesome spend the evening playing games and drinking laudanum, until the topic of conversation turns to ghost stories.  They decide to hold a seance to materialize their worst fear, with unanticipated success: or, are they just having a group hallucination?

Still from Gothic (1986)

BACKGROUND:

  • The meeting in the film between Percy Shelley, Byron, Mary Godwin Shelley, Dr. Polidori and Claire Clairmont did take place, though the party actually spent the entire summer of 1816 together, not just a single night. Mary Shelley (then Mary Godwin) did conceive the idea for her novel “Frankenstein there, after Byron suggested that each member of the party write their own supernatural tale. Many other details of the character’s backstories are accurate: Byron did impregnate Claire, and Mary did bear a stillborn child by Percy.
  • The story of “Frankenstein”‘s genesis was mentioned in the prologue to The Bride of Frankenstein, and similar stories of the meeting between Byron and the Shelleys were told in the movies The Haunted Summer (1988) and Rowing in the Wind (1988).
  • The painting which hangs over the mantelpiece in the guest bedroom, which is recreated in live action in a dream sequence, in is based on John Henry Fuseli’s “The Nightmare.”
  • The movie was the first major feature produced by a division of Virgin Media (known for producing and distributing their pop music). Many of the technical crew had a music video background. Virgin shut down its motion picture production and distribution operations after 1990.
  • Julian Sands came to Gothic fresh off a prominent role in Merchant-Ivory’s Oscar-winning A Room with a View. After this role he wound up specializing in horror films like Warlock (1989) and its sequels.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Breasts with eyes.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  After setting up its premise, Gothic becomes a series of phantasmagorical set pieces that allow Ken Russell to indulge his penchant for perverse visuals and excessive Freudian symbolism.


Trailer for Gothic

COMMENTS: For better and worse, Gothic‘s hallucinatory structure allows director Ken Continue reading 50. GOTHIC (1986)

49. A SERIOUS MAN (2009)

NOTE: A Serious Man has been promoted onto the List of 366 Best Weird Movies of all time after initially being placed in the “Borderline Weird” category.  For reference,  you can read the original borderline weird entry here.

“Even though you can’t figure anything out, you will be responsible for it on the midterm.”–dream dialogue from A Serious Man

DIRECTED BY: Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

FEATURING: Michael Stubargh, Aaron Wolff, Richard Kind, Fred Melamed, Sari Lennick, Fyvush Finkel

PLOT: A Serious Man opens in the indeterminate past with a Jewish couple entertaining a man who may or may not be a dybbuk (ghost) on a snowy night somewhere in Eastern Europe.  In 1967, in suburban Minnesota, a Jewish physics professor suffers from an escalating series of problems including a failing marriage, bratty kids, students willing to do anything for a passing grade, financial troubles, and a ne’er-do-well, mildly insane brother.  Seeking advice on a life that seems to be spinning out of control, he visits three rabbis, each of whom is less helpful than the last.

Still from A Serious Man (2009)

BACKGROUND:

  • Though the film is not autobiographical, Joel and Ethan Coen grew up in suburban Minnesota roughly at the time the events of A Serious Man take place.
  • The core idea for the movie originated when the Coens considered making a short film about a boy who attends his bar mitzvah stoned.  As the story expanded from that scene, the idea was originally to make the father and son’s stories of equal weight, but as the script evolved the story of the elder Gopnik assumed center stage.
  • The prologue is not an actual Jewish folktale.  The Coens searched for an authentic legend to use but finally decided to create their own.
  • The movie makes extensive reference to quantum physics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, and the paradox of Schrödinger’s cat, theories of modern physics which suggest that there are limitations on our ability to know basic reality.
  • The Coens’ script for A Serious Man was nominated for a Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay Oscar.  The film won “Best Screenplay” or equivalent awards from the Boston Society of Film Critics, National Board of Review, and National Society of Film Critics.

INDELIBLE IMAGE:  The very last shot, which I can’t reveal here.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  Superficially, A Serious Man is only mildly weird. There are a

Official trailer for A Serious Man

few dream sequences and multiple nonsense parables, but unlike the Coens’ definitely weird Barton Fink, this story of a suburban Jewish man beset by an improbably mounting set of real life woes contains no surrealistic fireworks (although there is a conspicuous surrealistic pillow).  On the other hand, A Serious Man has a skeletal undercurrent of ambiguity and disturbance running through it like a bone cancer; it feels weird at its core.  With a head-scratching prologue and epilogue bracketing a central fable about a goy’s teeth, the thoughtful and frequently brilliant A Serious Man earns its place on the List by mining the mysteries at the basis of existence.

COMMENTS: A Serious Man is a retelling of that most fascinating parable in the Old Continue reading 49. A SERIOUS MAN (2009)

BORDERLINE WEIRD: CALVAIRE (2004)

[AKA:  The Ordeal]

DIRECTED BY:  Fabrice Du Welz

FEATURING:  Laurent Lucas, Jackie Berroyer,

PLOT: Small time entertainer Marc Stevens ventures along a rural route to reach his next gig, but everything goes profoundly wrong. His car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, a stranger takes him to an inn, and he finds himself trapped in a countryside of insane predatory sodomites.  When Stevens is outrageously and systematically victimized for no discernible reason, he begins to go insane.  Calvaire is a fantasy that depicts a series of absurd events in a strange setting: the foggy, boggy,  deep woods of rural Belgium.

Still from Calvaire (2004)

WHY IT’S ON THE BORDERLINE:  When I watch a weird movie I expect to be horrified, scared as hell, titillated, awestruck or otherwise captivated.  At the very least I want to be inspired to think. Calvaire failed to deliver anything like this to me.  Calvaire‘s story is oddball, but frankly, I found it to be superficial, tedious and depressing without any real point.  Calvaire is a movie that could have been greatly weird, but wasn’t.

COMMENTS:  Calvaire opens with an odd scene and becomes inexplicably more bizarre.  A small time troubadour, Marc Stevens (Lucas) sings at a nursing home.  Later, an elderly woman drops by his dressing room to seduce him.  This peculiar encounter sets the tone for the rest of the film, but bears no relation to the subsequent plot points.  The remainder of Calviare’s storyline consists of a sequential chain of ghastly but only loosely related incidents.

While driving to his next venue on isolated back roads during a heavy rain, a figure darts out in front of Marc’s van.  The vehicle stalls and won’t restart.  An oddball stranger leads him to Continue reading BORDERLINE WEIRD: CALVAIRE (2004)

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Next week, we have reviews planned for the strange and perverse Belgian horror Calvaire and Ken Russell‘s Gothic. Also, as I write, the 366 Weird Movies High Council is meeting to decide whether we should officially certify A Serious Man as one of the Best Weird Movies of all time; we hope to have the results of their deliberations for you next week.

Weirdest search term used to locate the site last week: “Sean Gullette actually drilled his head.”  Talk about your method actors!

The scary-long reader-suggested review queue now looks like this: Santa Sangre Monday (assuming I can find an English language version); The Abominable Dr. Phibes; Barton Fink; What? (Diary of Forbidden Dreams); Meatball Machine; Xtro; Basket Case; Suicide Club; O Lucky Man!; Trash Humpers (when/if released); Gozu; Tales of Ordinary Madness; The Wayward Cloud; Kwaidan; Six-String Samurai; Andy Warhol’s Trash; Altered States; Memento; Nightmare Before Christmas/Vincent/Frankenweenie; The Science of Sleep; Gothic (jumping in line to come out next week!); The Attic Expeditions; After Last Season; Getting Any?; Performance; Being John Malkovich; The Apple; Southland Tales; Arizona Dream; Spider (2002); Songs From The Second Floor; Singapore Sling; Alice [Neco z Alenky]; Necromania (1971, Ed Wood); Hour of the Wolf; MirrorMask; Possession; Suspiria; Mary and Max; Wild Zero; 4; Nothing (2003); The Peanut Butter Solution; Ninja Scroll; Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; Danger: Diabolik; Faust; Sublime; Battle Royale; Pink Floyd: The Wall; Escanaba In Da Moonlight; Jesus Christ, Vampire Hunter; Zardoz; The Films of Suzan Pitt; Toto the Hero [Toto le Héros]; Paprika; The Holy Mountain; Brazil; The Casserole Masters; Dark Crystal; Throw Away Your Books, Rally in the Streets; The Nines; 964 Pinocchio; The Pillow Book; Final Flesh; Lunacy [Sílení]; Inmortel; Tetsuo; Dead Ringers; and Kairo [AKA Pulse].

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 2/19/2010

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):

Shutter Island:  Psychological thriller about tough cops (Leonardo di Caprio and the ubiquitous Mark Ruffalo) who investigate a (possibly supernatural) disappearance in a spooky asylum for the criminally insane. Unlikely to be truly weird (although there are reports of some “small-s” surrealism), but the trailer is intriguing and a new Scorcese genre movie is always notable.  Shutter Island official site.

IN THEATERS (LIMITED RELEASE):

2009 Oscar Nominated Shorts:  Showing in select cities across the US, UK, Mexico and Canada.  Usually something mildly weird (or at least mildly experimental) will make its way into the shorts field, usually in the animated category.  The big draw should be Nick Park’s latest 30 minute installment of the popular Wallace & Gromit series, “A Matter of Loaf and Death.”  The official site is still listing the lineup from last year’s offering.  2009 Oscar Nominated Shorts Official Site.

Happy Tears (2010): Parker Posie and Demi Moore star as two adult women returning home to confront their dad (Rip Torn) and search for his buried treasure, in a film that features “surrealistic” dream sequences (apparently de-emphasized in the trailer).  Kirk Honeycutt of the Hollywood Reporter called it “simply weird” (comparing it unfavorably to director Michael Lichenstein’s previous feature, Teeth, which he found “weird-funny”).  Happy Tears official site.

NEW ON DVD:

Black Dynamite (2009): Not weird, but notably offbeat.  A blaxploitation parody/spoof that authentically mimics the look and feel of the 1970s genre film, even including a visible boom mic. Buy Black Dynamite.

Georges Melies Encore: 26 new, recently unearthed short films (and some fragments) from Melies (A Trip to the Moon, 1902) the French cinema pioneer trickster who was the first to recognize cinema’s natural affinity for the fantastic.  Contains some intriguing titles, like “L’hallucination de l’alchimiste” (translated into English as “An Hallucinated Alchemist,” for some reason). Historical film fanatics will be delighted by this offering. Buy Georges Melies Encore.

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Black Dynamite (2009): See review in DVD above. Buy Black Dynamite [Blu-ray].

OUT-OF-PRINT HEADS UP:

The Criterion Collection has lost the rights to more than a dozen StudioCanal films, and the Criterion editions (usually the industry standard for technical quality and extras) will be going out of print.  The most notable losses for our purposes are the entire Orphic trilogy and Jen-Luc Goddard’s Alphaville.  The rights are going to Lionsgate, so the DVDs may be reissued.  You can see the complete list of lost titles in Criterion’s official public announcement of the deal.  Criterion is offering $5 off if you purchase from their website.

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.

GUEST REVIEW: AVATAR (2009)

James Cameron’s Avatar is his first film since 1997’s Titanic, and Avatar looks like it’s actually going to top that monster ship as far as revenue goes.  Reportedly, with PR expenses, Avatar costs somewhere between 250 and 500 million dollars and one would think with that kind of investment, Cameron and corporation would have come up with a better script and a more substantial film.  Avatar is riddled with the same level of asinine dialogue that sunk Cameron’s cruise ship, a plot that blatantly echoes Dances with Wolves, hopelessly two-dimensional, stereotyped cardboard villains, and a mixed bag of CGI visuals which often look like Gil Kane comic characters turned into blue rubber toys amidst a computer game version of a Franz Marc rain forest.

Still from Avatar (2009)
Avatar
opens in the distant future on the planet Pandora.  A paraplegic named Jake (Sam Worthington, the latest wooden hunk) is a volunteer on Pandora’s Earthling military base.  The native Pandorans justifiably mistrust the “Sky People” who want to strip-mine their lush world to save a dying Earth.  So, the Sky People have an ingenious plot to infiltrate the Pandorans by linking human consciousness into a Pandoran avatar.  All-American swell guy Jake seems the perfect volunteer, as he is promised his lost legs back.  So, Jake gets turned into a twelve foot blue native.  The problem is that the Sky People need pesky “green” scientists to help them and, naturally those lovers of the land are going to throw a monkey wrench into Operation Pandora.

Predictably, once Jake interacts with the natives, he bonds with them and even falls in love with their princess Neytiri (Zoe Saldana, playing Pocahontas, in all but name.  She Continue reading GUEST REVIEW: AVATAR (2009)

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