SATURDAY SHORT: ONEDREAMRUSH (2009)

42Below Vodka came up with a rather ingenious way to promote their product. Rather than sticking to the silly beer commercials we’re accustomed to seeing during Monday Night Football, they paid forty-two directors to each make a forty-two second short relating to dreams, and, to our delight, they all seem to be at least a little weird.

David Lynch is a favorite of ours, and for a good reason. His forty-two second contribution is every bit as haunting as the rest of his work.

Floria Sigismondi, writer and director of The Runaways, has been getting a lot of attention recently, and after viewing her three-quarter of a minute segment, it’s easy to see why.

To see a few more shorts from this project (not all of them, unfortunately), visit the OneDreamRush YouTube page.

READER RECOMMENDATION: HOUSE [HAUSU] (1977)

The third submission in the June review writing contest: by Alex Kittle.

DIRECTOR: Nobuhiko Obayashi

FEATURING: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Yôko Minamida

PLOT: A group of fun-loving Japanese school girls plan to spend their summer at a

Still from House [Hausu] (1977)

beautiful, isolated mansion, but after experiencing some paranormal activity they eventually realize the house itself may want them DEAD!

WHY IT DESERVES TO MAKE THE LIST
:  “Weird” doesn’t even begin to describe this movie.  A floating head, a ravenous piano, sporadic animation, a laughing watermelon, a dancing skeleton, a glowing cat, gusts of wind that only affect one person, a host of aggressive, mobile objects, and a group of girls who REFUSE to acknowledge the weirdness: it defies explanation, really.

COMMENTS
House is a wondrous sight to behold, with delightfully trippy colors, spontaneous animated sequences, and experimental horror imagery; several sequences are reminiscent of home-made youtube music videos.  The effects are noticeably antiquated, but that just adds to the fun!  The entire film is really a collection of incredible, strange, and under-explained moments that left me as incredulous as I was tickled pink.  Cats fly, clocks bleed, mattresses, logs, and floating heads attack, skeletons dance, and a score of other ridiculous, unexpected things happen at every turn.

The bluntly-nicknamed characters are hilariously one-dimensional, each one relegated to her specific interest/trait.  Mac talks about nothing but eating, while Melody is only the focus when there’s a piano in the room (a very… hungry piano).  Fantasy is the only one who plays witness to most of the strange occurrences, and of course no one believes her for her overactive imagination.  Kung-Fu is by far the best character, handling every obstacle with badassery and no questions asked.  Also: she has the best hair.  Supporting characters include the girls’ heavily-sideburned teacher en route to the House but finding an impediment in bananas (that will make sense when you see it, I promise- well as much sense as it can make), a pudgy salesman with talking watermelons, and Gorgeous’s new step-mother, who literally cannot go more than 2 seconds without a gust of wind blowing romantically around her.  It’s a remarkable talent.

The dialogue oscillates between being frivolous and insanely over-dramatic, but the best part about it is its frequent insistence on completely ignoring what’s happening in its own movie.  Most of the weirdest scenes are just passed over by the characters without comment, and that just makes the “WTF?!” factor that much better.  House is a strange, strange, strange film and I absolutely loved it.   It’s hilarious, inventive, utterly unexpected, and lends no comparison to any other movie I’ve seen.  Look for it on Criterion in September 2010!

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“You, my friend, lover that you are of the obscure, the grotesque, the inscrutable, and the just flat-out funky and awe-inspiringly eccentric, have never, ever seen anything like House (aka Hausu). Even by my permanently warped standards, House is beyond the pale: a surreal, indefinable piece of proto-Japanese horror/comedy that was made in 1977 (it was director Obayashi’s debut feature), only to find a second life at Austin’s Fantastia International Film Festival, Sitges, Fantasia Fest, and wherever connoisseurs of the outré, the outrageous, and the seriously freaky gather.”–Marc Savlov, The Austin Chronicle (rerelease)

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 6/25/2010

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):

Dogtooth [Kynodontas] (2009):  A pair of children are sequestered away from the world in a mansion and taught bizarre life lessons by their dictatorial parents in this Greek film that won the “Un Certain Regarde” competition at Cannes last year.  It appears to be only screening in New York City this week; future play dates are uncertain.  We have been waiting for what seems like forever for this one to show up on these shores; hopefully a DVD will be available soon.  Dogtooth official site.

Wild Grass [Les herbes folles] (2009): The latest from now 88-year old Alain (Last Year in Marienbad) Resnais is about a possible romance between a man who finds a red wallet and it’s female owner.  Critics have described it as “fiercely odd” and “wonderfully eccentric,” which sounds just short of weird to us.  In New York this week, Los Angeles starting July 2, and hopefully more cities thereafter. Wild Grass official site.

NEW ON DVD:

Red Desert [Il deserto rosso] (1964):  Michelangelo (Blow Up) Antonini’s first color film is another alienation epic, apparently more concerned with painting a portrait of modern industrial society as hell on earth than with telling a story. From the Criterion Collection, of course. Buy Red Desert (Criterion Collection).

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Death Race 2000 (1975):  Those who only know of the mediocre, generic 2008 remake may be surprised to find out that the original Death Race 2000 was an ahead-of-its-time black comedy about a future in which cartoonish gladiatorial drivers mow down pedestrians to entertain the masses.  It’s also in our reader-suggested review queue. With David Carradine, Sylvester Stallone and Mary Woronov.  Part of the “Roger Corman’s Cult Classics” series. Buy Death Race 2000 [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.

THE LAST TRAIL (1927)

Another slam bang, one-hour, packed oater collaboration from star Tom Mix, director Lewis Seiler and, of course, Tony the Horse.  The story for The Last Trail varies only slightly from the previous year’s Great K & A Train Robbery (both available from Grapevine Video, God love ’em).  Hollywood did not argue with success, even in the 1920s.
TOM MIX THE LAST TRAIL
Tom Mix is introduced as, yup, Tom, who has the fastest gun, the fastest horse, and the fastest smile in the west.  Tom has just saved Joe Pacal’s wife from marauding Indians.  A grateful Joe (Lee Shumway) tells Tom (as he hugs his wife), “We’ll name the first one after you, Tom!”

Ten years later Tom receives a letter from Joe and learns that Joe’s wife has recently passed away.  Plus, Joe is now sheriff and is having a heck of a time with a series of stagecoach robberies.  “Can you come and help, Tom? Besides, little Tommy wants to meet ya!”

True to his code, Tom comes, but not in the nick of time.  Tom finds Joe driving a stagecoach as he flees from bandits after gold.  One of the bad guys shoots Joe.  Nita Carrol (Carmelita Geraghty) is a neighbor who has been helping raise little Tommy since Joe’s wife died, and Nita has might purty legs, so we just know she’s set up to be Tom’s love interest.  Nita is on the coach with Joe in hot flight when Tom drives off the robbers.  Tom safely escorts them into town, telling the townspeople, “I saved your gold, but they got my old pal.”

Joe dies in Tom’s arms, but not before he hands him his badge, charge of little Tommy, and a black book, which gives the names of suspected bad guys.  Joe tells Tom, “Looks like the last trail for me” and expires.

With Tom as the new Sheriff, the bad guys are concerned: “Hold-ups ain’t safe with that gun totin’ cyclone on horseback actin’ as Sheriff.”  Time for them to come up with dastardly plots to rid themselves of our hero.

Meanwhile, the owners of the stagecoach line are sick and tired of the robberies, so they decide to hold a stagecoach race, with the winner getting their contract as the prize.

Tom is having a time adjusting to fatherhood.  Little Tommy hates baths and cough syrup.  Tom flings his lasso to catch his fleeing charge, but reels in Nita instead.  Tom and Nita engage in an eye batting contest.  Then, Tom finds out about the stagecoach race from Kurt Morley (Willam B. Davidson), who is the man behind the robberies and, naturally, also has a thing for Nita.  Morley accuses Tom of not living up to his promise to clean up the town.  Tom tells the rude Morley, “If there wasn’t a lady present I’d clean up this town’s mangiest coyote right now.”

Morley orders Tom’s death and his gang blow up Tom’s house, so they are surprised to see Tom show up for the stagecoach race the next day, alive and healthy.

The stagecoach race gives Ramon Novarro and Francis X. Bushman a run for their money, with, again, Tom doing all of his own fantastic stunts and no CGI in sight.  Tom saves the day, gets the girl, wins the race, and nabs the villains . One should expect no less from the likes of Tom Mix.

To top off a perfect evening, Grapevine Video adds a silent Felix the Cat cartoon, “Sure-Locked Holmes,” which was delightfully surreal enough to make me cave in with the chocolate raisins.

60. ELEVATOR MOVIE (2004)

“I think it was from taking the elevator to my dorm room every day in college.  I developed this weird thing with elevators.  It wasn’t fetishistic or anything, I was just always thinking about the elevator, and you know how you feel your stomach move a bit when an elevator first starts or stops?  I would feel that at random times in the day when I wasn’t in an elevator, and I would feel like the ground was just a rising elevator platform.  I was also very shy at the time and I started to look forward to taking the elevator every day because it was the rare time I might be forced into a social situation with someone.”–Zeb Haradon on the origins of Elevator Movie

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Zeb Haradon, Robin Ballard

PLOT:  A woman carrying groceries is trapped in an elevator with a socially inept graduate student. Oddly, no one answers when they push the call button, and no one comes for days and weeks on end; even more oddly, her grocery bag is refilled each morning. As the weeks stretch into months, the mismatched pair—an adult virgin obsessed with anal sex and a reformed slut turned Jesus freak—form a sick symbiotic bond, until the girl undergoes a weird metamorphosis.

Still from Elevator Movie (2004)

BACKGROUND:

  • Per director Haradon, the budget for the film was between twenty-five and thirty thousand dollars.
  • According to a statement on the official website the main influences on the story were Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot,” the films of Luis Buñuel (particularly That Obscure Object of Desire and The Exterminating Angel), and Eraserhead.
  • Although the mouse-stomping scene was faked, the end of the film shows a joke disclaimer that proclaims, “No animals were harmed in the making of this film except for lobsters and mice.”  Haradon received angry mails from animal rights advocates who believed that a mouse was actually killed onscreen.
  • Hardon’s followup film was the documentary Waiting for NESARA (2005), about a bizarre UFO cult composed of ex-Mormons.
  • The 2008 Romanian film Elevator features a similar dramatic scenario of a young man and woman trapped together in a cargo elevator, but without any surrealistic elements.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Lana, after she inexplicably transforms into a metal/human hybrid.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD:  By mixing Sartre’s “No Exit” with an ultra-minimalist riff on Buñuel’s The Exterminating Angel, garnished with large dollops of fantastical sexual depravity and a pinch of body horror, writer/director/star Zeb Haradon created one of the weirder underground movies of recent years. The absurdist script is exemplary, and the simplicity of the one-set scenario means that the movie’s technical deficiencies don’t stick out, and could even add to the oddness.


Original trailer for Elevator Movie (WARNING: trailer contains profanity and sexual situations)

COMMENTS: I have to start this review of with a confession/apology: when I first Continue reading 60. ELEVATOR MOVIE (2004)

CAPSULE: THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS [LA CASA DALLE FINISTRE CHE RIDONO] (1976)

AKA The House of the Laughing Windows

DIRECTED BY: Pupi Avati

FEATURING: Lino Capolicchio, Francesca Marciano, Gianni Cavina, Giulio Pizzirani, Tonino Corazzari

PLOT: An art historian becomes embroiled in a sick mystery when he arrives in a rural village to restore a religious painting.

Still from The House With Laughing Windows (1976)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  Giallo films always tend to be a little bent when compared to U.S. horror movies.  Despite the strange characters, unsettling tone and death-fetish subject matter, La casa dalle finestre che ridono is not weird by Euro-thriller standards.  In fact, it plays out like a conventional mystery,

COMMENTS:  Producers of Italian Euro-thrillers have rarely constrained themselves by strictly adhering to regimented structure, timing and consistency.  La casa dalle finestre che ridono, aka The House With Laughing Windows, like Suspiria or Baba Yaga is an exception.  It retains the feel of a giallo film, yet stands up to conventional Hollywood standards.  This makes it a candidate for conventional thriller audiences.  The House With Laughing Windows is more of a mystery than a horror movie, yet still qualifies for the “shocker” designation.  As a puzzler, it is not exactly up to Agatha Christie standards of construction, but what it lacks in precision, it makes up for in color and atmosphere.  There are a couple of slow spots, but overall this gory film demands attention with its curious plot, steady, brooding pace, and consistently suspenseful, creepy feel.

Stefano (Capolicchio) is an art historian and restoration specialist who is summoned to an eerie parish to complete a long unfinished fresco in an equally eerie church.  The painting was supposedly never completed, but closer examination reveals that certain parts were intentionally obfuscated by being painted over.  The seeds of Stefano’s undoing lie in his urge to uncover what lies beneath.

The grim fresco depicts the violent torture death of Saint Sebastiano.  It is the work of Continue reading CAPSULE: THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS [LA CASA DALLE FINISTRE CHE RIDONO] (1976)

CAPSULE: MEMENTO (2000)

Must See

DIRECTED BY: Christopher Nolan

FEATURING: , ,

PLOT:  A man suffering from an inability to form short term memories hunts for his wife’s murderer, relying on notes he leaves himself and important facts he tattoos on his body.

Still from Memento (2000)
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  It isn’t weird.  Other than the unconventional narrative structure, Memento could even be viewed as a bit of hardcore realism.   But it is easy to see why lovers of the weird are attracted to it; the cloudy mystery that attaches to the story and its central cipher doesn’t lift until the very end, creating a disorientation that feels subjectively weird even though the story is actually firmly grounded in reality.

COMMENTS: Here, I’ll make it easy for you with this paragraph.  To appreciate just how intricately Memento is constructed, and how big of an accomplishment the movie is, try reading the sentences in a story or essay backwards, from the last to the first, and see how much sense they make and how satisfying the experience is.  This time, it’s executed flawlessly.  The movie is epistemologically pessimistic, but artistically invigorating; it’s one of those rare, unique plot hooks that come around once or twice a decade, and you can only hope the filmmakers don’t compromise and do invest the extra work required to pull it off.  It’s a simple concept but far more than a gimmick; the inversion of cause and effect works wonders.  Nothing distracts our attention from trying to unravel the puzzle.  The direction and the performances by the three principals are professionally transparent; the script is the star, as it should be in a mystery.  Leonard insists that memory is faulty, eye witness testimony is unreliable, and that the only thing he can depend on is facts—the notes he inks indelibly on his own body—but as the story works its way from the conclusion to the origin, we start to suspect that there may be nothing that we can accept at face value.  It quickly becomes apparent that it would be Continue reading CAPSULE: MEMENTO (2000)

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE

Readers, don’t forget, there’s still a little time left to enter the June review-writing contest for a chance to win DVDs of Frankensteins Bloody Nightmare and Burning Inside. We have 4 entries total so far, 2 of which have already been published, so those odds aren’t too bad. Details here.

Reviews scheduled to appear on the site next week: Pamela de Graff is back after a short hiatus to give us the lowdown on the 1976 giallo The House with Laughing Windows.  We’ll get back to tackling the reader-suggested review queue with a discussion of Christopher Nolan’s groundbreaking thriller Memento. And we’ll be giving our old, outdated review of the undeservedly obscure Elevator Movie a complete makeover (and a promotion).

It was a good week for weird search terms used to locate the site. The usual perverts passed through looking for “sexo in Arkansas” and “whors of Mexico.” And we have to appreciate the person who was searching for “366 Weird Movies Academy,” though the request was a litte premature: the Academy isn’t scheduled to open until 2012. Our favorite search term of the week, however, describes an unknown movie we’d love to see: “video of a bunny running and getting talking weird but at the he hits himself.’

But we have to comment on a disturbing trend: more and more people seem to be searching for “strange movies” (we even noticed someone looking for “366 Strange Movies”). Guys, it’s weird movies, not strange movies. There’s no such genre as “strange movies.” Don’t be afraid to go all the way to weird!

Here’s the ever-growing reader-suggested review queue: Trash Humpers (we’re waiting for the DVD release); Memento (coming next week); Kwaidan; Six-String Samurai; Andy Warhol’s Trash; Altered States; Nightmare Before Christmas/Vincent/Frankenweenie; The Science of Sleep; 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]; Necromentia; 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; Kairo [AKA Pulse]; The Guatemalan Handshake; Dead Leaves; The Seventh Seal; Primer; Maniac (1934); Hausu; A Boy and His Dog; 200 Motels; Walkabout; Private Parts (1972); Saddest Music in the World; Mulholland Drive; The American Astronaut; Blood Tea and Red Strings; The Films of Kenneth Anger, Vol. II (for Lucifer Rising, among others); Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory ; The Bride of Frank; La Grande Bouffe; Uzumaki [Spiral]; Hedwig and the Angry Inch; Even Dwarves Started Small; Bunny & the Bull; “I Killed My Lesbian Wife, Hung Her on a Meat Hook, and Now I Have a Three-Picture Deal at Disney” (assuming I can find it); Cinema 16: European Short Films; Freaked; Session 9; Schizopolis; Strings; Dellamorte Dellamore [AKA Cemetery Man]; The Hour-glass Sanatorium [Saanatorium pod klepsidra]; The Addiction; Liquid Sky; The Quiet; Shock Treatment; Tuvalu; “Zombie Jesus” (if we can locate it); 3 Dev Adam; Fantastic Planet; “Twin Peaks” (TV series); Society; May; The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension; Little Otik; Final Programme; Careful; Sweet Movie; The Triplets of Belleville; “Foutaises” (short); Johnny Suede; “Jam” (TV, UK, 2000), The Tale of the Floating World, Un Chien Andalou, Bloodsucking Freaks; Fellini Satyricon; Three Crowns of the Sailor; 8 1/2; Death Race 2000; Dororo; Lost Highway; Valerie and Her Week of Wonders; Dogville; and Julien Donkey-boy; Amelie; The Ten; The 7 Faces of Dr. Lao; 1; Fast, Cheap and Out of Control; Tokyo Gore Police; At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul; The Trial [Le procès) (1962); Marquis; Hell Comes to Frogtown; Hellzapoppin’; Seom [The Isle]; Allegro Non Troppo; Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus; Lust in the Dust; Celine and Julie Go Boating; “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life;” The Magic Christian; Black Cat, White Cat; The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T; Abnormal: The Sinema of Nick Zedd; Robot Monster; Nightdreams; 3 Women; Rubin & Ed; Teeth; Vera; Funny Games; Weirdsville; Prospero’s Books; Inferno; Garden State; Persona; and The Real McCoy.

WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 6/18/2010

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):

Jonah Hex (2010): Possibly the weirdest looking summer blockbuster (with the exception of Christoper Nolan’s Inception), this adaptation of a relatively obscure DC comics mixes the western and fantasy genres with action movie cliches.  The fact that certain sequences in the trailer look to be inspired by Django (and even Jodorowsky) is a plus, lack of buzz and no advance screenings combine to make a big minus. With Josh Brolin, John Malkovich, and ubiquitous eye candy Megan Fox.  A long shot for weirdness, but the summer doldrums are upon us. Jonah Hex official site.

NEW ON DVD:

Mary and Max (2009): This Australian claymation release about an unlikely online friendship between an eight-year old goth girl in Melbourne and a friendless middle-aged New Yorker with Asperger’s syndrome is currently languishing in our reader-suggested review queue. This DVD release helps its reviewability. Buy Mary and Max.

Mystery Train (1989):  This anthology of three short films set in Memphis is not particularly weird, though Elvis’ ghost does appear.  This Criterion Collection release is notable for Jim Jarmusch completists, however. Buy Mystery Train (Criterion Collection).

NEW ON BLU-RAY:

Mary and Max (2009): See entry in DVD above. Buy Mary and Max [Blu-ray].

Mystery Train (1989): See entry in DVD above. Buy Mystery Train (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray].

NEW ON ITUNES:

Burning Inside (2010): Read our capsule review.  Priced at $4.99.  We’re not going to be tracking everything that’s released on ITunes, at least not until this format gets a much larger market share, but it is interesting to note this new distribution avenue for independent films. Buy Burning Inside at Itunes.

FREE (LEGITIMATE RELEASE) MOVIES ON YOUTUBE:

Samurai Princess (2009):  Another Japanese splatterpunk fantasy in the Meatball Machine vein.  In a weird mythical fantasy forest fusing feudal elements with modern anachronisms, a rape victim is turned into a “mecha” and infused with the eleven souls of her fellow victims to seek revenge.  A review of this one has been pending for quite a while (it’s also available on Netflix streaming, where I saw it); it’s not great, but fans of the genre will get the weird gore they’re looking for.   Shocked to see this show up on YouTube.  Watch Samurai Princess 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.

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