WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 4/19/2018

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):

Hagasuzza: A Heathen’s Curse [Hagazussa] (2017): A 15th century woman in an Alpine village is (appropriately) accused of witchcraft. This German art-house horror is receiving nearly universal critical acclaim. Hagazussa official Facebook page.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2018): Toby, once an idealistic student filmmaker and now a director of commercials, revisits Spain to find the old shoemaker he cast as his lead in his “Don Quixote” student film now believes he is Quixote and Toby is Sancho Panza. Have you been following this? After a successful “one night only” Fathom screening, Terry Gilliam‘s “cursed” film gets a limited release after all. P.S.: it’s good. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote official site.

Under the Silver Lake (2018): Read Giles Edwards’ review. ‘s trippy conspiracy-noir bombed at Cannes and the release was repeatedly pushed back; there were rumors that distributor A24 was going to have the film re-edited, but they appear to have been scrapped. Will debut on VOD shortly (April 22, to be exact) after a very limited theatrical release. Under the Silver Lake official site.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Diamonds of the Night (1964): Two Jewish boys escape from a Nazi train carrying them to a concentration camp into a surrealistic countryside. A classic from that’s been long-unavailable, now rescued by the Criterion Collection and available on DVD or Blu-ray (and probably on their new streaming channel soon enough). Buy Diamonds of the Night.

Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987): Two comely secret agents accidentally come into possession of stolen diamonds which lead them to a drug kingpin. The amazing 80s and 90s films of Andy Sidaris repeated the same campy formula over and over—ex-Playboy Playmates cast as secret agents, bounteous T&A, ersatz James Bond chicanery—but this one is the most ridiculous of them all, featuring a blow-up doll destroyed by a bazooka and a deadly cancer-infected snake (!) Mill Creek releases it restored on Blu-ray with behind-the-scenes features: what an age we live in! Buy Hard Ticket to Hawaii.

Keoma (1976): A half-breed (Franco Nero) returns from his wanderings to find his hometown faced with a plague and led by a corrupt mayor, assisted by his three hateful half-brothers. A very odd (though maybe not totally weird) Spaghetti Western that’s very self-conscious in its mythologizing, with a symbolic crucifixion, a witch only Keoma can see running around spouting prophecies, and a bizarre soundtrack where the singers simply describe exactly what’s happening onscreen. Arrow Blus it this week in a lavish special edition. Buy Keoma.

The Manitou (1978): That tumor on Susan Strasberg’s back turns out to be the reincarnated fetus of an ancient evil spirit. Maybe William Girdler’s best (and final) movie, which is to say it’s an incompetent hoot that at least has Tony Curtis embarrassing himself as a psychic who fights it out out with the Native American spirit by playing a game of live-action “Asteroids.” A Shout! Factory Blu-ray release. Buy The Manitou.

The Texture of Falling (2018): Two intertwined nonlinear stories: an affair between an aspiring filmmaker and a concert pianist intercut with another couple who are into bondage and discipline. This debut from Portland-based Maria Allred bills itself as a “controversial and surrealist feature film” and is available (exclusively) on Amazon Prime. Watch The Texture of Falling.

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.

YOU LINK US! YOU REALLY LINK US!:

Gregory J. Smalley‘s review of Viy (1967) was quoted in Alison Nastasi’s list of 50 Visually Stunning Horror Movies for Twisted Aesthetes for Flavorwire. Nearly every movie on the list is reviewed in these pages (and 19 of them joined the Canonically Weird list), so we endorse it.

WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE: Next week will be the finals of the March Mad Movie Madness tournament (which is good, because we wouldn’t want this thing to run into May). As you read this, there’s still time to vote in the semifinals (although Eraserhead and The Holy Mountain have built such incredible leads that it’s hard to see any other permutation of finalists).

As far as new articles go, we will have at least two. Ryan Aarset brings you the scoop on Clair Denis’ trippy sci-fi feature High Times (in theaters now). And Gregory J. Smalley promises bring you at least one new review, but we can’t tell you exactly what it is because he’s failed to submit it yet. (We’d fire the cad for tardiness, but he controls the bank account and has the keys to the 366 yacht). And who knows, something else could always drop into our submission box between now and next Friday.

Onward and weirdward!

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.

CAPSULE: PIERCING (2018)

DIRECTED BY: Nicolas Pesce

FEATURING: Christopher Abbott, , Laia Costa

PLOT: Reed has a good job, a loving wife, a cherished newborn daughter, hallucinations, and a (hopefully satiable) lust to kill; he checks into a hotel planning to get his bloodlust out of his system by murdering a call girl, but the woman who arrives may be more than a match for him.

Still from Piercing (2018)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It’s slick and sick, but plays like a milder version of a film that already made the List.

COMMENTS: Piercing will play better if you’ve never seen Audition, but if you have seen the older film, you may find that the newer one suffers (hee hee) by comparison to its sadistic sister. Piercing is adapted from ‘s 1994 novel of the same name. The author reworked the same general sadomasochistic theme three years later for “Ôdishon.” In doing so, Murakami improved the scenario by making the male protagonist more sympathetic and the female antagonist more mysterious. That’s not to say Piercing is unworthy of your time, or that you will always know exactly where it’s heading, but Audition initiates should prepared for a little bit of a disappointment.

Director Nicolas Pesce explored similarly dark territory in his debut, The Eyes of My Mother, which he shot in rustic and minimalistic grayscale. Here, he goes for a much richer stylistic palette, with a Technicolor style showcasing deep reds and mahogany wood paneling. The opening, in fact, puts us in mind of Rear Window, with the camera panning over an artificial mosaic of skyscrapers, inside whose windows we can imagine individual dramas playing out. Hitchcock, of course, would never have added an infant girl who tells daddy “you know what you have to do” in a creepy baritone.

Pesce creates a genteel atmosphere—a world where men put on ties to meet call girls, hookers wear stocking and fur coats, everyone drinks their spirits on the rocks before getting down to business, and guys use embroidered silk handkerchiefs to douse their dates with choloroform. The soundtrack is a selection of smooth and sophisticated pop, including “The Girl from Impanema” and needle drops from classic gialli like Profondo Rosso; even the most cloying number, the mellow folk-rocker “Bluer than Blue,” is given the best possible treatment. The hotel room and apartment interiors all look like 60s penthouse bachelor pads, with sunken living rooms and dramatic wall-mounted half-moon sconces, very mid-century modern. All the elegant trappings of civilization, of course, only serve to disguise the depravity and barbarism squirming inside the characters’ souls.

Abbott and Wasikowski are perfectly cast. He is superficially suave, but constantly bumbling as he hides his guilty secret; Wasikowski, keeping her natural Australian accent, is a psychotic pixie dream girl who lets on very quickly that she’s not quite all there. They are a perfect match. In terms of gruesomeness, Pesce doesn’t go quite as far as would, but he is willing to go quite a ways, and you should find yourself squirming often. Abbott’s casual hallucinations—he constantly carries on conversations with people who encourage him to carry out his secret murderous plan—keep things interesting, and cast doubt on Wasikowski’s character. Is she really as depraved as he is, or is it just his projection of her as a willing victim/collaborator in his elaborate fantasy? A grotesque dream sequence (scored to the aforementioned soft-rock hit) also mirrors the surrealistic excursion of Audition, and although it is put in service of revealing backstory, there are still some tremendously eerie moments here, with a scorpion-bug monster scurrying from out of a toilet to harass our paralyzed protagonist.

For an evening of dangerous fun, refined sickos could do a lot worse than Piercing. Pesce reaffirms his talent while broadening his range. He’s come close to a breakthrough weird movie with his first two films; his next project is a remake of Ju-on [The Grudge], after which we’re hoping he will be able to come through with something that will really blow our socks off.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The movie gains momentum as it indulges in hallucinogenic phantasmagoria.”–Glenn Kenny, The New York Times (contemporaneous)

CAPSULE: THE FIFTH CORD (1971)

DIRECTED BY: Luigi Bazzoni

FEATURING: , Silvia Monti, Wolfgang Preiss, Renato Romano

PLOT: A newspaper investigative reporter is obligated to turn full detective as a series of murders seemingly tie together everybody in his life in a labyrinthine web of intrigue.

Still from The Fifth Cord (1971)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The only remotely possible way you could call this movie weird is if you had never seen a giallo before. It’s not just a giallo, it’s a stereotypical giallo just short of a scathing parody of the genre. It wouldn’t even make the list of the 366 mildly quirkiest movies.

COMMENTS: I have to break my usual mold with this one, because The Fifth Cord is just a special case. On the one hand, make no mistake, this is a good movie overall. It’s breathtakingly shot, handsomely mounted, beautifully scored, and is in fact a stand-out example of its genre. But when it comes to the plot… Italian giallo is a genre known for soap opera plotting that stretches credibility, but The Fifth Cord just takes that sucker to another level. It’s like twenty seasons of “Days of Our Lives” packed into a clown car. Giallo also has a reputation for being derivative, but this movie goes straight to the movie cliché Dollar Store and maxes out its credit card. This gives you two choices: try, in spite of the pumpernickel fruitcake structure, to follow the story (bring a notepad and a bottle of adderall), or ignore the yammering yarn and resign yourself to oohing and aahing at the pretty pictures and atmospheric scenes. Let us start down the first path and see how far we get into The Hyperthyroid Yarn From Hell:

Through the opening credits we witness a New Year’s Eve party at an Italian watering hole. Normally that’s movie-talk for “go ahead and get your drink, nothing important is happening yet.” But no, this is actually the most important New Year’s Eve party in film history, because everybody here is interconnected, and most of them are going to end up dead. At the party is one Julia, who takes her date under a bridge the next day, and Walter, a teacher who happens to be walking through a nearby tunnel at the same time. Walter is clubbed by a shadowy attacker, and Julia is first on the scene as the assailant flees. Walter ends up in the hospital. The main character, Andrea Bild (Franco Nero), is a newspaper reporter dispatched to cover this crime, although Bild is in fact more of a hardboiled detective straight out of a Dashiell Hammett novel. At the hospital Bild meets Dr. Riccardo Bini (Renato Romano), who stonewalls him, and the more helpful police inspector (Wolfgang Preiss), who directs him to Julia, who slams a door in his face.

Bild goes back to the home he shares with his cheesecake mistress Lu, but she checks out, so he visits his old flame Helene (Silvia Monti), who knows Walter, since they teach at the same school. While he’s following up on her leads, Dr. Bini is at home with his crippled wife Sofia. The doctor gets called out on an emergency that Continue reading CAPSULE: THE FIFTH CORD (1971)

CAPSULE: THE BURIAL OF KOJO (2018)

Recommended

DIRECTED BY: Sam Blitz Bazawule

FEATURING: Cynthia Dankwa, Joseph Otisiman, Kobina Amissah-Sam, Mamley Djangmah, Ama Abebrese

PLOT: With the help of a sacred bird, Esi  races to free her father Kojo after a suspicious fall into a mineshaft.

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: The Burial of Kojo seamlessly combines elements of cinematic neo-realism and narrative magical realism: it’s a fantastical story that isn’t weird so much as beautifully told.

COMMENTS: The Burial of Kujo is an allegorical tale told as a meta-meta-narrative: a story delivered as a story about a storyteller. Sam “Blitz” Bazawule weaves together disparate stylistic threads to craft an inspiring vision about loss, of both family and of history, and wonder. Its simple cinematic magic pins the action in a realm that is both of this world, and of the next; as explained by the story-teller, “where the earth meets the sky and everyone stands upside-down.” It is like a reflection in a lake: what you see is not so much real as an undulating facsimile of gritty reality in the distorting purity of clear water.

Kojo (Joseph Otsiman) is a dreamer, and a man on the run from his own guilt. Having moved from the city to a mystical lake-town on stilts, he meets his new love Ama (Mamley Djangmah), but cannot find consistent happiness with her. His daughter, Esi (Cynthia Dankwa), is an enchanting girl born in the lake-enclosed town. But something haunts Kojo, and that something starts haunting Esi’s dreams. In Esi’s visions, a sinister crow pursues a blessed bird that is left with her for safekeeping by a blind visitor. When Kojo is pulled back into the city by a visitation from his brother, his destiny begins to unfold as the tragedy he fled comes back to the fore.

Using magical realism as the film’s lens is a perfect way to frame this uplifting tragedy, a tale told through the eyes of a young girl. Lyrical camera work, with simple tricks like picture inversion over moving water or “realist dream” sequences, adds a desirable degree of separation between what is seen and what is real. Esi’s encounter with the blind visitor, who inexplicably finds his way by boat to the island town, anchors the film’s pervading mysticism, and in so doing gives the girl the power she needs to navigate her way through what is in essence a sorrowful story about the death of a broken man who is touched by nature’s spirits and his people’s mythology.

It is no spoiler to reveal that Kojo is fated to die from the outset: that reveal is provided right in the title. The narrator is a obviously a grown woman looking back on her early childhood memories. But The Burial of Kojo continues to surprise at every turn. Using the style of traditional African legends, Buzawule imparts bitter-sweet wonders through his young protagonist. And throughout the film he pulls off the impressive stunt of including social commentary without brazen moralizing. The Burial of Kojo is one of the better movies to denied an official space on the list: its exclusion should not be interpreted as a reason to forego its wondrousness.

The Burial of Kojo is streaming exclusively on Netflix for the time being.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“… a visionary fable drenched with vibrancy and lyricism… As grounded in reality as it is informed by outright fantasy, ‘The Burial of Kojo’ is deceptively simple, unfolding in the soothing, singsong manner of a child’s fragmentary dream, but containing within it myriad truths about an Africa where economic exploitation and co­lo­ni­al­ism have taken on new forms and accents.”–Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post (contemporaneous)

MARCH MAD MOVIE MADNESS TOURNAMENT: THE FREAKY 4

From an original 366 contenders, we’re down to the Freaky Four. Three more matches will determine our most popular weird movie of all time.

A special shout-out to Naked Lunch, who made it all the way to a special overtime round before falling to Un Chien Andalou. It deserves mention as the 5th most popular weird movie.

Here are the official Freaky 4, along with the path they took to make it this far:

The Holy Mountain (1973): defeated Playtime (1967), 135-33; defeated The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), 105-36; defeated Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), 108-45; defeated Valerie and Her Week of Wonders (1970), 107-46; defeated Spirited Away (2001), 78-55; defeated 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), 106-65.

Suspiria (1977): defeated Hour of the Wolf [Vargtimmen] (1968), 87-24; defeated Vertigo (1958), 123-39; defeated Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), 96-68; defeated The Hourglass Sanatorium (1973), 109-36; defeated Donnie Darko (2001), 93-48; defeated Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989), 94-77.

Un Chien Andalou (1929): defeated Forbidden Zone (1982), 76-49; defeated The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), 76-39; defeated Daisies [Sedmikrásky] (1966), 77-61; defeated Akira (1988), 83-71; defeated El Topo (1970), 69-65; defeated Naked Lunch, 93-91.

Eraserhead (1977): defeated Evil Dead II (1987), 99-29; defeated A Clockwork Orange (1971), 102-33; defeated The Exterminating Angel [El àngel exterminador] (1962), 117-30; defeated The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), 112-41; defeated Häxan [Witchcraft Through the Ages] (1922), 111-34; defeated Mulholland Drive (2001), 151-51.

You can see the full results and progress of the entire tournament here: https://challonge.com/tsut4018 (note that this link is just for viewing results. You must vote using the forms below.)

Now it’s time to remove two more contenders and set up the final death match.

You may vote once every 24 hours. This round closes at midnight, EST Apr. 19.

Get to voting below! (No wagering, please.)



WEIRD HORIZON FOR THE WEEK OF 4/12/2019

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):

Long Day’s Journey Into Night (2018): A movie in two inscrutable parts: a nonlinear mosaic of memories, and a dream. It does not appear to have much, if anything, to do with Eugene O’Neill’s play, but rather is the sophomore effort from Chinese director , whose debut film, Kaili Blues, was also mystical and obtuse. Long Day’s Journey Into Night official site.

NEW ON HOME VIDEO:

Mega Time Squad (2018): Read Giles Edwards’ mini-review and listen to his interview with director Tim Van Dammen. This New Zealand set time-travel caper comedy makes it to DVD and Blu-ray. Buy Mega Time Squad.

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’S IN THE PIPELINE: Next week we’ll continue our Mad March Movie Madness tournament (yes, we know it’s April), and we should even start the final round. As for reviews, we’ll have at least two, as Giles Edwards reports on Netflix’s African magical realist feature The Burial of Kojo and G. Smalley brings you at least one review (Piercing, an adaptation of a novel by the guy who wrote the original Audition, with a similar sadomasochistic theme). Since this column will appear on Good Friday next week, we might take off Maundy Thursday instead… of we might sneak in another review. In either case, onward and weirdward!

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!