PLOT: Yukio is a successful doctor, decorated for his service in the war. His wife Rin is an amnesiac. Yukio discovers he has an identical twin from whom he was separated at birth—a resentful and savage twin, bent on revenge.
Tsukamoto adapted the story from a 1924 short story by Edogawa Rampo (“the Japanese Edgar Allan Poe”).
In an unusual move, fellow director Takashi Miike assembled a 15-minute “making of” featurette to accompany the film on DVD.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Our first glimpse of the twin in the shadows. He looks just like Yukio, but wears ragged robes and a bizarre fur earmuff that covers half of his face. He shakes like he’s having a fit, then approaches the camera by doing cartwheels. It’s scary enough to give someone a heart attack.
TWO WEIRD THINGS: Eyebrowless clan; somersaulting doppelganger
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Pulling back from the unbridled mania of Tetsuo: The Iron Man and similar body-horror experiments, Shinya Tsukamoto proves that he can generate cold sweats with a more subtle, purely psychological approach. With its deep shadows and determined pace, Gemini generates an uncanny horror that seeps into your bones.
PLOT: An offscreen interviewer asks questions of middle-aged Masaru Daisatô, who grows into the giant “Big Man Japan” to fight various monsters who plague the country, as part of a documentary on the superhero’s fading popularity. Far from being honored for protecting the nation from kaiju attacks, Masaru is suffering from low ratings in his late-night time slot, is going through a divorce, and his house is covered in graffiti and vandalized whenever he causes collateral damage. When he flees from one particularly tough monster, his reputation is further damaged, and his retired grandfather (a previous Big Man Japan) leaves the nursing home to take on the kaiju himself.
Previously known in Japan as a comedian, Big Man Japan was Hitoshi Matsumoto’s first feature film.
The film spent five years in development and took a year to shoot.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: The endlessly inventive giant monsters—with creepy human faces pasted on them via the black magic of CGI—are Big Man Japan‘s key visual motif. The Stink Monster, who looks like a cross between a squid and a fleshy flower petal, doesn’t seem like the weirdest kaiju in the stable, until a second Stink Monster shows up to do a wild mating dance that makes him look like a spastic ballerina on speed trying to get lucky at the disco on Saturday night.
TWO WEIRD THINGS: Combover kaiju; Stink Monster mating dance
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: It plays like a genetically modified experiment in corssbreeding Spinal Tap with a late-era Godzilla monster mash, which is strange enough; Big Man Japan is not satisfied with it’s own oddness yet, however, so it takes another unanticipated turn into lunacy in the final act.
PLOT: Ephraim Wilson attempts to escape his troubled past by seeking employ with the Maine Lighthouse Company. His four weeks of labor, under the supervision of the often tyrannical and always erratic Thomas Wake, stretch out indefinitely when the relief crew fails to retrieve them. Trapped on the lonely island, they both find each other to be increasingly vexing company.
The distinct visual texture was achieved through a combination of custom filters and the use of early 20-century lenses. Lighting was also a challenge, with so many lumens required for the exposure that the actors were practically blinded during shoots of some of the close-up scenes.
The Lighthouse‘s soundscape evolved from field recordings of actual weather and tidal events, later mixed in analog in the studio for a heightened, gritty effect.
To sexualize what otherwise would have been a prudish Victorian-style mermaid, Eggers and company drew design ideas by studying shark genitalia.
During production, there was no shortage of seagulls flitting and honking in the background—something appreciated by the filmmakers considerably more during the editing process than during the shoot.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: There are dozens of water-logged shots and scenes of mental deterioration, but the climax of The Lighthouse‘s frenzied, feverish collapse of sanity occurs in the penultimate scene, when the assistant wickie finally slays his demons and achieves his dream of witnessing, first-hand, the mysteries of the light atop the spiral tower.
TWO WEIRD THINGS: Vindictive one-eyed seagull; visions of Neptune
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Eggers made his name with The Witch, exploring madness in an isolated community. With The Lighthouse he elevates the isolation and cranks up the corporeal unpleasantness in a story drained of color, drenched in water, and cramped by pared-down screen edges. The narrative perspective is unreliable, the psychology is toxic, and the obfuscation of water, liquor, sweat, urine, and more saturates both story and image. An ending that demands both a classical education and a willingness to shut up and run with it tops it all off.
FEATURING: Mike Pinkney, Sonja Kinski, Flula Borg, Honey Davis
PLOT: Mike Pinkney is an aspiring director living in East Hollywood, where he dreams of making his passion project: a remake of Carrie featuring an all-cat cast. No one is interested in his work, so he makes ends meet by working as a dog groomer, where he meets a beautiful woman who improbably agrees to go out on a date with him. Unfortunately, his run-down rental house suffers from a rat infestation that threatens to ruin his big chance with his dream girl.
Director Michael Reich and star Mike Pinkney had previously worked as co-directors on music videos for Ryan Adams, the Shins, My Chemical Romance, Yuck, and other bands.
Reich wrote the part explicitly for Pinkney. They took acting classes together to prepare, which is where they met Sonja (daughter of Nastassja, granddaughter of Klaus) Kinski.
The movie was shot in Reich’s own house and neighborhood. Honey Davis, who plays the landlord in the movie, was Reich’s landlord at the time.
Parts of She’s Allergic to Cats were inspired by director’s Michael Reich’s work as a dog groomer in Hollywood, where he expressed the anal glands of pooches belonging to George Carlin and Jake Gyllenhal, among other celebrities.
It took the movie four years from its film festival debut to finally be released on video-on-demand.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Take your pick from two briefly glimpsed images from the climactic montage: a naked woman holding a bowl of rotting bananas while rats crawl over her, or a naked woman whose upper half is a banana. We’ll accept either answer. (If you’re looking for a non-nude pick, Sonja Kinski posing seductively with a DVD of Congo is your go to).
TWO WEIRD THINGS: Sensual dog grooming instructional video; anal gland expression
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: In She’s Allergic to Cats, dog groomer Mike Pinkney bashfully confesses to “making weird video art that nobody wants to watch.” He’s wrong. Somebody wants to watch this portrait of a pathetic artist struggling to make an all-cat version of Carrie while dealing with a rat infestation and an internal video monologue that consists of glitchy nightmares run through a circa 1989 public access AV board. That somebody is you.
FEATURING: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Patrick Fischler, David Yow, Jeremy Bobb
PLOT: Sam has two deadlines: first, figure out what to do about his “criminally” overdue rent before his eviction in five days; second, investigate the mysterious disappearance of the young woman he recently met in his apartment complex. Over the ensuing week, he explores East L.A.’s hidden messages in a quest of discovery, stumbling from conspiracy to conspiracy. Spoiler Alert: he does not solve his rent problem.
The critical and financial success of David Robert Mitchell’s 2014 horror film It Follows gave the writer/director the clout he needed to get Under the Silver Lake, his passion project, made.
The film debuted at Cannes in 2018 to a cool reception. Distributor A24 had originally planned for a summer 2018 release, but pushed it back to December 2018, then again to 2019. Rumors circulated that the film would be recut in the interim to make it shorter and less confusing; thankfully, that did not happen.
The film was a financial flop, making back only about 2 million of its 8 million budget in its theatrical release.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Spending so much time looking quietly bamboozled, any shot of Sam in “investigation mode” is memorable for its combination of mystery and listlessness. The long montage of him pursuing three young women driving a white VW Rabbit convertible nicely mirrors the audience’s journey as we follow him into a dreamland of ever-so-subtly sinister machinations.
TWO WEIRD THINGS: The Homeless King; cereal clues guide you to the tomb
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: What it may lack in specifics, Under the Silver Lake makes up for in volume. At a sprawling 2-and-1/3 hours, the narrative starts at “odd” and stacks on odder and odder. The background events (a serial dog-killer, the disappearance and death of a flamboyant billionaire) are themselves strange, but merely provide the unlikely framework on which Mitchell plasters the following: animated cult ‘zine sequences, another serial killer, a spooky old mansion hiding an existentially depressing secret, and a conspiracy wrap-up beyond our time and place.
PLOT: A boy who survives electrocution while climbing an electrical tower grows up to be “Dragon Eye Morrison,” a human battery and “reptile investigator” who tracks missing lizards and who can only control his violent impulses by playing his electric guitar. Meanwhile, “Thunderbolt Buddha,” a half-man, half-metal being who was also struck by lightning as a child, hears of our hero, and wants to test his electrical superpowers against his counterpart’s. The villainous Buddha provokes a high voltage showdown with Morrison on a Tokyo rooftop.
Sogo Ishii was an established director whose work was influenced by punk music and style. He was an influential figure for Japanese underground filmmakers, but his work is seldom seen outside of his homeland.
Industrial/noise band MACH-1.67, an occasional ensemble that included director Ishii and star Asano, provided the music. They subsequently performed concerts with this film playing in the background.
Composer Hiroyuki Onogawa said he had never written rock music nor worked much with the electric guitar before this project.
The movie was a cult success in Japan, running to packed houses in one theater for two months. Plans for a Part 2 were discussed, but never materialized.
Reports suggest that the film was shot in three days (other accounts say three weeks, and obviously post-production took much, much longer) and largely improvised.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: We’re going to go with the visage of the movie’s villain, a half-man, half-statue. (Beyond the fact that he was struck by lightning as a child, his alloyed origins are never explained.)
TWO WEIRD THINGS: Thunderbolt Buddha, TV repairman; pre-rage noise solo
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: A team of Japanese industrial punks decide to made a surrealistic black and white superhero noise musical. If this sounds awesome to you, we won’t argue.
Singapore sling: O anthropos pou agapise ena ptoma
AKA Singapore Sling: The Man Who Loved a Corpse
“You know the feeling of something half remembered,
Of something that never happened, yet you recall it well;
You know the feeling of recognizing someone
That you’ve never met as far as you could tell…”–Johnny Mercer, “Laura”
PLOT: A detective is searching for a missing girl, Laura, a supposed murder victim with whom he was in love and who he believes is still alive. Suffering from an unexplained bullet wound, he follows the trail to a villa where a psychotic “Daughter” and an equally insane “Mother” live in a sick relationship, hiring servants whom they later kill. When the enfeebled detective stumbles to their door, the two women capture him, dub him “Singapore Sling” after a cocktail recipe they find in his pocket, and use him in their sadomasochistic sex games.
Much of the plot references Otto Preminger‘s classic thriller/film noir, Laura, including prominent use of the famous theme song.
Director Nikos Nikolaidis is well-known in Greece and is sometimes considered the godfather of the “Greek Weird Wave” films (best known in the work of Yorgos Lanthimos). Singapore Sling is his only work that is widely available outside of Greece.
INDELIBLE IMAGE: Warning: there are a lot of images in Singapore Sling which you would probably like to forget, but will be unable to. Among the least objectionable (believe it or not) is Daughter’s memory (?) of losing her virginity to “Father”: he appears as a bandage-swathed mummy.
TWO WEIRD THINGS: Earrings on organs; mummy incest
WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Imagine a cross between Laura and Salo, as directed by a young Luis Buñuel dabbling in pornography, and you’ll have some idea of what you’re in for—but it’s slightly weirder than that.