Category Archives: Apocryphally Weird

43*. ADULT SWIM YULE LOG [AKA THE FIREPLACE] (2022)

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“Poor men, when yule is cold,
Must be content to sit by little fires.”
Alfred Lord Tennyson, “The Holy Grail”

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Andrea Laing, Justin Miles, Charles Green, Tordy Clark, Brendan Patrick Connor

PLOT: We open on a shot of a crackling yule log. After a few minutes, a cleaning woman enters and begins vacuuming in preparation for the arrival of a couple who have rented the cabin, but is interrupted by a ringing doorbell. More people arrive at the cabin—it turns out it has been accidentally double-booked—along with many unwanted guests, including the Little Man in the Fireplace.

Still from adult swim yule log [AKA The Fireplace] (2020)

BACKGROUND:

  • “Adult Swim,” the Cartoon Network’s late-night programming branch, dropped this feature-film special into their lineup on Dec. 11, 2022, with no previous notice or promotion.
  • Yule log videos began in 1966 on NY TV station WPIX, which broadcast looped footage of a crackling log in a fireplace accompanied by Christmas music in place of normal programming on Christmas Day. The format was popular enough that enterprising companies eventually released “Yule Log” videos on VHS tape and DVD.
  • Writer/director Casper Kelly caught the world by surprise with his viral sitcom introduction spoof “Too Many Cooks” in 2014. That success encouraged Panos Cosmatos to contract Kelly to direct the memorable “Cheddar Goblin” sequence in Mandy. He has worked on a couple of TV projects in the past year, but hasn’t scheduled another feature film project (yet?)

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The Little Man Inside the Fireplace, a true Southern gentleman in a seersucker suit, lounging inside his room housed within the flaming log, attended by his stag-headed bartender. It is, the Man proclaims, like that meme with the dog in the burning house: “this is fine.” Only it’s not.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Nurse Nutmeg, flashback-quoting flying log

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: A Yule Log that turns into a conflagration that blazes across genres, Adult Swim’s Yule Log is much more than a gimmick: it’s a truly weird horror film that mixes absurdist comedy, slasher movie parody, genuine tension, a truly goofy antagonist, and thoughtful criticism of America’s past. It’s always an unpredictable surprise. So accept your time privilege, grab a Nurse Nutmeg, and sit down by the fire to enjoy the soothing chaos of Adult Swim’s Yule Log. Yule like it.


First 3 minutes of Adult Swim Yule Log

COMMENTS: It would have been amazing if The Adult Swim Yule Log Continue reading 43*. ADULT SWIM YULE LOG [AKA THE FIREPLACE] (2022)

42.* VINYAN (2008)

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DIRECTED BY: Fabrice du Welz

FEATURING: Emmanuelle Béart, , Petch Osathanugrah, Julie Dreyfus

PLOT: Months after their son was lost in the tsunami that devastated Phuket, Jeanne and Paul see a video that suggests the boy might be alive deep in the Burmese jungle. They undertake a perilous voyage into Myanmar to find him, but encounter increasing danger and incomprehensible conditions. As their guides continue to make demands and lead them deeper into unfamiliar territory, Paul becomes more and more skeptical, but Jeanne remains resolved to find her child.

Still from Vinyan (2008)

BACKGROUND

  • The title is a term defined within the film as a spirit that has died a horrible death, becoming confused and angry and haunting the living world. The word may have been invented for this movie.
  • Du Welz’s second feature film, following Calvaire.
  • Filmed on location in Thailand, where in 2004 the Boxing Day tsunami killed nearly 5,400 people, including 2,000 foreign tourists.
  • Petch Osathanugrah passed away in August 2023 after living a remarkably varied life. Vinyan is his only credited acting role, but he was also a pop singer, art collector, president of Bangkok University, and CEO of the Osotspa beverage company, which manufactures the M-150 energy drink.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The final shot of the movie features despairing mother Jeanne giving herself over to the angry spirits of the region’s lost children, smiling deliriously while the white-painted boys caress and smear mud on her naked body. Immediately following a shocking burst of violence, the scene is a potent vision of both her psychological state and the primal landscape that has subsumed her.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Hungry old white people are funny; an ancient temple appears

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: An unexpected blend of Don’t Look Now and Apocalypse Now, Vinyan builds horror out of unrelenting grief in a violently hostile world. The deeper we go into both the wilds of the Burmese coast and into the heroine’s desperation, the more disturbing the setting becomes, and the more inevitably tragic the characters’ fate.

Original trailer for Vinyan

COMMENTS: Vinyan begins as a horror story that has already concluded: a child has been lost in a terrible cataclysm. This would be Continue reading 42.* VINYAN (2008)

41*. THE SERVANT (1963)

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“The truth of the independent consciousness is accordingly the consciousness of the servant… being a consciousness repressed within itself, it will enter into itself, and change around into the real and true independence.”–G.W.F. Hegel, “The Master-Slave Dialectic”

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: , , Wendy Craig,

PLOT: Hard-drinking playboy and would-be colonialist Tony hires the solicitous Barret as a manservant, despite the fact that his fiancée takes a dislike to the new employee. Barret convinces Tony to hire his sister as a maid, which sets off a chain of events that eventually leads to the master dismissing both servants. Tony’s drinking intensifies, however, and he invites his servant to return to the house; gradually, the roles of master and servant are reversed.

Still from The Servant (1963)

BACKGROUND:

  • Director Joseph Losey moved to the UK after receiving a summons to appear before Joseph McCarthy’s House  Un-American Activities committee.
  • The screenplay was written by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, who adapted  Robin Maugham’s 1948 novella. It was the first of three collaborations between Losey and Pinter.
  • In 1999, a panel of movie professionals voted The Servant the 22nd best British film of all time.
  • Dirk Bogarde, a closeted gay man, had played a closeted gay man in 1961’s The Victim, one of the first films to deal openly and sympathetically with homosexuality. His agent (with whom the actor was secretly involved) was nervous about Bogarde taking this role, fearing he might acquire a “homosexual image.”
  • When Losey came down with pneumonia during the shoot, Bogarde stepped in to direct for ten days, with Losey providing instructions via telephone from the hospital.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: Mirrors, devices which reverse and sometimes warp images, but which also serve to reveal the selves we cannot see. Tony’s townhouse is littered with mirrors on seemingly every wall, and Losey takes advantage of them throughout the film, using mirrors to reflect the underlying truth of a situation. In one shot, Tony and Susan face Barret accusingly. In the convex mirror image, Barret can be seen clearly, standing calmly with a robe and a cigarette, while only the back of Tony’s head is visible, and Susan isn’t there at all. The mirror shows us the relative power and importance of the three characters in the scene more profoundly than the head-on camera shot does.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Upside-down orgy; kissing the servant

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: The Servant emits the subtlest whiff of dignified strangeness, all emanating from the mysterious Bogarde: an unassuming Trojan horse of malice and perversion without a clear motive or objective other than raw power.

2021 Restoration trailer for The Servant

COMMENTS: Led by a dominating career performance from Dirk Continue reading 41*. THE SERVANT (1963)

40*. MODUS OPERANDI (2009)

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“The more beautiful, free-spirited women you can get into a low-budget film, the easier it is for the audience to forgive your script.”–Frankie Latina

DIRECTED BY: Frankie Latina

FEATURING: Randy Russell, Danny Trejo, Mark Borchardt, Barry Poltermann, Nikki Johnson, Michael Sottile

PLOT: CIA agent Stanley Cashay—the best in the business—is dragged out of retirement to recover a pair of stolen briefcases in exchange for the name of the operative who murdered his wife. A network of spies around the world assist him in his quest, while the cases repeatedly change hands in a bloodthirsty quest. When he discovers that they contain videos of sadistic ritual murders, Cashay is spurred to action.

Still from Modus Operandi (2009)

BACKGROUND:

    • Latina has described the movie as his attempt to make his own version of his favorite movie, Apocalypse Now.
    • The film is credited as being “presented by” adult film star Sasha Grey. Lending her name appears to be the extent of her involvement in the film.
    • Danny Trejo filmed all his scenes in a single eight-hour stint before he had to catch a plane back to Los Angeles. These were the only scenes in the movie that Latina shot with on-set sound.
    • Latina accomplished the Tokyo scenes by using the proceeds from his job at a casino to send actress Johnson and a cameraman to Japan to capture the footage.
    • Most of the film was shot in Latina’s hometown of Milwaukee, and he takes advantage of some of the region’s architectural wonders to serve as the backdrop for his globetrotting hero. Among the locations featured in the opening credits are the dramatic angles of Santiago Calatrava’s Milwaukee Art Museum, the Domes of the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory, and the Infinity Room at the notorious House on the Rock.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: It feels like half of Modus Operandi consists of people sitting around receiving phone calls. They’re just minding their own business, drinking cocktails or hanging out in a hot tub or drinking cocktails while hanging out in a hot tub, and then a phone call comes. This tic reaches its apotheosis when a man takes such a call while he is grooming himself and while his female companion is casually shaving her pubic region. She’s totally nude, her crotch is completely covered in shaving cream, and she’s right up in the guy’s face with it. It’s the most perfect example of this film’s unique blend of overt sex with zero sexiness.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Casey Thunderbird requests the pleasure of Black Licorice’s participation in a spy venture; you got your porn audition tapes in my spy movie

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Modus Operandi feels like the movie you would get if aliens were asked to make a James Bond movie and did all their research by asking a drunk at a bar. With its intense focus on crowd-pleasing violence and nudity (of both the male and female varieties), it’s the cinematic equivalent of all dessert/no veggies, except the desserts were created on Nailed It! The infectious joy of making the movie is paired with an extraordinarily high level of amateurism, making for a movie that knows it’s ridiculous and yet somehow manages to become even more ridiculous in the process.


Original trailer for Modus Operandi

COMMENTS: Frankie Latina sets the tone before a moment of Continue reading 40*. MODUS OPERANDI (2009)

39*. UZUMAKI [SPIRAL] (2000)

AKAWhirlpool

“Nature does not proceed in a straight line, it is rather a sprawling development.” – Robert Smithson, creator of Spiral Jetty

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Eriko Hatsune, Fhi Fan, Hinako Saeki, Eun-Kyung Shin, Keiko Takahashi,

PLOT: High schooler Kirie notices a growing and dangerous fascination with spirals throughout her small town, beginning with her friend Shuichi’s father, who develops a compulsive need to own and consume objects with the pattern. The affliction spreads to her classmates, who take on whorled physical characteristics and even transform into snails. With increasing numbers of cases and deaths, Kirie and Shuichi decide if they should–or even can–escape. 

Still from Uzumaki (2000)

BACKGROUND

  • Uzumaki was adapted from a manga by , who makes a cameo of sorts on a “Wanted” poster in the sandal-wearing policeman’s office.
  • Production on Uzumaki began before Ito had finished writing the series (possibly at the studio’s insistence, so that it could coincide with the release of another Ito adaptation, Tomie: Rebirth). As a result, the manga and film have significantly different resolutions.
  • A four-episode animated TV adaptation was announced in 2020; it is still in production after many delays.
  • Director Higuchinsky took his name in tribute to his birthplace of Ukraine. This was his first feature, up to this point having worked primarily in music video.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: It’s not the most shocking sight, nor does it draw upon the many examples of body horror that define the spiral epidemic. But the appearance of an enormous spiral-shaped storm in the sky, which begins to coil downward and reach out to the town like the accusatory finger of God, is when Uzumaki lays all its cards on the table. The spiral is everything, can reach everywhere, and will affect everyone.

TWO WEIRD THINGS: Mr. Saito’s eyes; Kyoko’s crazy curls

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: Uzumaki lacks a proper monster, any kind of terrifying villain. The bad guy here is a curling pattern. It’s to the film’s credit that it not only pulls off this unlikely trick but adorns it with truly unsettling examples of its malign influence. The fact that there are no sorcerers or alien invaders to blame only makes the events of Uzumaki more unnerving. This outwardly harmless force has no clear point of origin, no cause to be addressed, which only makes its effect on the populace more disturbing.

Original trailer for Uzumaki

COMMENTS: In order to appreciate the strangeness of Uzumaki, it’s Continue reading 39*. UZUMAKI [SPIRAL] (2000)