Demolition is going on not too far from my window. Apologies in advance for any typos or misinformation; I’ll blame the occasional ground shudderings and Carbon Monoxide I’ve been reading warnings about.
7/17: The Nightshifter [Morto Não Fala]
Nightshifter‘s director, Dennison Ramalho, has been hovering around the periphery of the Fantasia Festival with shorts for over a decade now. During that time has met José Mojica Marins (of “Coffin Joe” fame), looking for that filmmaker’s ring (a gift from Boris Karloff‘s wife) on the dark floor of the cinema, as well as Ken Russell (of Ken Russell fame) at the Fantasia screening of A Serbian Film.
What Ramalho brings to the table in this outing is a refreshing bit of horror (!) revolving around a morgue attendant, Stênio, who can speak with the dead. When he makes the mistake of misusing their information he is doomed to be haunted by an incredibly angry and bitter (and dead) wife. While it is marred by a too-obvious score (we’re already dealing with corpses, murders, morgue prat falls, and haunting) that focused too much on the jump-string section instead of maintaining a quiet unease, the Nightshifter still manages to pack a bit of a punch. Its necessarily troubling finale is gratifying in its way, too, as Stênio rises to the challenge of accepting his fate. More from Ramalho will likely be a good thing for horror fans.
7/18: Boiled Angels: the Trial of Mike Diana
Trusting the voices inside my head, I took in a screening of Frank Henenlotter‘s latest film early this afternoon. This the Henenlotter of Basket Case fame: what would attract the interest of this genre filmmaker? Nothing less than the once obscure, now infamous trial of Mike Diana: the only artist in American history to have been found guilty of obscenity. Though it’s a talking-heads documentary, Boiled Angels naturally enough skirts along its periphery, using narrated illustration segments and gee-whiz-colorful meets Dear-God!-extreme examples of comics both from Mike Diana and much of American comics’ underground history. Various luminaries provide remarks, from Jay Lynch and Stephen Bissette (who testified for the defense) to George Romero andNeil Gaiman. What makes this documentary stand out in particular is that the filmmakers reached out to Mike’s adversaries and gives those players not just screen time, but also a fair shake. Must see for afficionados of underground comics: Mike Diana took Continue reading 2018 FANTASIA FESTIVAL: A SECOND SLICE OF STRANGE→
FEATURING: Too many actors to list individually, and no one appears onscreen for long enough to qualify as “featured”
PLOT: 26 more short horror films about death, each inspired by an assigned letter of the alphabet.
WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Only one out of these 26 films might qualify on its own merits as a candidate for the List of the Weirdest Movies Ever Made, which is not a favorable enough ratio to consider this anthology a contender.
COMMENTS: The original ABCs of Death was a somewhat successful reinvigoration of the horror anthology genre, benefiting from the novelty of the ultra-short short format. The sequel is more of the same, with a mostly second-tier (in terms of name recognition, not talent) slate of directors alphabetizing horror’s latest cemetery. One obvious improvement from the previous installment; there are hardly any toilet-themed scares here (the scat-horror fad thankfully played out in 2013). Fewer of the episodes qualify as astoundingly weird, but we’ll give you the rundown on what to watch out for.
First off, in the not-so-weird category, we have to mention neophyte director Rob Boochek’s “M is for Masticate,” winner of the fan-submission contest, whose entry (featuring a paunchy rampaging madman in stained underwear) amounts to a dumb and arguably dated joke—but one that made me laugh out loud at its perfectly-timed, abrupt punchline. Even better is Hajime Ohata’s “O is for Ochlocracy,” a clever Japanese entry which actually finds a new spin on the vastly overdone zomcom genre.
On to the weird scorecard. Todd Rohal‘s “P is for P-P-P Scary!,” is a tribute to early talkies, with three hillbilly Bowery Boys in absurd makeup and stereotypical striped prison garb cowering their way through a nameless void. It’s probably the most universally loathed segment of the film, and it’s easy to see why; Rohal’s highly personal and peculiar brand of awkward surreal comedy is an acquired taste that has yet to be acquired by almost anyone. It certainly won’t appeal to the average horror fan. The anthology ends with a weird, if relatively weak, flurry, with the action-figure inspired “W is for Wish,” the strange but inconsequential “X is for Xylophone” (which at least features Béatrice Dalle, ABC2‘s biggest star), the surreal special effects spectacle “Y is for Youth,” and the absurd pregnancy fable “Z is for Zygote.” There are a few other bizarre entries scattered about the alphabet. Kristina Buozyte and Bruno Samper’s “K is for Knell” is audiovisually apocalyptic but abstract and hard to connect with. Bill Plympton‘s much anticipated (by us) entry is quality, but nothing unexpected. Two scribbly lovers kiss each other to death, like a gorier version of one of his 1980s MTV shorts. “G is for Grandad” is an unclassifiable surprise tale of bizarre inter-generational rivalry from the previously unknown Jim Hosking. “Grandad” was noteworthy enough that the director parlayed this calling card into a feature film (titled The Greasy Strangler), to be released by cult-film specialist Drafthouse Films next year.
The most noteworthy episode—weird or not—is stop-motion specialist Robert Morgan‘s “D is for Deloused.” Technically impressive, it is also thoroughly surreal, taking place in a dirty lilac operating room full of bleeding men, scurrying cockroaches, and arm-sucking larvae with dual-headed clowns inside them. Nightmares don’t come much more terrifyingly irrational than this one, with a protagonist birthed from a corpse and commanded to “pay for life.” “Deloused” is the best thing in ABCs of Death 2, and it makes us long to see what the slow-working Morgan would do with a long-form project.
Overall, my judgment is that this sequel is less essential than the interesting-but-inessential original. Only Morgan’s segment rates as a must-catch for weirdophiles, while the first collection had three exceedingly bizarre entries to catch your eye. Overall, the uneven effect is about the same (although full disclosure requires me to report that most critics preferred this second installment, concluding that this crop of directors learned from the mistakes of their trailblazing predecessors).