Tag Archives: Gore

IT CAME FROM THE READER-SUGGESTED QUEUE: POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD (2006)

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DIRECTED BY: Lloyd Kaufman

FEATURING: Jason Yachanin, Kate Graham, Allyson Sereboff, Joshua Olatunde, Robin L. Watkins

PLOT: When a ravenously capitalist fast-food chain builds a franchise on an old Indian burial ground in the fair burg of Tromaville, the spirits of dead Native Americans and dead chickens conspire to turn the poultry-eating populace into fluid-spewing zombies.

Still from Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead (2006)

COMMENTS: What are you doing out there on the front porch? Get in here, darn ya! Sit, sit, we’re just about ready to serve. The stuffing is on the table, the onions on the green bean casserole are crisp, I’ve got a spoon for the cranberry sauce… oh, and here’s the bird. Would you like to carve? Just be careful with the knife, because once you cut into that crispy seasoned flesh, you’re liable to be sprayed with an unholy onslaught of blood, bile, vomit, feces, and any number of disgusting fluids. Go on, dig in!

Yes, it’s a Thanksgiving here at 366 Weird Movies headquarters, and even though it’s chicken and not turkey on the menu in Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead, the film is suffused with the spirits of the two oppressed populations who have made our modern American Thanksgiving possible: Native Americans and domesticated fowl. If Troma Entertainment has taught us anything, it’s that failure to pay the proper respects will result in terror of the most disgusting and ridiculous nature imaginable, so choose your words carefully when you say grace.

What can one say when reviewing the most review-proof organization in show business? A rave would be an endorsement, while a pan is a badge of honor. I will suggest, then, that Poultrygeist is, in Troma terms, an almost perfect object. It’s got everything you expect, by the bucketload: deep stupidity, rampant nudity, crude insults that punch up and down in equal measure, and so much fluid being sprayed like a fire hose. Consider that a character named after a certain submarine sandwich pitchman/convicted sex criminal isn’t merely fat in defiance of his processed food diet; he’s morbidly obese, and we’re treated to an in-toilet POV shot of his unfortunate encounter with a haunted meal, a sight so appalling that even the Troma braintrust has seen fit to slap “CENSORED” bars across the screen. If you have even a passing familiarity with the Troma House of Moviemaking and that’s your bag, you will not be disappointed.

Liquids aside, Poultrygeist is a satire, but of the everyone’s-a-target variety. Voracious capitalism comes under fire, but so do self-righteous protesters and mawkish bleeding hearts. The cynical people who make fast food are hardly worse than the mindless hordes who eat it. Ridicule is ladled out in copious amounts at women, gay Continue reading IT CAME FROM THE READER-SUGGESTED QUEUE: POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD (2006)

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: MOTEL HELL (1980)

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DIRECTED BY: Kevin Connor

FEATURING: Rory Calhoun, Nancy Parsons, Nina Axelrod, Paul Linke

PLOT: Out in Rural, USA, Farmer Vincent operates both the “Motel Hello” and a popular smokehouse; neither business is entirely kosher.

Still from motel hell (1980)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: Quirky horror is always fun, and so is Motel Hell. However, the extra little touches added to Kevin Connor’s grinder make this a weird little morsel to ingest: psychedelics, home-spun folksiness, a human garden, and the left-field cameo from Wolfman Jack (as the local priest, no less)—all come together to make something strangely delicious.

COMMENTS: As Nietzsche didn’t quite say, “…if you gaze long enough into a sausage, the sausage will gaze back into you.” There is a strong philosophical undercurrent (casing, even) to Motel Hell. Our spiritual teacher is Vincent Smith: pig farmer, motelier, and all around stand-up country gent. Rustic affability courses through his veins, and cheery wisdom bubbles up through his placid surface. He treats his animals humanely; he is affectionate to his simple-minded sister; his guests are all graced with his decorum. And he has a plan to help God to save the world: through transforming sinful passers-by into the best damned smoked meat you can find.

Director Kevin Connor lays out his cards right quick, just in case you didn’t quite grasp the nuance in the film title. Meet Vincent. Meet Ida. Meat farm. Vincent and his sister are pranksters, spooking the twin girls of two guests. But later that night, he lays a trap for a passing motorcyclist and his far younger lover, harvesting the former and seducing-cum-adopting the latter. However, being so smitten as I am by Rory Calhoun’s charm, I’ve already gotten ahead of the game.

One of the delightful oddities in this B-movie blood comedy is just how Vincent and Ida prepare their meat. Sure, sure, there’s a smoking process and “secret spices” (as to be found in the smokehouse, labeled exactly as such), but there’s also the prep work. It involves holes in the ground, gunny bags, feeding funnels, and, when it is time to harvest the flesh-crop, some swirling spin rays, to give the harvest a “…radical, hypno-high. Heavier, but smoother than any trip [they’ve] ever had.” Beyond the groovy head-trips (chuckle along with me), Vincent brings a solemnity to his work. As he openly muses after a gathering, “Sometimes I wonder about the karmic implications of these acts.” His sister Ida, on the other hand, does not wonder. She just likes her work and, even more-so, the tasty snacks which ensue.

Motel Hell is a silly movie with cleverness, uneven acting, and a fun little chainsaw duel thrown into the mix. Connor and his team are obviously having fun, and are more than happy to provide the audience with blood, surprises, and some obligatory T&A. I enjoyed many a chuckle, and sounded an outright guffaw at Vincent’s scandalous confession at the climax. There are weirder movies, there are bloodier movies, and there are sillier movies, but Motel Hell, like Vincent’s secret blend, is a perfect balance of all these ingredients.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It’s meant to be weird, campy and funny but settles for being tasteless, gruesomely awkward and moronic.”–Dennis Schwartz, Dennis Schwartz Reviews

APOCRYPHA CANDIDATE: EXCISION (2012)

DIRECTED BY: Richard Bates Jr.

FEATURING: AnnaLynne McCord, Traci Lords, Roger Bart, Ariel Winter, Jeremy Sumpter

PLOT: Bored at school, frustrated by her home life, and tormented by nightmares that transform her dreams of becoming a surgeon into bloody tableaux, 18-year-old Pauline tries to solve her issues by herself, with unexpected consequences.

Still from Excision (2012)

WHY IT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST: Excision is a character study focusing on one very screwed-up young woman, but the film delicately walks the line between making her behavior fancifully quirky and disturbingly repellent. The distinctive point-of-view, excellent acting by the two leads, and an ending that earns its dropped jaws all make this one to remember.

COMMENTS: By now, the sullen teen girl with no f’s to give has become a trope unto itself. From Daria to Wednesday Addams to nearly every character ever played by Aubrey Plaza, the type combines a steadfast commitment to outsider status with just the hint of potential homicidal intent. There are a lot of reasons to think that Excision‘s Pauline walks down this same familiar road. She’s fearless when it comes to getting in the faces of those she deems inferior. She’s devoid of shame in asking for what she wants, such as when she walks up to a boy and tells him point-blank that she wants to lose her virginity to him. And she’s dripping with snark for nearly everyone. In that respect, it’s easy to want to be on her side, to wish that everyone would just let her be herself.

But then there are the dreams, which feature naked corpses, autopsies, extractions, and no shortage of blood. On their own, they’re baroque, but their influence starts to spill over into the waking world, such as when Pauline takes it upon herself to pierce her own nose, ask a teacher if she can get an STD from copulating with the dead, or perform her own exploratory surgery on a wounded bird. As much as you want to root for the underdog, it’s not hard to see why everyone else in the film is put off by her attitude. She’s definitely creepy.

McCord devours her leading role. With unkempt eyebrows and lingering acne, she’s the girl you expect to be transformed into a beautiful swan in the second act, but she can’t help but be herself. And that self is someone who clearly desires love and appreciation, as much as she bats away the suggestions of everyone who thinks they know who she should be. As good as McCord is, the performance from Traci Lords as her mother is downright spectacular. Despite the potential for her repressed and moralistic character to become simplistic and even parodistic (and in spite of the implied irony in her casting), she is genuinely excellent. Through their committed and entertaining performances, McCord and Lords elevate the mother-daughter relationship away from the starkly drawn lines of Carrie and to something akin to the complexities of Lady Bird.

Writer/director Bates, who expanded his original short film to feature length, has one other card to play, and it’s as interesting as it is irrelevant. He offers up a bevy of cameos, several of which are immediately appealing to a weird sensibility. Moving beyond Marlee Matlin and Matthew Gray Gubler, Excision welcomes such luminaries as Ray Wise as a rather intense principal, Malcolm McDowell as a seen-it-all math teacher, and, most pointedly, John Waters as a plain-minded pastor called upon to double as an amateur therapist. Perhaps what’s most odd about this casting is how utterly normal every one of these cult legends seems. The effect is similar to ’s decision to populate The Informant! with comedians playing it totally straight. If these are the weirdos, we ask ourselves, then what the hell is Pauline?

Excision is a demented character study right up until the very end, when Pauline’s psychic trauma manifests in the real world. It works as a shocking piece of horror, but also makes sense as a logical endpoint for Pauline’s efforts to balance her dangerous impulses with her eagerness to please. They’re not compatible, and the only reasonable result is catastrophe. Many films show you the monster; few go to this effort to show you how it got that way.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…an overripe mélange of Cronenbergian ‘body horror’ and alienated Lynchian weirdness. “–Nigel Floyd, Time Out (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by Tori, who called it “amazing” and said “you can’t imagine where the plot goes.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

IT CAME FROM THE READER-SUGGESTED QUEUE: DEATHGASM (2015)

DIRECTED BY: Jason Lei Howden

FEATURING: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell

PLOT: Brodie, a dopey New Zealand metalhead, finds magical sheet music that summons a dark demon and turns the populace of a small town into homicidal abominations.

Still from Deathgasm (2015)

COMMENTS: “No way!” protests Brodie when the girl he’s sweet on asks if heavy metal music isn’t just a bunch of guys screaming. And then he considers the question. “Well… apart from grindcore,” he admits, “and death metal is kind of like that.” Thinking further: “And deathcore, screamo, pornogrind, black metal, metalcore, thrash, and murdercore. But apart from those…”

Brodie has no apology to give, and neither does Deathgasm, which has two very simple and straightforward messages to deliver: gore is fun, and metal rocks. Those two credos are delivered very efficiently, with both glorious teenage doofiness and spectacularly gross carnage. 

The lines couldn’t be drawn more starkly: Brodie, the metalhead with a mentally-ill mom, finds himself dropped into a decidedly non-metal-appreciating small town, populated by his holy-roller aunt and uncle, his bullying cousin, and an indifferent community. Under these conditions, he finds solidarity in the few places he can, including a pair of role-playing nerds, a sympathetic record store owner, and the only other hard rocker in town, Zakk. Zakk’s many skills include thievery, wounding classmates, making napalm to carve the words “HAIL SATIN” (sic) into a field, and of course bass-playing, so the four outcasts form the eponymous band. (We get to see them film their video for “Intestinal Bungy Jump,” a release on Crowbar Abortion Records. Their bonafides must not be questioned.) It’s in pursuit of even harder stuff that they raid the ramshackle house of a forgotten metal legend, and that’s when the blood starts to flow.

Director Howden has a skillful visual sense of humor, deploying edits to great effect (such as when Zakk is revealed to be stealing fuel from an ambulance). He also has a adolescent’s love of fluids, as there seems to be no end to the blood, vomit, bile, feces, and other bodily effluvia that spews forth. To his credit, he is constantly coming up with more extreme ways to build upon the bloody mayhem, with a particular appreciation for the inappropriate. Sex toys, it turns out, make for excellent weapons, and genitals are just good a target to take out the undead as a bullet to the brain. The humor Deathgasm is going for seems to be a blend of the winking dryness of Shaun of the Dead, the outlandish grotesquerie of the Evil Dead series, and the go-for-broke gleefulness of fellow Kiwi Peter Jackson’s low-budget productions; on that level, it delivers the goods.

When it comes to that list of forebears, though, Deathgasm’s approach feels awfully mathematical, as though it was carefully measuring out portions of each of those inspirations. There’s plenty of shock, but not a whole lot of surprise. There are a couple interesting twists: the slick villain who appears to be our heroes’ greatest foe is amusingly usurped by a seemingly incidental character, and the fate of Brodie’s awful cousin is genuinely hilarious. But even the most successful elements are satisfying without necessarily being inspired. It’s great to see Medina, Brodie’s eventual love interest, start to give herself over to the open-hearted release of metal, culminating in the breakthrough moment where she first listens to the disc Brodie loans her and is immediately transported to a distant mountaintop with hot babes writhing at her feet. But while her additional transformation into a badass zombie fighter is delightful, it’s not really motivated by anything but our desire to see it. Deathgasm entertains, but it often feels like it’s checking boxes on a list of horror must-haves.

And it must be said that as much as Deathgasm carries the flag for metal music, metal does seem to be at the root of all the problems that ensue. The dedicated pursuit of “devil music” as a means to be transgressive leads our heroes to find literal devil music. And the more experienced and dedicated metalhead, Zakk, is quite the jerk. As much as this movie proudly thrusts devil horns into the air, you wouldn’t be wrong to think that it’s not entirely on the genre’s side.

Deathgasm has a blessedly simple and pure goal: it wants to rock. Let the record show that it does, playing all the hits, sometimes with a catchy sound. But it’s not too strange, not too far off a path traveled before. Think of it as comfort-horror, or maybe liquid metal.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“Deathgasm combines the visual flair of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World with the manic, gory energy of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead 2… Howden also fills Deathgasm with shockingly weird moments that catch you off guard… So many bizarre forms of murder and mutilation are up on the screen that it would be impossible to count them all.”–Mike McGranaghan, The Aisle Seat

(This movie was nominated for review by Lovecraft In Brooklyn, who described it as “Kinda Evil Dead ish.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: PYSCHO GOTHIC LOLITA (2010)

Gothic & Lolita Psycho

Gosurori shokeinin

ゴスロリ処刑人

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DIRECTED BY: Gô Ohara

FEATURING: Rina Akiyama, Yûrei Yanagi, Misaki Momose, Ruito Aoyagi

PLOT: After the brutal murder of her mother, Yuki exacts revenge on the killers using a variety of deadly umbrellas.

COMMENTS: This movie was pretty stupid. Too stupid, alas, to nominate as Apocryphally Weird. But not too stupid (or, I suppose, stupid enough) to warrant my time. Having cut his teeth on the genre with Geisha Assassin, Gô Ohara leans into his strengths as a spinner of blood-spurty dreams with Psycho Gothic Lolita, an over-the-top vengeance tale of a young woman assassinating a series of criminals. (His third feature, An Assassin, forgoes any flowery title in favor of getting to the crux of what this guy seems to be about.) Blood spouts from severed limbs and heads; bad line deliveries spout from heads, too—sometimes even after they’ve been severed.

Yuki is on a rampage. On her birthday, she witnessed the gory and oddly ceremonial murder of her mother and the crippling of her father. Her father becomes wheelchair-bound; he also becomes (or, perhaps, was already) some sort of Christian priest. This covenant with piety and forgiveness does not stop him from putting together all manner of umbrellae for his daughter to employ in her crusade against the five nasties who did her mother in. Also, she trades her virginal-white, prim attire for an aesthetic of black lace and leather Victorian bondage gear.

Anyhow, Psycho Gothic Lolita. Er… Gothic & Psycho Lolita… Whatever this is, it’s strangely entertaining. Yuki’s battle with the second target involves levitation and a martial-arts mop. Right on the heels of that chuckle-fest, she picks a random fight with a gang beating up some beleaguered salaryman. How do we know they are beating him up? First, we see that they are doing so; and then we hear one of the goons threaten, “We’ll beat you up!”—twice. They are… very much beating him up. She throws a pair of bike handlebars to the ground near the fray, prompting one to turn and lament “My bike! That was expensive!”—twice. I briefly wondered if she was making a foray into vigilantism, but no: the salaryman was one of the Five, a safe-cracker hired to open the door to Yuki’s home. It’s after she dispatches (very non-compassionately) this rather apologetic lock-pick that she first encounters Elle. Ahhh, to be young, psychotic, and in love with firearms. Elle shoots appallingly badly, but revels in the joy of firing her bladed, twin-barreled twin guns.

Gô Ohara finishes in style with an ending that not only suggests that Yuki’s mom may have had it coming, but also that there may be more adventures for Yuki—especially now that she has discovered the full extent of her powers. A tip of the hat must be given to Ruito Aoyagi; not only for the longest villainous-laugh endurance test I’ve ever seen, but for playing a character dubbed “Viscous Man.” Let me assure you: he’s got a looooong reach with his electro-fist. When I reached the end of the film, I could not quite believe it; having now reached the end of the review, I still don’t.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“The repulsive noodle-slurping has no real connection to the story’s plot. It’s a random touch, which feels more like a surreal art film flourish than like a genre exploitation trope. But that’s the reason to love genre exploitation crap... Freed from the tyranny of coherent plot or character construction, a lowest common denominator gore fest is committed to nothing but the next spectacularly vile gimmick.”–Noah Berlatsky, Splice Today

(This movie was nominated for review by Martin Canine. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)