11 Reviews (2 New)
A Dark and Scary Place
Tony is a middle-aged, socially inept loner, who wanders the streets during daylight or night time hours searching for something to help fulfil his life. Secluded and inexperienced with people, he doesn't quite know what that missing ingredient is. It could be drugs, a man, a woman, or just plain company. But being a social outcast reaches new lows when a boy goes missing and the father accuses Tony of being a paedophile...
This is a low-budget movie partly funded by the National Lottery. It is filmed on location in and around a London estate and immediately identifiable tourist attraction areas such as Trafalgar Square, the Thames north side Embankment and Soho, managing in doing so to make them all seem a little seedy. I fully expected to quickly become bored with the proceedings, but conversely became curiously compelled to watch. This was in most part due to the considerable acting skills of Peter Ferdinando. The whole would be much lessened without his contribution; the character's entire demeanour and speech is spot on. He is completely devoid of emotions, no smiles or laughs, no frowns or anger. Just total detachment. I can't praise him enough.
There is a very dark and macabre humour inherent in this, which could easily be overlooked entirely by those with no sense of humour or who look on this entire venture as bad taste. In that case, I would suggest buying Disney's Bambi DVD instead. I for one appreciated the irony. When a man arrives at his flat to caution him about not having a TV licence, Tony is unfazed. That is until the man attempts to confiscate his TV, and is strangled with a wire flex for his trouble. The next thing you see is a foot in a dish as Tony begins to cut up and dispose of the body. Another priceless moment is when Tony wakes up with a man sitting up in bed next to him. Tony says good morning to him and asks if he wants a cup of tea - and you just know that he's dead.
This is the debut directorial feature from Gerard Johnson. As extras you'll find two of his short films: Mug, and an early truncated version of Tony, which nowhere near reaches the heights of the main feature. A very pleasant surprise.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2010)
Henry is a serial killer who moves from city to city, leaving behind a string of bodies, killed by various methods. He associates no importance to the process, although he realises it is important to keep on the move. Arriving in Chicago, he moves in with Otis, an ex-con buddy who is soon drawn into his dark world. When Otis’ s sister arrives in town looking for work, she is intrigued with Henry and, after hearing about some of his exploits, happily attaches herself to him and his sinister psyche. Henry begins to school them in his way of life, causing them to take a direction from which there is no return...
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer was filmed in 1986 but, due to its bio docudrama approach and certain scenes of violence, it wasn’t seen in its entirety until 1990. I’ve seen the edited version of this film and, to be brutally honest, in terms of the number of scenes there’s not much difference. John McNaughton was a fledgling director at the time, and undoubtedly wanted to make a big impact on the movie business - although he admits that he had no idea what constituted an unreasonably brutal scene in the eyes of the censors. The opening montage of dead bodies in various locations is one such segment which had to be removed. Now that it’s back in place, it isn’t lengthy but it does somewhat change the structure of the entire film. Rather than have Henry tell his back story to the police in a scene arrangement which starts in the middle - as with the other, frankly awful, Henry Lee Lewis semi-fictional biography - what we get here is a more palatable linear tale of how the key character brings everyone down around
Henry is based on the notorious serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas. He is portrayed here as an almost totally emotionless individual, with cold inner rage and sexual frustration. Although acting performances are solid and convincing, this is not the type of film I normally enjoy. However, for anyone who loves this movie, there is a veritable plethora of extra features on this Blu-ray Special Edition. Alongside the expected Making of... documentary, there is a featurette on Henry Lee Lucas, an interview with director John McNaughton (which is so long that I fell asleep watching it), an exploration of the altered scenes, deleted scenes and outtakes with commentary, stills gallery, and original storyboards.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2011)
Clayton Beresford Jr., a successful young business tycoon living in the shadow of his deceased father, has a relationship with Samantha Lockwood, a woman in his employ, which progresses to the point where they want to marry. However, the tycoon has been keeping the affair secret from his domineering mother whom he knows will disapprove. So he decides to undergo a quick, private wedding ceremony and inform his mother afterward. No sooner has he achieved this than the hospital contacts him with news of a donor heart. Obliged to undergo a life-saving operation to replace his own weak heart, the young businessman finds himself awake during the operation but unable to move. Not only does he feel every cut, but he soon discovers that the people he called friends are not who he thought they were...
Awake is a conspiracy thriller which dips one toe in the realms of supernatural fantasy. Hayden Christensen (the adolescent Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels) is much more convincing here as a trusting successful businessman duped in love for a scheming gold-digger (played by Jessica Alba) and her greedy associates.
The idea of somebody waking up during surgery, unable to move or speak but subject to the feeling of every cut, is a solid and convincing premise which works very well here. I'd go so far as to say it's unnerving to watch the heart surgery scene whilst listening to his mind screaming out in agony and outrage.
The solid manner of moving the young tycoon character into the realms of fantasy is for the script to have his traumatised mind place him anywhere but in the operating theatre, thereby having him learn about the plot to see him off for his money. In this manner, his mind reflects on previous conversations and clues he should have recognised at the time.
Although predictable in places, Awake is a powerful thriller which should entertain (or at least keep interested) both mainstream and genre viewers.
Extras include Deleted Scenes; an Audio Commentary by writer/director Joby Harold; a Making of... Documentary; and a Storyboard to Film Comparison.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2008)
When classic car salesman Bill and his wife Bernadette discover a rat in their Beverley Hills swimming pool a powerful black man arrives from nowhere to fish it out for them. The couple assume he is the pool maintenance man, but instead he turns out to be a rapist and thief wanted by the police. There is no cash in the house, and it soon becomes evident that Bill has borrowed more money than the couple have. The intruder, known as Bone, gives Bill a deadline in which to drive into town, withdraw some money and get back, otherwise he will rape and kill Bernadette. Bill initially complies, but then gets side tracked by a liaison with a strange woman who was molested by an old man when she was a child and seems determined to repeat the experience. When Bill fails to show up at the allotted time both Bone and Bernadette are aggrieved for very different reasons. They decide to go after Bill, intending to cause an "accident" and claim on the insurance. But Bone hasn't counted on the ruthlessness of Bernadette...
The moment I noticed that Bone was written and directed by Larry Cohen I somehow knew exactly what to expect. I wasn't far wrong. Lots of jazzy The Streets of San Francisco type music, pretty bland characters and a plot which could easily have been played-out in half-an-hour. In fact similar scenarios have been attempted much more successfully in long-running weekly serials, because the format is far too common to be self-sustaining. So we are forced to endure the stereotypical black villain story, and are informed through dialogue that Bone acts the way he does because it is what society expects of him (what?!). Larry Cohen's It's Alive trilogy of films about cannibal babies weren't quality pieces by any stretch of the imagination, but at least they had a hook. There was mystery, there was danger and there was sympathy, all qualities missing from Bone.
On the extras, Jack H. Harris explains how he turned from film maker to producer and could not obtain enough films to please the film company. Bone arose from his liaison with Larry Cohen. The film was shown to test audiences who didn't care, so it was decided they might be more successful with predominantly black cinema goers. Wrong again. Instead of catching the blatant hints that this was a rubbish film the pair remarketed the project as a dark comedy and romance (for fear of repeating myself again... what?!). This time they were apparently more successful - which probably means one blind man turned up at the cinema looking for the bakers.
Extras include the aforementioned comments from Jack H. Harris, a Commentary by Larry Cohen, a Featurette, and Theatrical Trailers. In short, Bone will bore modern audiences to distraction. You could say it's Bone-idle (yes, I did think of that one all by myself).
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2006)
A young woman is abducted, and police detective Anna Mari is forced to play a form of on-line poker against the kidnapper for the woman's life. Initially, the chief inspector had refused to involve the police in manipulative games, which culminated in the first captive being killed in front of their eyes via a video link which the experts cannot trace. But even when Anna convinces him they should play to buy more time, she knows she is no poker player. Aided by a disgraced Irish cop called John Brennan in the investigation to apprehend the killer the media has dubbed The Card Player, Anna soon realises she will need an expert player. However, somehow the killer knows that someone is playing in her stead. It isn't long before Anna becomes a target herself, and the killer isn't finished playing yet...
The Card Player is one of a number of current DVD releases of Dario Argento films from Arrow Video. Horror aficionados might know him through his older films such as Demons and Suspiria, or more recently by his contribution to the Masters of Horror anthology series. However, he has delved more deeply into police procedural murder mysteries/thrillers - a genre which he reportedly feels most comfortable with.
This is a good representation of his dramatic suspense material, with Stefania Rocca and Liam Cunningham both powerful in their central roles. The use of computer crime, although heavily on the increase, is usually in the form of embezzlement, so the idea of the computer application being the unwitting channel for crime threw me back to the excellent Lynda LaPlante scripted Killer Net, in which a CD-ROM game was being controlled by a third party. This being the case, the film would also have worked well as an episode of any number of police detective serials.
The plot motors along at a cracking pace, and the climatic scene is gripping, but I have to say it didn't take much reasoning to work out who the killer was, particularly when a time discrepancy is explained.
Any fan of Dario Argento's work should welcome this release, as it contains a double-sided sleeve, a collector's booklet, and a poster. The disc itself contains a Making of... featurette, a gallery and ten minutes of trailers for his other films.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2010)
Haxan (from 1922) is a difficult one to quantify. Intending to primarily be a documentary describing the facts and legends surrounding the interesting subject of witchcraft and Satanism, it uses sketched depictions, models, animation and specially shot fictional film footage to lecture rather than entertain viewers, and suffers from getting caught between being a public information film and a Fritz Lang-type short.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this DVD contains two features. On the menus Haxan is listed as the main film, with Witchcraft Through the Ages sitting as a special feature. In actuality, they're the same thing. Haxan is tediously long at 104 minutes. Each line of subtitles seems to remain on the screen for an age, and I came dangerously (or should that be blissfully) close to falling asleep within the first five minutes. Furthermore, the original soundtrack is curiously unrelated in style to what is happening on screen. Rather than complimenting the piece it's manically fast and grating, which is almost certainly why we're offered two alternatives scores - one being the Brontt Industries Kapital in Dolby 5.1, the other by Geoff Smith in Dolby 2.0.
Witchcraft Through the Ages is the same feature, only mercifully 28 minutes shorter because of a narration replacing the subtitles. Although this makes the experience somewhat more palatable, William S. Burroughs' tone is conducive with the Green Cross Code Man instructing us on how to negotiate a crossing of the road, or perhaps an old piece of wildlife film covering the lions of the Serengeti.
In conclusion, Haxan does have its moments. The masks and costumes and the cleverly incorporated animations are impressive. Additionally, some of the live-action antics will make some people smile; particularly the Devil's shenanigans. However, the whole is unlikely to hold the attention of mainstream or even horror viewers, perhaps only appealing to those wishing to study factual references to witchcraft.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2007)
A bank robber is the only survivor of a passenger plane crash. A casino employee tracks him down and explains how luck is a real force passed from person to person. They team up, travelling to many illicit gambling or chance games played for high stakes, such as houses, cars and even people. The casino man now possesses the means to confront his corrupt and unnaturally lucky boss; but the game is Russian Roulette, and the old man has seen many opponents die. Meanwhile, a police detective is on the trail of the bank robber, and can't avoid getting caught up in the game...
It's difficult to know exactly how to quantify this film, and I'm not certain I want to try. Words don't come easily, because there's very little to describe: no multiple layers, no diverging or converging plot-lines, no interesting characters, no action or stunts, no humour, no suspense... Need I go on? I'm afraid there's not even enough here to stimulate the most complacent and accepting viewer of weekday afternoon TV films.
Another problem is the chaotic structure. The director clearly has no feeling for how scenes should be played out. Or perhaps it was an editing fault, in which case the whole thing should have been left on the cutting room floor. It's not the language which is to blame, although it can be a little disorientating to watch a Spanish film with English subtitles, only to have some characters switch to English and back again for no discernible reason. No, the cuts are far too abrupt and frequent, jumping from scene to scene, back and forth, before any real tension or cohesion can be realised.
As for the story... I can't even say with any conviction if I've accurately described the plot with my little synopsis, because this is one of those films you watch and think to yourself "What the hell was all that about?!" Give this one a miss.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2003)
Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) is a machine operator; just one of a bored group of men. The difference is Reznik hasn't slept for nearly a year. Racked by extreme fatigue, his body is becoming increasingly emaciated. As a consequence of this his mind plays a series of warped tricks on him, until he seriously begins to doubt reality. As a result of his negligence a fellow worker suffers an accident in which he loses an arm. Reznik is alienated from the workforce, and his guilt soon turns to paranoia. As a series of Hangman notes appear on his fridge, he discovers the two people he can still rely on are not what they seem at all. Reznik believes someone is trying to exact revenge on him for the accident, but the real truth will threaten to tip him over the edge into insanity...
This is one of those films you feel compelled to watch; once you've pressed that play button you're not going to press stop until it's over. That's testament to the film's good plotting. There are layers upon layers which reel you in and immerse you in the so-called subterfuge until you're not quite sure if The Machinist is a contemporary thriller or a Chronenberg-like fantasy. I suppose it's a bit of both, but the closest film comparison in terms of style would be Donnie Darko. Especially the final revelations, and the fact that it leaves you thinking and trying to make sense of certain aspects. I prefer that in a film; I don't particularly like neatly tied-up packages.
Christian Bale (currently finding fame in Batman Begins) is near faultless in his performance here. The lengths he went to to get into character surprised even the writer and director. Simply put, Bale just stopped eating and wasted away, risking serious health problems, until he barely existed. I'm not sure a mere movie warrants those extremes, but you've got to give the man credit, because he pulls it off with aplomb.
For me, the best scene is when he takes the little boy on the ghost train. The way Bale reacts to the increasingly depraved scenes of death and violence, trying to protect the boy, are the film's only humorous moments. But it doesn't stay that way for long. I think if I'd been taken on that ghost train at a young age I'd have had a seizure too.
Extras are: Director Interview, Commentary by Director Brad Anderson, The Making of... featurette, Trailers and 8 Deleted Scenes.
A great and original film.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2005)
A serial killer is at large in New York. His penchant is for cutting-up beautiful young women. On his trail is a police inspector who is told by a couple of phone witnesses that he speaks like a duck. Subsequent taunting phone calls received by the inspector confirm this. An intended victim survives to tell the police about a man who is missing two fingers, who accosted her on the subway, but she was actually attacked after that incident and identifies the wrong person. When the man she identified is dragged from the water, having been dead for some time, it means he couldn't have been the killer. The inspector is back to square one. Then the killer makes another attempt on the victim who survived, and the pieces begin to come together...
New York Ripper is the first of many violent horror and exploitation films to be released by Shameless Screen Entertainment. It was previously banned and the prints ordered out of the country by the BBFC. In my opinion, it seems a strange marketing strategy to attempt to capture a retail audience of perverted sex and extreme violence mongers, with descriptions like vile and shocking, and quotes such as "The sickest movie ever made!"
As with Phantom of Death, another early Shameless release, I expected to hate this film, but was rather pleasantly surprised. The only really gruesome scene is the one in which a secured victim is seen to be sliced with a razor blade from the forehead and down through one eye. All other set pieces are no worse than many other horror films, such as a Friday the 13th flick or John Carpenter's The Thing, also released in 1982. Most of the victims are quickly dispatched (at least on-screen) and the killer is not seen in the same frame until the end of the movie. Perhaps it's just me, but scenes of a straight kill are considerably less disturbing than those depicting rape or prolonged torture, and luckily they are not present in this film.
There is more of a 1970s feel at play here, with a jazzy McCloud or The Streets of San Francisco soundtrack which proves curiously innocuous during the murder scenes, when you might normally expect menacing or at least creepy music. However, the notion of the killer speaking like a duck is intriguing and proves effective, enhancing the moments when the psychopath lets go. This works well as a murder mystery, suspects mounting up along the way before being whittled down as their stories are played out. I thought the killer might be Daffy Duck or The Penguin from Batman but, all joking aside, was relieved to discover there was a valid reason for the voice which also ties-in with the motive for the killings.
The violence of the murder scenes is not what should be emphasised in the marketing blurb, because it is merely an aside to a relatively good plot-driven murder mystery. This is New York Ripper's first excursion on to DVD in the UK and, like Phantom of Death, is certainly worth a look.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2007)
Anna Manni is a detective in Rome's Anti-Rape Unit. Whilst on the hunt for a serial rapist and killer, she is given an anonymous tip-off as to his whereabouts. When she arrives to apprehend him at an art gallery the elaborate classic paintings overwhelm her and she passes-out, hitting her head on a table. When she regains consciousness her gun has gone from her bag, but she doesn't know who she is and can't recall what happened. A man offers her money for a taxi to her apartment, the key for which she finds in her bag. As she begins to recover her identity, she is attacked and raped by the same man - the person the police are searching for - using her weakness around works of art against her. The psychologist she is assigned to informs her she has Stendhal Syndrome, which causes intensive illusions in the presence of fine art. The killer begins to take an altogether unhealthy interest in Anna, finally kidnapping her and keeping her bound. However, when Anna manages to get the upper hand her police colleagues believe the killer is dead. But Anna isn't convinced...
This is another of the current DVD releases of Dario Argento films, this time starring the director's daughter Asia Argento. The recently reviewed The Card Player was originally intended as a sequel to this movie, but ultimately it took on it's own individual identity. That was to prove a blessing of sorts, as The Card Player is in my opinion a finer film - aside, perhaps, from the predictable ending.
The Stendhal Syndrome feels like an extremely long viewing experience; although the running time is 118 minutes, the structure is that of three conjoined segments, each differing only slightly from the last. Anna is effectively made a victim three times, and it makes you wonder where her colleagues are all this time. You wouldn't think they would let her out of their sight, and as a previous victim in reality she would have been removed from the case and sent far away to undergo convalescence. Still, this is based on a novel, and it's necessary to suspend a little disbelief otherwise we wouldn't have a story.
It's a reasonably good film, well acted, but the concept of entering a painting or having a dark figure emerge from one is not exploited enough for my liking. The scene in which she becomes the art she is afraid of by painting herself, becomes superfluous as the character of Anna learns nothing from the experience.
Again, the packaging is good, with a double-sided sleeve, a collector's booklet and a poster. The disc extras are limited to a theatrical trailer, and some trailers from Argento's other films.
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2010)
A young policeman straight out of training school is caught at a drugs rave party. With his prospective career on the line, he finds himself being blackmailed into joining the Homicide squad. His insider knowledge is needed, but he soon finds himself well out of his depth. Somebody is killing people and removing the skin with their tattoos. He soon learns that the detective who coerced him has been looking in earnest over two years for his runaway daughter, after his wife was killed by a hit-and-run driver. The trade for classic Japanese tattoos by a talented but deceased artist hots up; some will pay millions and others will kill, but the artist's best work is on a woman still alive...
This is a German film with the option of English subtitles. Whilst I'm not a connoisseur of the German language I did listen for different emotions in the voices of the cast... and heard none. Even the movements of the actors were pretty staid, giving the impression they were simply going through the motions. The Homicide detective portrays the strong, silent approach, and the young policeman, almost the same in terms of moodiness, slouches his way through the movie tripping over clues, witnesses and informants as if this were a game of Cluedo.
Although the idea of trade in live tattoos is essentially sound, no one in the film shows any enthusiasm for the proceedings. Granted, in many American films there's lots of shouting and running around for no discernible reason, but here no one raises their voice for the entire duration and you feel like shaking some life into them.
I'm sorry, but with this being the case, why should I show any interest?
(Review originally written by Ty Power for reviewgraveyard 2004)
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