Carne

*Originally written in 2004

Carne-1991-Gaspar_Noe-movie-4

The short film which got Gaspar Noé on the movie map, introducing us to his horrific, but thoroughly interesting character The Butcher, played brilliantly by Philippe Nahon. Noe’s direction here has all the hallmarks of his later films, showing he was carving his own voice and style from the beginning. His sudden cutting along with harsh, loud noise, skipping flashbacks and many other techniques all are used to disconcert the viewer. And it certainly works. Also, he is not afraid of showing violence, as viewers of Irreversible will know. Here the violence is equally powerful, and in the sequel Seul Contre Tous, it is almost unbearable.

The film opens with a horse being killed. It is shot in the head, and we watch it writhe on the floor, its pool of blood flowing out. We then see a human birth in all its bloody glory, the daughter of The Butcher. He was orphaned in WWII, and has grown up hating the world, and everyone and everything in it. He serves his customers, but his interior monologue constantly reminds us of his thoughts – he wants them all dead. His daughter Blandine Lenoir, who would also reprise her role six years later, is the only thing he cares about, and we watch them grow older together. She is however mute, and the subject of bullying and toying. The Butcher’s relationship with her is almost incestuous, bathing her when she is old enough to do it herself etc, but this is explored more in the next film. When she is attacked by a man, the Butcher explodes with rage, stabbing an innocent man in the mouth. He goes to prison, taken from the only things he wants – his shop and daughter. In the short 40 minutes we see all this and more, his time in prison and release back to his world. Because of his daughter’s state, autistic as well i think, she is bland, does little except stare, and is under the full control of her father. The film continues in the exceptionally bleak Seul Contre Tous – both are come with high recommendations and warnings and both feature some truly excellent acting but both are harrowing and relentless.

Let us know in the comments if you have seen Carne or it’s fully fledged sequel.

Visitor Q

*Review from 2004

maxresdefault.jpg

This must rank with Dead or Alive (1-3), and The Happiness of the Katakuris as one of Miike’s most weird, and along with Audition as one of his best. Thanks to the Tartan DVD distributors once again, as no-one else would have the bravery or intelligence to release such fantastic films as these.

The thinking behind Visitor Q involved a company called CineRocket who made 6 films with the COMBINED budget of under £400,000! Miike’s Visitor Q is the final part of the non-connecting series, and according to critic Chris Campion the only rules he had to follow were ‘that it had to be shot on digital video and deal with the theme of pure love’. It is probably true that most viewers of this film will find it sickening, insane, and depraved while having no involvement of love, pure or otherwise. However, it is the lactation of the mother which, in a way brings the family together in love for each other, while before there had only been coldness and isolation. Apparently the act of breast-feeding releases oxytocin in the body, an addictive hormone sometimes called the ‘hormone of love’ (Campion again). Therefore Miike shows love in its purest form.

The film, like so many other Miike features deals with the family, both looking at it as a whole, and looking at the individuals within it. The father is a reporter, shamed by one of his past pieces of work which saw him anally abused by a group of kids. He is searching for a way to boost ratings, to keep his mistress happy, and perhaps redeem himself. He decides to make a film about the youth of Japan and when he decides to get a young prostitute to interview he is surprised to find that it is his daughter who recently ran away from home. One thing leads to another, and almost the first 10 minutes of the film involves Kiyoshi and his daughter in a bed. Questions are asked- ‘Have you ever slept with your daughter? Have you ever been hit on the head? Have you ever hit your mother?’ Kiyoshi is struck on the head by a mysterious young man who then ends up in Kiyoshi’s house. We meet his wife, a heroine addict who is constantly physically abused by their son, who is constantly bullied by other kids. The mysterious Visitor begins to get involved with the family, and when Kiyoshi decides to make a film about the bullying of a son (his) from a father’s perspective, the visitor helps, doing some of the camera-work. He does not seem moved in any way by the violence around him, but he manages to teach each member a lesson which brings them together, apparently against the world. He shows the mother how to lactate which proves to her that she is a normal woman, which completely rejuvenates her. Kiyoshi continues to make his film – we see more violence, death, rape, drugs, necrophilia etc etc. It all becomes completely absurd and hilarious, but the narrative never falls apart and by the end we have been completely sucked in.

Filmed on digital, Miike proves to be a master of the format even with his first attempt. If you get past the first 15 or 20 minutes the film will become less revolting, but no less shocking, and you will find yourself laughing uncontrollably with everything happening. Every scene breaks a taboo or shows something new. The story is interesting throughout, each performance is excellent considering the amount of nudity and the content, the scenes of violence, drugs, and sex all look flawlessly real, and we cannot look away. Of course, most people in the West will never see this film, and many that do may switch off before getting to the end because it is extreme. If you cannot handle extreme films, then stay away. Also, Koji Endo provides another excellent score, the final song-‘Bubble of Water’ by Real Time is perfect for the conclusion ensuring that those final scenes will stick in your head for a long time. If you are a fan of Miike, Japanese film, or extreme movies in general, put this at the top of your list. Unmissable.

Let us know in the comments if you have seen Visitor Q or any other Miike films and what you thought!

300: Rise Of An Empire

300.jpg

Right, so, I liked the original – it looked all stylish and fancy, there was uber-violence, shouting, muscle men and hot women, and a basic plot which allowed the action to run riot. The battle of Thermopylae is one I had always been interested in at an early age, and continued to learn about as I studied Latin in school and Classics at University. This entirely unnecessary sequel is a mess, leaping about in time without warning, introducing new characters and battles which are not as interesting as those in the first movie, and there is a heavy focus on the visuals which are no longer as attention grabbing as they were first time round. It probably made a bunch of money though, right?

Lets start with the positives – there’s a decent cast with Lena Heady, David Wenham and others reprising their roles from the original and Jack O’Connell and Eva Green joining in. O’Connell is a great actor but doesn’t have a lot to do while Eva Green relishes the role, throwing her all into it and coming over as both impressive as hammy. There is plenty of action in the film, bone-crushing fights, swordplay, naval warfare…. and that’s about it really. Even on the positive points we have negatives – Sullivan Stapleton is a good actor but seems too wooden here, like a beardless Gerard Butler with less SHOUTING, while the fighting and gore is all very samey and gets boring quickly. Every fight is disappointingly repetitive, with the same slow-down and zoom-in technique to show yet another blade slashing through flesh and CG blood bubbling towards the camera. The naval scenes aren’t as epic as they need to be – scenes like this only work if they are massive in scope and you can see what is happening, but here everything is too small, too dark, and there’s only so many times you can watch a naked guy fisting a man in a helmet before it gets silly (usually between 1-2 times). The original managed to avoid being boring by offering something different with each battle sequence, almost like a beat-em-up videogame – each enemy required a new tactic or had some new type of weapon to cope with. Here it is just wave after wave of faceless nobodies with Eva Green shrieking in the background.

The plot is basically the same as the first movie, with Greece facing the onslaught of a massive Persian Army – on one front Gerard Butler’s 300 defended Sparta, while here Thermistocles defends the beaches. Eva Green is the face of the enemy this time around, a Greek defector with a brief backstory who is the true tactician and ruler of the Persian advance rather than Xerxes. There is an interesting conflict going on at various points, with Green’s Artemisia simply looking for a worthy adversary or someone to help her conquer the world. The film takes place both before, during, and after the events of the first film but fails to make the necessary connections between what is happening elsewhere and why any of it actually matters. The story doesn’t matter, it’s just an excuse for shouting and fighting, and you’d get as much sense by hanging around outside a city club at 1.30 am and watching the drunks fight. It’s all so stupid, pointlessly masculine, but without anything that made the original… what’s that word….. fun! There are much better movies out there which look better, with better fights, stunts, action, so there isn’t really any point in spending any time or money on this unless you’re a die-hard Eva Green fan.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of 300: Rise Of An Empire. Was I too harsh? Did anyone like it?

The Gate

qlqfkfwx3ae301en9xtb

The 80’s, horror movies, and kids go together like the noughties, The Daily Mail and pedophilia stories. As a younger audience began to take up a bigger slice of the market in the decade, horror movies starring and marketed towards kids and teens became the norm and we saw a number of now classic movies being released. The Gate is one of this group, and while it isn’t in the same league as something like The Lost Boys, it is a fun watch with a load of practical special effects, laughs, and scares.

We have a classic 80’s movie set up – kid boy and older teenage sister are being left alone in their house while their parents go away for a weekend of sexing. The boy is like any 80’s kid and has a geeky best friend, the sister is a bit of a bimbo wannabe and has a group of annoying friends. Due to a host of 80’s reasons – prophetic dreams, weird rocks, unintentional blood-letting, and heavy metal, the boy (Glen) causes a gateway to hell or something to open up in his garden, and a variety of demons, possessions, and little claymation freaks lay siege to the house. The three kids try to fend off the hordes and work out how to close The Gate, and we get some laughs, actions, soft scares, and snazzy effects along the way – it’s basically The Evil Dead for kids.

If I’d seen this regularly in the 80’s I probably would have enjoyed it more, but as such it remains an interesting artifact for newcomers. There will be nostalgic charm for many viewers of a certain age, but not a lot for modern audiences to get out of it. Steven Dorff is good in the lead role, showing a lot of skill at a young age while the rest of the cast are fine if unremarkable. The film takes a while to get out of first gear, but the last part of the movie emulates the likes of Poltergeist as it tries to pack in the thrills and the special effects. While the effects do not hold up, some of the model work is excellent and would have been impressive at the time of release, the scares are not going to have an impact on anyone but the youngest viewer, and the dialogue and laughs are likely only going to be enjoyed by the nostalgic viewer. Still, this makes a nice introduction to horror movies for the younger kid along with classics like Ghostbusters and Gremlins and would still provide some spooky fun during a Halloween party.

Have you seen The Gate? Let us know in the comments how you feel it ranks against other classics of the genre from the same time.

Ju On – White Ghost

whi

It has been quite some time since I first watched The Grudge and loved every second of it. Since then I watched the original Japanese TV movies (which The Grudge is a sequel of even though it seems like a remake) and the director Takashi Shimizu’s own US remake. I haven’t actually watched the US The Grudge 2 (also directed by Shimizu) and US The Grudge 3 (not Shimizu) partly due to bad reviews and partly due to Part 3 sounding like a straight to video mess. And of course partly because I was burned out on J Horror by that time. Black Ghost and White Ghost had been popping up on my Amazon Prime Viewer for quite some time but I’d avoided them as they sounded like even worse straight to video cash ins, but I finally relented and gave them a shot. Made to honour the 10th Anniversary of the series, these are two stories which deviate from the main plot of the main series, but are they any good!?

White Ghost, like it’s partner and predecessors has a labyrinthine plot which unravels in a deliberately non-linear fashion – events at the start of the film may happen weeks or months after events shown at the end, and vice versa, and more than that there appear to be certain elements which transcend time – echos of events which have not yet occurred. The story follows a group of characters who come into contact with a curse – a man murders his family, an old friend investigates, and several randomers are drawn into the pit. As I said in my review for Black Ghost, it is definitely worth watching each movie twice to appreciate the finer points and attempt to bring together a timeline in your head. Ironically, I fond this plot even more dense than Black Ghost but it appears to be handled more professionally. There is a lot of leaping about from time to time to character to place and back again, but it is engrossing.

There is some fairly dark stuff at work here – the murders and the curse of course, but an unsettling lump of incest, pedophilia, and suicide, none of which are shied away from. It’s unusual for a film in the Ju On universe to dwell much on the events which kicked everything off – mostly it’s shown in brief flashbacks, but here we are front row witnesses to the slaughter. This one is less atmospheric than Black Ghost, but still has plenty of tension and has more jump scares. The actual character of the White Ghost is not on par with Kayako, but her appearances rarely fail to scare to the point that you are dreading her next pop up. A few of these moments don’t quite work, and end up being almost funny, but for the most part the scares are particularly effective. That strange shimmering effect I mentioned in the other review is present here too. Again the performances are good, the soundtrack works well, and there is a grimy worn out look to proceedings. I watched Black Ghost first, but the stories don’t link together in any way so feel free to pick whichever you wish. BG has the atmosphere, WG has the bulk of the scares, but both are well worth a go for J-Horror fans.

So, who would I recommend this to? Grudge fans obviously, first and foremost. This doesn’t fill in any gaps from the main series or provide any resolution, rather it seems to be a similar story set in the same universe. There isn’t enough time to form much attachment to the characters, the plot is convoluted and non-linear, and the scares don’t offer anything new. With all that said, I enjoyed it, I was a little scared in places, and the idea still intrigues me as much as the execution. You won’t lose much by sacrificing an hour – so if you find this on streaming, give it a shot.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of White Ghost and how it compares to Black Ghost and the other movies in The Grudge franchise.

Ju On: Black Ghost

Juonwhiteblackbr-04.jpg

It has been quite some time since I first watched The Grudge and loved every second of it. Since then I watched the original Japanese TV movies (which The Grudge is a sequel of even though it seems like a remake) and the director Takashi Shimizu’s own US remake. I haven’t actually watched the US The Grudge 2 (also directed by Shimizu) and US The Grudge 3 (not Shimizu) partly due to bad reviews and partly due to Part 3 sounding like a straight to video mess. And of course partly because I was burned out on J Horror by that time. Black Ghost and White Ghost had been popping up on my Amazon Prime Viewer for quite some time but I’d avoided them as they sounded like even worse straight to video cash ins, but I finally relented and gave them a shot. Made to honour the 10th Anniversary of the series, these are two stories which deviate from the main plot of the main series, but are they any good!?

Black Ghost focuses on a young girl who has some sort of seizure and ends up in hospital. Her mum and dad have marital problems and the nurse looking after the girl begins to see, hear, and experience spooky things. In the grand Ju On tradition, this is only one piece of the puzzle and the film is split into interweaving chapters centering on a specific character. Each chapter may only be a few minutes long, generally less than 10, and as the movie progresses the overlapping becomes more pronounced. What does and will continue to put viewers off the series is its unwillingness to assist the viewer through the non-linear narrative; there is no Present Day marker, followed by 2 Months Earlier or any indication of date – the story jumps around and the clock keeps ticking, leaving it up to the viewer to work out the true sequence of events. Indeed, there may not be one true sequence as we have seen in the main stream of films that time itself is a loose notion and the sound of a dying character may be heard an investigated by that same character hours, days, or weeks before it actually happens. This lends a certain replay value to the movies – it is confusing and disorienting first time around, but a second watch smooths a lot of the edges while also serving to immerse you even more fully in a plot which doesn’t try or need to make sense – death is coming and there is no escape.

Discussion of plot aside, most will want to know if the film is scary. This sort of thing is subjective, but if you were creeped out by the originals then I don’t see why you wouldn’t at the least find unsettling moments here. The series has always relied on jump scares and atmosphere and we get both of these in the opening moments thanks to a school kid and a window. Black Ghost is more atmosphere heavy than laden with jump scares – cameras straining at some shadow just around the corner, something moving under a blanket or behind a curtain, and of course a soundtrack of gurgles, cries, and death rattles. The old familiar sound returns and while it still chills the bones, it doesn’t have the same impact without Kayako clawing her way towards the screen. In essence it is a retreading of the same old scares, but they are still effective especially if you are susceptible to such things, as I am. Adding to this atmosphere are a couple of notable additions – the performances are all strong, real, which is important given the actors don’t have a lot of screen time, though an argument could be made for there being too many characters for such a short running time. Finally there is a strange effect or glitch on screen in certain scenes; I assume this was not a fault of my streaming but a deliberate choice similar to the film glitches in The Ring. In some scenes there was a weird wavering around the edges of the frame akin to a mirage or some atmospheric refraction. That’s the best way I can describe unfortunately, a shaking around the edges as if something was trying to break through into our reality – there wasn’t any consistency which I could pick out – I assume it was added to make things more ominous or warn of an upcoming scare, but sometimes it happened when two characters were talking – no scare or sense of tension. oh yes, there is one truly excellent make-up/special effect towards the end.

So, who would I recommend this to? Grudge fans obviously, first and foremost. This doesn’t fill in any gaps from the main series or provide any resolution, rather it seems to be a similar story set in the same universe. There isn’t enough time to form much attachment to the characters, the plot is convoluted and non-linear, and the scares don’t offer anything new. With all that said, I enjoyed it, I was a little scared in places, and the idea still intrigues me as much as the execution. You won’t lose much by sacrificing an hour – so if you find this on streaming, give it a shot.

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Alan-Partridge-Alpha-Papa-008.jpg

British Televsion comedy can be excellent, unfortunately it’s usually the dregs like The Office or Little Britain which reach a wider audience, while classics such as People Like Us, Look Around You, The League Of Gentlemen, or Alan Partridge get overlooked. The character of Partridge has been a beloved figure here for decades now, but it’s only recently that he made his big screen debut. Does it succeed in translating to the movie format where so, so many have failed before?

Yeah, pretty much. Partridge as character is both strong and established enough to fit any medium – radio, TV, stage, and film. Coogan and Iannucci have been writing and performing this guy for decades and still find ways to keep things (my most hated word) fresh. Keeping things up to date is easy when you have someone like Partridge – he isn’t a product of a decade or a flash in the pan – he’s just some bloke who has lived and grown as all humans do – we just happen to have seen it happen. That’s the key factor in the movie being a success. On top of that, the writing is as sharp as ever, the performances are just as good as on the small screen, and the plot is cinematic and over the top without being overblown or reaching into silly excess. There is no need for globe-trotting or apocalyptic villains or endless celeb cameos. It’s just Partridge in an unusual, but not unexpected, hostage crisis.

As you would imagine, Partridge is the architect of some of what happens. His job at North Norfolk Digital is at risk after a buyout by some larger corporation so when he hears that it’s either him or fellow DJ Pat who will be axed, he does his best to save his own skin. Later, a disgruntled Pat enters the Station armed with a shotgun and demands his job back. Soon all manner of awkward Partridge antics ensue as Alan tries his hand at negotiating, surviving, scheming, DJing from within the hostage situation, and making sure he comes out on top.

Like the best movies based off shows, this feels like an extended episode which both respects and expands the show’s mythology/universe. The humour will be familiar to fans of the show, as will most of the faces – most of the series regulars show up here, from long suffering Lynn and Geordie weirdo Michael, to Mid Morning Matters co star Simon. Plenty of gags in the script which will reveal themselves with multiple viewings, and plenty of laughs from the more physical side.The movie never tries to cater for a new audience my going to extremes of action or casting, and is more than comfortable in its own skin – if you like any of the Partridge or Coogan shows, then you will undoubtedly enjoy this. Newcomers should find an easy blend of comedy and action, but I have a feeling that the audience will continue to be mostly British – it’s not as immediately universal as something like Mr Bean, though once you understand the characters and his quirks it should sell anywhere.

Let us know in the comments what you thought of Alpha Pappa and if you think it does a good job of both advertising and expanded on the series!