Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Case of the Scorpion's Tail (1971)

Director: Sergio Martino
Notable Cast: George Hilton, Anita Strindberg, Alberto de Mendoza, Ida Galli, Janine Reynaud, Luigi Pistilli, Tom Felleghy, Luis Barboo, Lisa Leonardi, Tomas Pico

What’s brilliant about Sergio Martino giallo films is that, outside of a handful, they are not usually purely giallo. It has been mentioned on this site previously that Martino is a much more diverse and talented director than just what he contributed to the horror genre and that even when he was making a film that was restricted to certain elements like a giallo is, he would find ways to make it feel dynamic. This brings us to the focus of this review, The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail, his second giallo and one that just received the pristine Arrow Video treatment. While the film maintains a staunch adherence to the elements that make a giallo a giallo (right down to the leather clad gloves and knife), it’s also a film that finds the tight balance of being a smart and intricately woven mystery thriller that slides into horror elements when it needs a spark to keep the film moving forward. It’s not quite the genre mashup that is Suspicious Death of a Minor, but it’s also not the pure slice of giallo that Torso is either. It’s the best of both worlds and The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail is a must have for any fan of either Italian cinema or just great thrillers.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Night Eats the World (2018)

Director: Dominique Rocher
Notable Cast: Anders Danielsen Lie, Golshifteh Farahani, Denis Lavant, Sigrid Bouaziz, David Kammenos

Going into the film, I had expectations that perhaps The Night Eats the World would be more like the French Extremism movement that dominated the 00s and gave us some fantastic and experiential films. Maybe it might be a bit more artful, knowing that the film was essentially carried by one actor, but that it would still carry the impact of the violence and nihilism of that movement. The French Extremism powered a lot of fantastic zombie and zombie-esque films (see The Horde, Mutants) so those expectations didn’t seem nearly out of the line going into the film as they did by the time the credits began to roll.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Doom Asylum (1987)

Director: Richard Friedman
Notable Cast: Patty Mullen, Ruth Collins, Kristin Davis, William Hay, Kenny L. Price, Harrison White, Dawn Alvan, Farin, Michael Rogen, Harvey Keith, Steven G. Menkin

There are some films that take another genre and then embed horror within it. It can be very effective that way and it embraces that wolf in sheep’s clothing kind of cinematic element that can work impressively. Doom Asylum is not like that at all. In fact, it’s probably not too out there to claim it as a sheep in wolf’s clothing. On the outside, Doom Asylum looks like it just might be one of those genuine old school and off beat slasher gems that Arrow Video is known for putting out (see The Mutilator, The Slayer, and Blood Rage all come to mind.) It’s not. On the surface, it’s a slasher and hits all of the elements of the blueprint. In execution though, the film is more akin to a slasher spoof than anything else. It’s meant to be a comedy, naturally, but that doesn’t mean it can even do that well. To its benefit, the film is one that can be seen as a ‘so bad, it’s good’ piece of cult cinema, but even then, Doom Asylum can be a chore to work through.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings (2018)

Director: Tsui Hark
Notable Cast: Mark Chao, Feng Shaofeng, Lin Gengxin, Ethan Juan, Ma Sichun, Carina Lau

Tsui Hark has been hit or miss for me when it comes to the quality of his films as of late. However, I will admit that the ridiculous fun that he has with the Detective Dee films is infectious. The previous two installments, the first featuring Andy Lau and the second featuring a young Dee portrayed by Mark Chao, are problematic when it comes to cohesive narratives and truly satisfying character development, but the strange things that one will see in the films partnered with charismatic performances make them effective popcorn entertainment. For this reason, it was still easy to be excited for the announcement of the third film in the series, a sequel to Young Detective Dee featuring Mark Chao reprising the role of famous detective, called Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings. Fortunately, this third film does not disappoint. Detective Dee: The Four Heavenly Kings is pure cinematic energy, balancing the sheer charm of its wink-wink attitude with lofty and outlandish gimmicks. The film, like its predecessors, is infectiously fun. Taking a note from the last film, it starts at an ambitiously high level of silliness and entertainment so that by time it hits the finale it has blown the roof out to deliver some of the strangest and most delightfully batshit insane material that this series may ever see. Like the previous two, The Four Heavenly Kings is a film that is going to have a lot of hate thrown its way for its popcorn approach to fantasy wuxia, but with the right mindset then it’s hard not to fall for the charms of this latest Detective Dee film.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

The First Purge (2018)

Director: Gerard McMurray
Notable Cast: Y’Lan Noel, Lex Scott Davis, Joivan Wade, Mugga, Christian Robinson, Lauren Velez, Kristen Solis, Marisa Tomei, Patch Darragh, Maria Rivera, Chyna Layne, Siya, Melonie Diaz, Mo McRae, Steve Harris

The Purge franchise, for all of its faults and flaws, remains one of the more intriguing genre series to come out in the last handful of years. It had a very silly (and quite frankly, awful) first entry, but its surprise box office success allowed writer and director James DeMonaco to embrace the outlandish socio-political commentary with a vigor that made the following two sequels, Anarchy and Election Year, genre pleasures for many fans. Love them or hate them, they made money and DeMonaco did an admirable job at delivering fun genre action while adding in a less than subtle commentary about the current state of politics in doing so. The problem that came to be is that the third film, Election Year, essentially wrapped up the series leaving a bit of room for expansion, but hardly paved the way for a full follow up. Thus, we got The First Purge, a prequel about the first ‘experiment’ on Staten Island that would allow the New Founding Fathers the information to push the Purge to the full country.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Hereditary (2018)

Director: Ari Aster
Notable Cast: Toni Collette, Gabriel Byrne, Alex Wolff, Milly Shapiro, Ann Dowd

The A24 phenomenon is something truly interesting to behold as a horror fan. The most recent wave of success in the genre is certainly not limited to the surprise success of A24 in generating arthouse horror films, but it is definitely a part of it. After The Witch came out to critical (and box office) success, the studio decided to roll with the punches and embrace their new found fame as an arthouse horror company - even if they release more films than just genre work. Fast forward to 2018 and A24 is releasing one of the most hyped horror films of the year, Hereditary. Fascinatingly so, this film is one that was garnering a lot of mainstream talk and not just from the usual horror outlets. This was a film that generated quite the buzz on the film festival circuit and everyone was talking about it. This is potentially disastrous though. A film like Hereditary, with its more meticulous approach to the genre, tends to create an intense divide in its viewers. It’s either the best film of the year (critics are raving) or it’s the worst film of the year (currently sitting at a D+ on CinemaScore) and there is very little in between. For this horror aficionado, Hereditary rests on the former end as one of the best of the year that’s brimming with some of the most intense performances and unnerving sequences that horror is likely to produce by the end of the calendar year. It’s truly effective and horrific cinema, boiling with dramatic heft. It’s a film that is not to be missed.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Sicario: Day of the Soldado (2018)

Director: Stefano Sollima
Notable Cast: Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Isabela Moner, Jeffrey Donovan, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Catherine Keener, Matthew Modine, Shea Whigham, Elijah Rodriguez, Howard Ferguson, David Castaneda, Jacqueline Torres, Raoul Trujillo, Bruno Bichir, Jake Picking

There were a lot of mixed feelings to be had about Sicario: Day of the Soldado even before the film was released. Particularly since the first film was, at least in my opinion, a tour de force as an artistic and nihilistic thriller about the inherent issues with the system in regards to America’s role at the southern border. It was not a film that begged to be franchised, but the fascinating characters it painted certainly did leave plenty of morally gray areas to be explored in further stories. After years of rewrites and announcements (originally both Emily Blunt and director Denis Villeneuve were announced for the film, but would drop off later on) we are left with an ‘interesting’ second entry into this surprise series. An obvious step down in execution – in essentially all areas – from its predecessor, Day of the Soldado still manages to craft an interesting and vicious film that tries desperately to take the series in something of a new direction while maintaining the style that made Sicario such a critical (and surprise box office) success. It’s a flawed film ultimately, but one that will solidify this franchise for further entries.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

China Salesman (2018)

Director: Tan Bing
Notable Cast: Dong-Xue Li, Mike Tyson, Janicke Askevold, Li Ai, Eriq Ebouaney, Steven Seagal, Zijan Wang

When China Salesman was first announced there was a lot of hype around the film. It was a Chinese film, but it would feature both Mike Tyson and Steven Seagal. They were also going to have a fight. Cause, why the hell not? As a person who grew up watching Tyson fight in the ring and Seagal flip people haphazardly on the silver screen, I was immediately intrigued. There was almost no chance that this film would be good, particularly when the synopsis was revealed and the big appeal to western audiences would be this battle of larger than life personalities. When the opportunity came to review this film, I leapt at it knowing full well that China Salesman would not be a great film. Nay, it wasn’t even going to be a good film. If it was a film at all, I was going to be pleasantly surprised.

Surprise, surprise, China Salesman is a film, but it is very terrible.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)

Director: J.A. Bayona
Notable Cast: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, B.D. Wong, Isabella Sermon, Geraldine Chaplin, Jeff Goldblum

While the critic in me certainly has issues with all of the Jurassic Park films, including the original, my love for their bombastic popcorn abilities to entertain and deliver simple environmental messages and warnings about mankind’s arrogance in the realm of technology knows no bounds. When the series came roaring back to life with Trevorrow’s Jurassic World in 2015, I couldn’t have been happier with the results. It was a seriously flawed film, but one that seemingly had no intention of trying to break the formula for the sake of logic or – really – anything all that new and instead focused on big broad character swipes, big and mean dinosaurs, and big outlandish set pieces. I’m perfectly fine with that. Still, by the time that the first trailers started rolling out for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the massive volcano angle and similar scenes to the first Jurassic World did not inspire a lot of faith. This looked like more of the same and, while I was also fine with that, I didn’t have nearly the amount of expectations for the film as the previous one and it’s ‘the park is now open!’ slant.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

German Angst (2015/2018)

Directors: Jorg Buttgereit, Michal Kosakowski, Andreas Marschall

If you have been following the site for some time, you know that we love horror anthology films. For better or worse and in the case of anthologies, a little bit of both. One of the cult horror films that has been bubbling under the mainstream conscious is German Angst, which has been floating around in various releases for the last few years, and it finally hits Blu Ray from Artsploitation films in the US. Now, when a film finds that cult stream like this did, horror fans tend to build it up and can overhype it as ‘the best film you haven’t seen’ and keeping your expectations in check is the best way to approach German Angst. Particularly because the film is much more artsy and diverse than maybe some of the marketing would lead one to believe. The results are impressive though and, while it may seem a bit slow at times or too vague with its narratives through the three stories for some mainstream horror fans, each of them delivers on their promises in some effective ways making the entire film one that more hardcore horror fans will definitely want to dig their teeth into.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

The Endless (2018)

Directors: Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead
Notable Cast: Justin Benson, Aaaron Moorhead, Callie Hernandez, Tate Ellington, Lew Temple, James Jordan, Shane Brady, Kira Powell, David Lawson, Emily Montague, Peter Cilella, Vinny Curran, Glen Roberts

Perhaps it’s the cynic in me that thought directors Moorhead and Benson were being a bit too arrogant with their abilities when I found out that they would be starring as the two leads in their latest genre bending piece of cinema, The Endless. Don’t get me wrong, they had built up a lot of momentum with the back to back successes of Resolution and Spring, particular the latter which truly elevated their writing and directorial skills to some astronomical levels. Still, when The Endless started making the rounds in the festival circuit, my cynicism for directors who like to put themselves in movies perked up. Fortunately, now that The Endless is finally hitting home video with a solid little theatrical release to boot a few months ago, people can rest at ease that Moorhead and Benson are not indulging their own egos with this film but are simply adding to their impressive resumes. The Endless is a phenomenal film riding on their ability to create charisma in a strange and often perplexingly offbeat genre shifting tone. It’s personal, intimate, and impressively otherworldly at the same time. Like their previous two, this film is not for more casual film goers with its oddities, but it is one likely to find a very large and dedicated cult following. A somewhat hilarious concept considering the ideas at the core of its story.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Abominable (2005)

Director: Ryan Schifrin
Notable Cast: Matt McCoy, Haley Joel, Christien Tinsley, Karin Anna Cheung, Jeffrey Combs, Natalie Compagno, Paul Gleason, Ashley Hartman, Lance Henriksen, Rex Linn, Phil Morris, Tiffany Shepis, Chad Smith, Dee Wallace, Paul Spadone, Josh Wolfe

Generally speaking, I’m a sucker for creature features. Wholeheartedly so. Good, bad, ugly, funny...I just love a silly monster movie. That being said, the amount of good Sasquatch horror movies to bad Sasquatch movies heavily leans in the realms of the latter. As easy as it would seem to make a fun monster movie with one of the world’s most popular kinds of monsters, very rarely have I found myself impressed with them beyond unintentional humor or a passable way to burn time. Abominable, on the other hand, is both. It’s a great, bad killer Sasquatch film. There’s not an ounce of me that believes Abominable is meant to be a classically regarded horror classic. This is a film that starts with very little, in terms of non-basic horror concepts, and builds such a fun piece of cinema on top of it with its self-aware elements and outlandish execution that it was very hard for me to wipe the smile off of my face when watching it. If that’s not an endorsement for cult cinema fans, I’m not sure what else would be.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sleepy Eyes of Death 8: Sword of Villainy (1966)

Director: Kenji Misumi
Notable Cast: Raizo Ichikawa, Shigeru Amachi, Shiho Fujimura, Kentaro Kudo, Ryuzo Shimada, Yasushi Nagata, Tatsuo Endo, Koichi Uenoyama, Ryosuke Kagawa, Koichi Mizuhara

After the surprisingly successful quality of the previous entry, it was hard not to jump into Sleepy Eyes of Death 8: Sword of Villainy with some high expectations. Not that this series has always been the most consistent with quality overall, but the seventh entry managed to produce a well-executed film with some lofty and off beat gimmicks and this eighth entry was bringing back one of Japan’s finest genre directors to helm it, Kenji Misumi. As Sword of Villainy plays out, it’s almost the polar opposite in style to Mask of the Princess. This film is dense, playing out at times like a socio-political drama more than a gimmickier chanbara film, and it runs the gauntlet in a more artsy, theatrical, and vague manner. It’s no wonder that many fans have mixed feelings on the film. Even when the narrative flow feels flawed or pushes too far in one direction, the film is still carried through by its phenomenal cast and another brilliant round of direction from Misumi. Just make sure that you keep open to what it has to offer.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Believer (2018)

Director: Lee Hae-young
Notable Cast: Cho Jin-woong, Ryu Jun-yeol, Kim Joo-hyuk, Kim Sung-ryung, Park Hae-joon, Jung Jun-won, Jin Seo-yeon, Kang Seung-hyun, Seo Hyun-woo, Kim Dong-young, Lee Joo-young, Jung Ga-ram

Remakes. As much as they are seen as a plague on the film industry, they exist and considering that they are not going away any time soon we should simply hope for the best from them. Even with this approach in mind, it was hard not to be cynical about the announcement that there would be a South Korean remake of Johnnie To’s recent crime thriller, Drug War. Namely because Johnnie To did it so impeccably well to delivered a nihilistic slice of brutally subtle narrative and viciously opportunistic characters in a chaotic world within his film. With the remake, under the title Believer, getting a limited theatrical release from our friends at Well Go USA, hope was lifted. By the time that the credits rolled, that hope turned to relief. Believer is not ‘just’ a remake of the Johnnie To film, but it’s definitely a new interpretation of the original. In many ways, this film takes the blueprints laid out by To and builds a new film of its own on top of it. Believer uses some of the elements, here and there, but ultimately crafts a unique vision of the story. It is a film that effectively succeeds
on its own merits and delivers a crime tale that’s as smart as it is explosive.

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Return of Swamp Thing (1989)

Director: Jim Wynorski
Notable Cast: Dick Durock, Louis Jourdan, Heather Locklear, Sarah Douglas, Ace Mask, Monique Gabrielle, Daniel Emery, Joey Sagal, RonReaco Lee

It’s not like the original Swamp Thing, directed by Wes Craven, is some kind of cinematic gold. It’s not. Far from it, in fact. It’s sequel, The Return of Swamp Thing, takes things even further down the rabbit hole of B-grade cinema and...well, it’s not cinematic gold either. However, The Return of Swamp Thing is a film that has no intention of being that film that rises above that line. Coming from the director of Chopping Mall, Deathstalker II, and whose career as careened into made for SyFy monster movies and television pornography as of late, I suppose that it’s not that surprising. What is surprising is that this film is a lot of fun. Yeah, it’s dumb. Yet, the film embraces it with 100% of its existence and, for that, I have to give it some credit. Truthfully, people will either enjoy it or completely despise it and even though it’s hard to say it’s “good” in any sense of the word, I do have a lot of enjoyment with it.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The Mimic (2018)

Director: Huh Jung
Notable Cast: Yum Jung-Ah, Park Hyuk-Kwon, Shin Rin-A

Director Huh Jung came rip roaring onto the scene with his debut feature length film, Hide and Seek. He was winning awards, the film made a statement at the South Korean box office, and he set a very high bar for himself. That is one of the things about coming out of the gate with full power for a debut film. There is a lot of pressure to follow it up with a bombastic sophomore effort and fans will set serious expectations in the success of the film. With his sophomore effort, The Mimic, Huh Jung continues on with his horror material, but this time pushes forward into potential creature feature and ghost story territory as he adapts a Korean legend of ‘the tiger of Mt. Jang.’ While the results are not nearly as efficient as his previous effort, the film does soar in many aspects that will have fans and newbies to his material hooked.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Director: Ron Howard
Notable Cast: Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Joonas Suotamo, Paul Bettany, Jon Favreau

When the latest Star Wars entry was announced to be a prequel featuring a young Han Solo doing his space smuggler thing, I will admit I was less than thrilled. Disney and the LucasFilms machine has an entire universe to explore and they decided to go the safe route with a character that we already know and have already spent four films with in some regard. Yawn. The following behind the scenes drama for the film, featuring Lord and Miller being booted from the film after shooting a significant amount of it and rumors of a shoot that was PLAGUED with issues, certainly didn’t inspire a lot of hope in the product. Even the hiring of megastar director Ron Howard to fix the film seemed hollow, particularly since most of his recent output never connected with me. To say that I was going in with some pretty low expectations is an understatement. Perhaps this is why, even though the film is, indeed, very, very flawed, I was pleasantly surprised with Solo: A Star Wars Story (ugh, that title still sticks in my craw.) Ultimately, Solo is a fun film with enough entertaining elements to pass off as a decent early blockbuster for the year. It’s hardly one of the best from Star Wars, easily the worst of the Disney era for a variety of reasons that I will go into here in a second, but it’s fun and it’s an inoffensive piece of cinema that works as the popcorn flick it is. Did I want more? Sure, but I was not expecting to get it.

How Long Will I Love You (2018)

Director: Lun Xu
Notable Cast: Jia Ying Lei, Li Ya Tong

It’s not often that a cult cinema site like Blood Brothers is offered the chanced to run coverage on a romantic comedy and, normally, it’s one that we wouldn’t pursue because, well, how many rom-coms have genre elements that would even fit into the realms of cinema we cover? However, How Long Will I Love You had a twist. It’s a film that uses a time-travel/multi-dimensional gimmick as the hinge in bringing the two leads together for their rom-com tropes. It was enough to perk our interest in the film and here we are…writing a positive review for a rom-com. In many ways, the film suffers by adhering so vehemently to the tropes of the genre. Enough so that large swaths of the film are easily predictable. On the other hand, the film subverts them with its own messages about fate and serendipity through its strange fantasy elements. It’s a teeter-totter kind of back and forth that makes it feel a bit more sporadic then needed, but ultimately the saving grace of How Long Will I Love You is that no matter which way the film is leaning, it’s irresistibly charming and powered by the hilarious and heartwarming chemistry between its two leads.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Sleepy Eyes of Death 7: The Mask of the Princess (1966)

Director: Akira Inoue
Notable Cast: Raizo Ichikawa, Yaeko Mizutani, Ichiro Nakatani, Keiko Kayama, Michiko Ai, Tamotsu Fujiharu, Ryutaro Gomi, Kiyoshi Ito, Kanae Kobayashi

“For a villain like me, this is a very nice grave.”

In terms of this franchise, Sleepy Eyes of Death 7: The Mask of the Princess represents one key aspect of why it has been so successful: impressive execution. At this point, the formula of what constitutes a film in this series is pretty solidified and almost exclusively etched in stone, so there are plenty of elements to be expected in those regards. However, The Mask of the Princess uses those aspects to continually spin the film in some intriguing directions and plays on the audience’s expectations in some fun ways. On top of that, the film might be one of the more fascinating films of the series on a visual level with director Akira Inoue bringing a great sense of style and purpose to it that layers well with the narrative and script. Even when the film is predictable, it is able to be one of the best in the franchise on sheer execution.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Bruce's Deadly Fingers (1976)

Director: Joseph Kong Hung
Notable Cast: Bruce Le, Michael Chan, Lo Lieh, Nora Miao, Nick Cheung, Yuan Man-Tzu, Chiang Tao, Tong Tin-Hei, Fung Ging-Man, Chiu Chi-Ling, Bolo Yeung
Also Known As: Bruce’s Fingers

The one thing about Bruceploitation films is that either a) you completely buy into the cheesy concept and appreciate them for what they are or b) you don’t. Even as a massive martial arts cinema fan, sometimes the obvious low budget cash ins on Bruce Lee’s fame (and death) feel a tad out of place and occasionally disrespectful. At their worst, this is most definitely the case. At their best though, which is where Bruce’s Deadly Fingers tends to lean towards, it’s fun and exploitative entertainment that knows exactly what it is. In the case of Bruce’s Deadly Fingers, an all-star cast, some outlandish silly sequences, and a lot of tongue in cheek humor is what carries the film to being one of the better ones I have seen in the Bruceploitation movement. It’s still a rather hit or miss product, but for fans of the kung fu sub-genre this latest Blu Ray from VCI for the film is going to be a necessary addition to the martial arts fan’s collection.