Saturday, November 17, 2018

One Cut of the Dead (2018)

Director: Shinichiro Ueda

Starring: Takayuki Hamatsu, Mao, Harumi Shuhama, Yuzuki Akiyama, Kazuaki Nagaya

Struggling to get one of his main actresses in character during a film shoot, director Higurashi (Takayuki Hamatsu) snaps and storms off stage after an abundant amount of takes. We follow the crew during an unplanned break as the director trys to cool down and the actress tries to focus on her performance. In the midst of this behind the scenes meltdown, one of the extras in their zombie movie get up seems to be a little more than well made up and what ensues is a chaotic bloodbath of zombie action that unfolds in real time in one long unbroken 45 minute or so take, immediately stunning the audience from frame one.

One Cut of the Dead is easily the most exciting genre film of the year and an indie film rock star in its native Japan, raking in over 2000 times it's roughly micro $27,000 budget, opening on a mere two screens and with no money spent on an advertisement campaign. I am never one to even bring up box office, especially in a review, but it's an extremely impressive feat, regardless on your stance with the film. That said, I think One Cut is the unexpected cult film of 2018. The one that quickly snuck up and leapt to the top of the throne, standing firmly amongst the best midnight classics. The Shaun of the Dead of the 2010s if you will.

Characters are one of the many highlights of this zombie laugh fest. The angry director who keeps cropping up and yelling "Action!" as he shoves his camera into the fearful faces of his performers who have stopped acting and started attempting to survive. He keeps the chaos alive and well. Another fun character is the make-up artist, played to perfection by Harumi Shuhama, who is the one in these types of movie who practices self-defense as a hobby which conveniently and hilariously plays into the oncoming zombie attack. Pom!

The way the story unfolds and how the narrative is a play on structure, is surprising, and very refreshing. From an impressive technical and gory one-take that will impress every type of movie goer, to a shift towards a more conventional form of storytelling and overall tonal shift that completely works, One Cut manages to surprise at almost every turn. Little things that raise questions or seem accidental upon initial reveal are all handled and accounted for as things play out. On multiple occasions, I found myself envious with the choices being made, wishing I had come up with something similar myself.

I could go on extensively with praise and covering every angle of this movie, but there  is a simple way to pump the breaks and wrap things up here. One Cut of the Dead is a hilarious, bloody romp with enough heart to make any genre fan blush. It's easy to see why it's been such a huge success. Very hard not to fall in love with a little film as charming as this one. Wherever Shinichiro Ueda decides to head next, I hope it has even just a fraction of the passion on display here. The most fun I've had with a movie all year!

Written by Josh Parmer

The Marine 6: Close Quarters (2018)

Director: James Nunn
Notable Cast: Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin, Shawn Michaels, Rebecca ‘Becky Lynch’ Quin, Louisa Connolly-Burnham, Terence Maynard, Tim Woodward, Martyn Ford, Anna Demetriou, Michael Higgs

The Marine series has two things going for it that make me come back to it again and again. Firstly, it’s old school grounded and cheesy B-action. Secondly, it’s a franchise. I’m a sad sucker for both of those things. Even though I have never been a WWE fan, WWE Films has been doing some decent stuff on the straight to home video action market and I have no reason not to support them in their endeavors. Although The Marine franchise started off on a rocky road, requiring three different stars as three different characters in the first three films to mixed results, the series has strangely gotten better as it has gone on. Although The Marine 5 was met by mixed reactions from fans, it was easily one of my favorites thanks to its tongue-in-cheek attitude and solid direction from B-movie action director James Nunn. The Marine 6: Close Quarters does the smart thing and brings back The Miz’s Jake Carter for another round of beatdowns and bullet dodges along with Nunn in the director’s chair. While the results of this film are a bit less entertaining than the last for me, The Marine 6 brings another healthy dose of cheesy action to its fans and it’s another fun entry into this surprisingly enjoyable franchise.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Blood Splatter: Illang: The Wolf Brigade (2018) / Final Score (2018)


Director: Kim Jee-woon
Notable Cast: Gang Dong-won, Han Hyo-joo, Jung Woo-sung, Kim Mu-yeol, Han Ye-ri, Choi Min-ho, Shin Eun-soo

For the record, I’m not all that familiar for the source material behind Kim Jee-woon’s adaption of what is highly considered a classic piece of modern culture. Perhaps he does a lot of unique things with it, spinning its core ideas and messages in fresh ways that inspire confidence in fans. I couldn’t tell you otherwise. Or, maybe, Illang: The Wolf Brigade falls short and comes off as a film that stumbles in reaching its lofty goals as a futuristic action flick with its social and political messaging. For my money, despite some great elements, Illang falls into the latter. Judging the film on its own merits, of course.

Mrs. Fang (2017)

Director: Wang Bing
Featuring: Fang Xiuing plus Her Family and Friends

Mrs. Fang is 68 years old and has an advanced form of Alzheimer's disease, and she is bedridden, accompanied with care and watched over by her daughter and son. Various family members and friends pop in and out on her, closely observing her last ten days of existence on this Earth. Death is inescapable and Wang Bing's examination of the final stage in life simply has no padding. For better or for worse, we see this woman lay through her final days and then fade into what ever lays beyond. It is a tough watch and will leave many a viewer divided.

I don't think there is much to really spoil here as there is no way to not know how things will turn out, but the way in which the film transitions into observation of Mrs. Fang's deteriorating health is abrupt and shocking. Things happen in life unexpectedly and a hard cut mere minutes into the documentary greatly reflect the cold possibilities that life may throw one's way. The Alzheimer's was there for some time, although the specifics are unknown, and at just the snap of a finger, only some months later, she is on her back, skin tightened and drawn in, her teeth protruding from her mouth indefinitely, appearing much thinner than before and it isn't known whether she is aware of much of anything going on around her or not at this point.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji (1955)

Director: Tomu Uchida
Notable Cast: Chiezo Kataoka, Ryunosuke Tsukigata, Chizuru Kitagawa, Yuriko Tashiro, Daisuke Kato, Eitaro Shindo

The Arrow Academy label, which covers the arthouse titles for the more cult focused Arrow Video, is not a label that we cover in full here at Blood Brothers. Occasionally they drop something of interest that ends up on our reviewing queue. Most recently, they released the 1955 Japanese film, Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji. Intriguingly enough, despite its fantastic new art on this Blu Ray release, the visceral title, and plenty of other indicators (like the original poster,) Bloody Spear at Mount Fuji is not an action film. Going into the film, I certainly had expectations that it would be an old school action film, perhaps, similar to some of the material that Criterion has put out from this same era, but that is not the case. This film is more fittingly a dramatic comedy or a comedic drama, depending on the scene. In these regards though, the film is actually a masterpiece in tonal balance, utilizing its road trip narrative to deliver some fantastic satire, tragedy, and its own oddities of storytelling. This may not be the brimming tense and action packed film the title would make an audience assume, but, quite frankly, it’s a brilliant film in its own way.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Communicating with the Dead: The American Pulse Franchise

After the success of The Ring (followed by the success of The Grudge,) the Hollywood money machine was emboldened to remake every J-horror or J-horror influenced film that they could find. It didn’t matter how good or bad the source material was, if it made money or was even warmly regarded critically, it was fodder for the Hollywood slaughter. This is where Kairo, also known as Pulse, comes into play. The original film is a stark and artistic horror film, intent on crafting vague messages about the relationship between society and technology, that has earned its fair share of mixed reactions since its release. For one, I am a massive fan of Kairo and you are welcome to dig into my review of the Arrow Video Blu Ray release of the film HERE for some more in-depth context to understand the rest of this article and review. There will often be comparisons to it through the next section that focuses on the first entry of the American Pulse series, but it felt necessary to address some of the context for the following. It’s during this time frame that Kurosawa’s Kairo was picked for a Hollywood adaption and the results are interesting at best and insulting at worst.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

12 Monkeys (1995)

Director: Terry Gilliam
Notable Cast: Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Madeline Stowe, Christopher Plummer, David Morse, Jon Seda, Christopher Meloni, Frank Gorshin, Vernon Campbell, Lisa Gay Hamilton

Time travel movies can, in a broader sense, be sticky. More often than not for them to work, the film either has to completely disregard trying to make sense and just plow through with its gimmicks or it has to make any plot holes irrelevant to the narrative. When it comes to a film like 12 Monkeys, it’s the sense of style and strange quirkiness to its proceedings that allows it to move above and beyond the normal trappings of the time travel focused science fiction flick. This late 90’s cult classic from the iconic Terry Gilliam is able to find that right balance between artistry and consumption, humor and horror, and the line between tongue-in-cheek and dramatic heft. Quite frankly, despite being one of the last (only?) true studio productions for the British director, it inherently features all of his style, but in a more packaged and easier to swallow product. It’s an effective combination. On top of being a brilliant film, this latest Blu Ray release for 12 Monkeys is a welcome upgrade for fans. It’s packed with features to add even more commentary and substance to the off beat and unique film and its context.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Deadbeat at Dawn (1988)

Director: Jim Van Bebber
Notable Cast: Jim Van Bebber, Paul Harper, Megan Murphy, Marc Pitman, Ric Walker

Diving into the new Blu Ray release of Deadbeat at Dawn from Arrow Video was something for an adventure for me. Mainly, I had never even heard of the film prior to its announcement by the cult cinema releasing label. When it was announced, my initial reaction was to not do any research on the film prior to seeing it and go in completely blind. It’s not often that I am able to do that with films – particularly those released by a larger label – so even the idea of a fresh experience was somewhat exciting. Intriguingly enough, what I found with Deadbeat at Dawn was the epitome of a DIY film that looked like it was made for $200 and a bottle of whiskey. Even with its incredibly raw and rough around the edges approach, it’s easy to see why the film has garnered a cult audience with its almost punk-like approach and energetic appeal to low budget cinema. This isn’t a film that reaches too far above its means, like The Driller Killer or something of that ilk, but it is a film that has plenty of admirable qualities that generally even out its rough patches.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Suspiria (2018)

Director: Luca Guadagnino
Notable Cast: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloe Grace Moretz, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Caven, Elena Fokina

Remakes are a contentious subject for movie fans. I don’t necessarily share most of the feelings, as I believe a good film can be a good film regardless of its connection to its source material, but after years of terrible remakes, it’s hard not to have some understanding for the hatred. When it comes to a classic film with a very rambunctious and vocal fan base like Suspiria, having a remake was already going to be a hotly debated topic even if it is a great film. This is what makes the multi-award nominated director Luca Guadagnino’s version of this horror classic such a fascinating remake. It’s a very good film. It’s shies of being great, for some reasons that will be further explained below, but 2018’s Suspiria is a massively fascinating and true reinterpretation of the original film. This is not Argento’s version simply modernized and watered down for mainstream consumption that traps so many horror films. This is truly a unique spin on the classic, incorporating its own key elements, loosely following the core plotting of the original, and developing some fantastically disturbing and refreshing themes. Even for fans of the original, if you’re a cinephile, you’re going to find plenty of things to respect about the film, even if you have a full-hearted love for the original.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Alipato: The Very Brief Life of an Ember (2016)

Director: Khavn
Notable Cast: Khavn, Dido De La Paz, Marti San Juan, Robin Palmes, Bing Austria

This is not a review of Alipato: The Very Brief Life of an Ember.

I am slowly diving into the mad mind of Khavn, the Filipino equivalent of... well, no one comes to mind and if they did, they would be comparable to he, as frankly I've never experienced anything quite in the vein of this particular work. The few peaks I've had into his other works, I can say... he is truly one of a kind. I have only two of his films behind me, Ruined Heart: Another Love Story Between a Criminal and a Whore, and this one. While I think the former is a more "enjoyable" work, this is easily a more accomplished and uncompromising piece.

Rampant (2018)

Director: Kim Sung-hoon
Notable Cast: Hyun Bin, Jang Dong-gun, Lee Sun-bin, Kim Eui-sung, Jeong Man-sik, Seo Ji-hye, Jo Woo-jin, Jo Dal-hwan, Kim Tae-woo

There was a strangely empty place left after the massive international success of Train to Busan. This may have to do with how different the film industry in South Korea is from Hollywood, but if a film like that had dropped here in the US there would have been a saturation of the market in similar zombie films – which has been the case since the release of The Walking Dead, but I digress. Yet, in terms of zombie films from South Korea, the international releases have been relatively non-existent. That is, until Rampant. What makes Rampant such an intriguing film is that instead of doubling down on the familial core and traditional zombie tropes like Train to Busan, this film aims to be more a genre mash up of a lot of very popular South Korean genres. Rampant is not just a zombie film. It’s a political thriller and it also features plenty of sword clashing action set pieces that would be comfortable in a wuxia style period film. This is where Rampant becomes the ambitious film that it is. It’s a brilliant blend of genres, powered on charismatic performances, and layered with some great set pieces which makes Rampant one of the most unique cinematic experiences in 2018.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Blood, Sweat and Terrors (2018)

Anthologies are quite often a thing that we end up reviewing here at Blood Brothers, but more often than not the popular format is used for horror. In a way, Blood, Sweat and Terrors is a film that occasionally leans into that territory, particularly in certain stories that include demonic forces or zombies, but for the most part this is the first time we’ve had the opportunity to review a full-on action anthology. Like most anthologies, the quality between segments can waiver anywhere from fun and silly to ‘why isn’t this a feature length film?’ and Blood, Sweat and Terrors is no different. As with most of our reviews for cinematic collections, this article will not focus on reviewing each segment on their own, but for this film as a whole. In that way, while there is entertainment to be found in the film in spades, it is a rather scattered affair and feels more like a hodge podge of short films than a cohesive whole which does undermine the overall experience. For action fans though, there is plenty of thrills and kills to be enjoyed that will appease even some of the more discerning fans. Not everything hits its target, but it’s hard not to enjoy some of the talents that are included here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Night Comes for Us (2018)

Director: Timo Tjahjanto
Notable Cast: Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais, Julie Estelle, Zack Lee, Sunny Pang, Hannah Al Rashid, Shareefa Daanish, Dian Sastrowardoyo, Salvita Decorte, Asha Kenyeri Bermudez, Epy Kusnandar, Morgan Oey, Abimana Aryasatya, Dimas Anggara, Revaldo

With Gareth Evans venturing off into other genres, there was a void that was left in the Indonesian action world that needed to be filled. Timo Tjahjanto seemingly stepped up to the plate with his last film, the horrendously overlooked blend of Takashi Miike and The Raid known as Headshot, and now he’s back with his latest typhoon of violence in the form of The Night Comes for Us. Like the previously mentioned film, this one is a symphony of bludgeoning laid upon the tropes of an 80's inspired action flick plot. Unlike its predecessor, The Night Comes for Us is not attempting to blend genres. It’s intent on delivering on its promises. The Night Comes for Us is a typhoon of beautifully choreographed and perpetual brutality, punctuated by the suffocating intensity of a film brimming with characters armed with enough weapons, martial arts skills, and killing prowess to power two dozen action films. For fans of the creative forces behind the film, whether it's the director Timo or the stars, the film satiates the bloodlust even when it inherently sticks to the tropes of its plot and narrative a bit too firmly. In short, the film is action brilliance.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Into the Dark: Flesh & Blood (2018)

Director: Patrick Lussier
Notable Cast: Diana Silvers, Dermot Mulroney Tembi Locke, Lavetta Cannon, Heidi Sulzman

After the resounding success (at least in terms of quality, in my opinion) of Into the Dark’s debut “episode,” The Body, I was eager to leap into their next film for Hulu, Flesh & Blood. As a reoccurring series on the streaming giant, these films have a lot to offer in terms of an outlet for fresh new voices in genre cinema or for chancier projects. The first film, The Body, proved this. It was a fun blend of genres and showcased a unique directorial voice. The second episode, not so much. That’s the thing about Flesh & Blood as a film. It’s pretty good, but it comes from director Patrick Lussier. Between his last two films, the blissfully entertaining duo of Drive Angry and the My Bloody Valentine remake, this one feels a bit tame. Often enough, it’s quite successful in its contained and tense story, but with a director like this at the helm, Flesh & Blood feels a bit too tame and formulaic for what it might have been.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Dangan Runner (1996)

Director: SABU
Notable Cast: Tomorowo Taguchi, Diamond Yukai, Shinichi Tsutsumi

SABU, whose career I'm only familiar with in his recent stretch, Miss Zombie and Chasuke's Journey springing to mind, is a visionary director whose earlier catalog is dying to see light outside of Japan. Thanks to Third Window Films, his debut is getting a second wind and hopefully winning a long overdue audience that it most definitely deserves. Dangan Runner is a cult classic waiting to be seen.

We are thrown into the action from frame one, which the set up is fun enough itself to not spoil, but essentially one would-be robber named Yasuda, played by Tomorowo Taguchi of Tetsuo: The Iron Man fame is being chased by a local convenient store clerk who is a washed up, coked out rock star who has fallen from his heyday, and a wandering Yakuza member (Shinichi Tsutsumi) whom they happen to bump into. We then spend almost the entirety of the rest of the film watching these three endlessly chase after each other, inter-spliced with various flashbacks and fantasy sequences slowly piecing together the backstory of each of the three runners.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The House That Screamed (1970)

Director: Narciso Ibáñez Serrador
Notable Cast: Lilli Palmer, Cristina Galbo, John Moulder-Brown, Mary Maude, Candida Losada, Pauline Challoner, Tomas Blanco, Victor Israel, Teresa Hurtado, Maria Jose Valero, Conchita Paredes, Ana Maria Pol, Mari Carmen Duque, Paloma Pages

The House That Screamed is one of those films that flies just under the radar. It doesn’t have a lot of backing from being part of any larger more mainstream movement, in particular the wave of Hammer Horror or the blooming giallo boom of the era, which does mean that it is often shoved to the side unfairly, but the film is still an impressive late 60s (even if it wasn’t released until 1970 or later in some places) horror film. It balances this unique sense of early slasher elements with dense gothic atmosphere and a slick and often nuanced sense of visual chemistry. More often than not, comparisons to the iconic Mario Bava through the lens of a Hammer film could be made, and that only comes as a compliment. The House That Screamed finds that sweet spot between exploitative elements and artistry with its narrative and it deserves far more fanfare than it has received.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Day of the Jackal (1973)

Director: Fred Zinnemann
Notable Cast: Edward Fox, Michel Lonsdale, Terence Alexander, Michel Auclair, Alan Badel, Tony Britton, Denis Carey, Adrien Cayla-Legrand, Cyril Cusack, Maurice Denham

There are always a variety of ways to approach the focus of a film. Some films focus on a narrative. Some focus on the characters. Some focus on the plot. Each approach has its pros and cons and the perfect film will have a give and take between the various focuses to maintain a balance. When it comes to The Day of the Jackal, the famous political thriller based on the popular novel of the same name, the film takes a relatively intriguing approach to finding that balance. The film has received generous praise over the decades since its release and this review will certainly give it plenty of praise for its impeccable execution, but The Day of the Jackal also takes some chancy approaches to its material that don’t always pay off in the ways expected. The film is a bona fide classic for a variety of reasons, deserving of the fantastic new Blu Ray release from Arrow Video (although I’m a bit perplexed that this film didn’t get a release through Arrow’s arthouse line Arrow Academy, but I digress) and for that it comes with a hearty recommendation.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Into the Dark: The Body (2018)

Director: Paul Davis
Notable Cast: Tom Bateman, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Aurora Perrineau, David Hull, Ray Santiago

With the recent boom of horror that has culminated over the last handful of years, reaching strange heights when the genre started winning Academy Awards last year, it was only a matter of time before the Masters of Horror format was revitalized. This latest series of films, under the moniker Into the Dark, has nothing to with the iconic Mick Garris series that premiered on Showtime, but the idea remains the same. Instead of Showtime, it's Hulu. Instead of Mick Garris, it's Blumhouse. Into the Dark will premiere a new horror film each mouth, partnering with the horror juggernaut Blumhouse, and each film will be coordinated with a holiday within the month that it is released. Honestly, that sounds like a pretty fuckin’ good deal to me.

The first film to be released within the Into the Dark series is The Body. Fittingly, the film features a hit man who is caught in a bad situation on Halloween night and he’s left dragging a body around in a desperate attempt to get it to its destination within four hours. Craziness ensues, a body count rises, and the hit man drops multiple dry humor monologues about his dark view point on life as a strange romantic interest blooms. The Body is an odd film, but, truthfully, it’s a fantastic film to release around Halloween and a great way to kick off the series.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Golden Job (2018)

Director: Chin Ka-lok
Notable Cast: Ekin Cheng, Jordan Chan, Michael Tse, Chin Ka-lok, Jerry Lamb, Eric Tsang, Kurata Yasuaki, Billy Chow, Alan Ng

Hong Kong action cinema is evolving. For many fans, it hurts. They don’t want the classic feel of the films to be changed in anyway, which is problematic in its own ways, and they don’t appreciate that the genre is starting to add in new influences to the mix. This is what makes Golden Job an interesting film. At its core, there are a lot of old school influences. Not only in getting the gang from the 90's Young and Dangerous franchise back together, but in how the film embraces its subject matter and some of the foundations of the script are a love letter to an older style. It’s also a film that is heavily influenced by the new Hollywood blockbusters that have been making huge waves in the Chinese market, most obviously the Fast & Furious series. The combination, while odd at times, is still fairly charming and extraordinarily entertaining. Golden Job is a perfect storm of old and new, taking modern action influences and grounding them in classic Hong Kong action tropes. It’s a flawed film overall, but Golden Job pulls a heist on all the entertainment and delivers on all the best Hong Kong cinematic cornerstones of action, heart, and comradery. 

The Blood Splatter: 2018 Horror Vol. 3 [Hell Fest, Hell House LLC II: The Abaddon Hotel]

HELL FEST (2018)
Director: Gregory Plotkin
Notable Cast: Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Christian James, Matt Mercurio, Roby Attal, Tony Todd

To kick off the October horror viewing schedule a little early, it seemed like Hell Fest might be the ticket. It’s a colorful film, takes place around Halloween, uses a great looking extreme haunt setting, and hark back to an old school slasher approach to things. In those regards, yes, Hell Fest is a fun way to kick off the season. Gregory Plotkin ably uses the visuals nicely, saturating the entire film in Argento like swashes of bright colors, generally having fun with its concept, and builds a great set for the events of the film to take place. The film spends little time outside of the haunt, opting for a brief introduction of a couple characters and then moving into the haunt, aptly named Hell Fest, within minutes of the film starting. From there, it launches itself into slasher territory as our young adults, a series of couples nonetheless, proceed to find themselves stalked and slaughtered by our masked man. Cut, slash, paste, repeat.