3/18/15

Alice in Wonderland (1970)

Few stories have been told as many times with as many variations as Alice in Wonderland. Seeking out the film versions was more relevant to me in my post-adolescence. In the early part of my womanhood movies like Svankmajer's Alice and Valerie and Her Week of Wonders helped me find definition. Not only were they taste defining but in many ways character defining. I know I'm not the only person to take something away from any given translation of the tale.



































































It would seem that at some point in my movie-watching career I reached an unconscious decision not to actively seek out this once a desirable fairy tale. This may have had something to do with the Tim Burton film or it may have already been in the works, whatever the case may have been somewhere along the line without knowing I lost interest and felt another film version would likely not offer me anything new.  My attention went to new and interesting fairy tales from other parts of the world.
























A few years ago I came across Ubu Roi, a bizarre French made for TV version of Alfred Jarry's play. The sardonic political satire was oozing with style and became one of the most visually interesting films I saw that year. Click here for that review. While Jarry provided the source material, director Jean-Christophe Averty made it his own. His was a style that reminded me of all the things I love. Elements of films I've obsessed over since I started obsessing over films. Something I'm always hoping to find, but rarely do. I stumbled upon this version of Alice in Wonderland while researching experimental French films. I possibly wouldn't have stopped to consider it if I hadn't immediately noticed Averty's name attached. I immediately knew it was going to be something special.












































There are no subtitles so it's good that I'm already quite familiar with the story. It doesn't appear to stray and in fact at 2 hours long, it seemed to devote itself pretty sincerely to the book. I was very pleased to see a similar paper cut-up style that was present in Ubu Roi, but starkly contrasted to the monochromatic black and white. Alice is pulsating with a psychedelic handmade looking technicolor. A mixture of live action, animation and puppetry, it's a rainbow colored pinwheel that's spinning out of control. The quality wasn't spectacular, a third or fourth generation vhs rendering of what was already a made for TV film. Strangely, this added an expressionistic effect that's perfectly fitting. With such a strange no-holds-barred color palette and the film being slightly out of focus it seemed even more like an abstract art project. You get a strong sense of how Nightmarish Wonderland is through Jean-Christophe Averty's kaleidoscopic lens. Made the same year he did 'Soft Self-Portrait of Salvador Dali', I sense that his inspiration was pure and with budding technology he didn't appear to be fine tuning his method but let go a bit and express himself liberally. There's a lack of restraint that's thoroughly exciting if you're an aesthetic junkie such as myself. And really, with a story we all know so well extreme creative liberties are necessary to make it less redundant.
































































It's so refreshing to see films that not only still excite and inspire me but are able to help me reconnect with girlhood and re-examine the films that brought me to the place I am today. Averty's Wonderland might not be the greatest version out there but it's not to be dismissed. Like a bizarre puppet show saturated in a motley prism, there's something not quite right about it, but the end result is something that feels textured and adventurous. There may have never been a more Atomic Caravan-looking film as this. You can bet this won't be the last you read about Jean-Christphe Averty on this blog.














































2/1/15

Tampon Tango (1984): Atomic Caravan's First Porno!

January turned out to be a pretty chaotic month for me. I was hoping to have at least one review posted before the end of the month but wasn't able to get it together quite in time. I watched stuff but not the way I wanted; a mainstream movie here, a classic there, very little of the stuff that keeps me so invested. The few I did squeeze in were phenomenal. I kicked off the month with Sogo Ishii's August in the Water which has set the tone for the kind of movie year I want 2015 to be. It was dreamy and ethereal - kind of new age-y. It's catapulted a newly revived obsession with Sogo Ishii. I saw Electric Dragon 80KV and Burst City years ago when I was going through an obligatory Japanese Cyber Punk phase. In more recent years I saw Crazy Thunder Road which I enjoyed equally. His films of that ilk are totally genius but such a far reach from August in the Water I could hardly believe it was the same guy. I sought out Mirrored Mind which is a life altering experience that I highly recommend. I don't really want to talk about it yet though. I have a hard time committing to movies that effect me so strongly. Movies that become apart of me need at least two, but more like three or four viewings before I can attempt to piece together what they mean to me. So perhaps that's something I'll come back to in a few years. Where I'm going with this is that my interest has once again turned to Japan and a slightly different kind of Japan than my cinemagnatism would normally be drawn. What I crave at present is more meditative than abrasive, it's an unusual direction for me and I'm totally digging it. I've since fallen into various research comas that have lead me to lots of different stuff. Not much that's as notable as the two Sogo Ishii films. Lots of interesting shot on video pieces, digital works and video art. I came across this one and for whatever reason it piqued my interest, and because I've never reviewed a porno before I decided to break the silence with something out of character for me.























Tampon Tango drew my attention because it seemed like it wasn't sure what it wanted to be. It appears to be very film-like but then of course there is real sex. Coming from Japan it could very well be a substantial cult film and also features weeners and vaginas uniting. It immediately breaks the fourth wall by joyously announcing that it's a porno and panning out to see very harmless-looking public sex. Very non-invasive and innocent. Almost fake looking. I immediately thought "well if that's as bad as it gets, this will be a breeze". As the film progresses the only information that's really given is that they will be inserting tampons because "it's never been done before". Then there's THAT scene and it's as expected. Totally un-porn-like, almost instructional. While one girl is inserting a tampon at a lake she's struck by a meteorite.






















For reasons unknown.


They reach their destination, a house where they'll be filming. Everyone has sex to "practice". This is when it actually starts to resemble porn. Poorly lit shot-on-video mounds of pubic hair 80's porn. The thing about porn and sex in general really is that it's really boring and I don't want to watch it. It serves a purpose, but like sitting there watching porn with the intent to review is kind of a chore, one that garners a bit of weird self-reflection that I don't necessarily recommend. I admit to you now that I fast forwarded through most of the sex scenes unless there was dialog. Tampon Tango in particular was especially un-sexy. It wasn't gross in the sense that they were doing things incorrectly but it was wholly unflattering and I felt like I was observing some kind of science project. The moral of this story is, don't watch this for the reasons one might typically watch a porn. It will surely not work.











































Thankfully it ends on a high note. A fantastically silly group sex scene with a giant tampon, confetti (or was it popcorn?) and men in cheerleader skirts twirling batons. Everyone seems really happy and it's probably the most uplifting and memorable final act of a porno ever. Is it worth enduring all 55 minutes? Eh, I'll let you decide.














































































































This guy flips into the scene and lands naked.

























Did it satiate the craving that those masterpieces I watched earlier this month created. No. But it was an interesting diversion.

12/27/14

Holiday Horrible-Thon - 14 Movies in 3 Days

 



These past few years I've been taking my Christmas marathon more seriously. Where as I would have normally tried to catch Jack Frost or Black Christmas, in recent years it's been more of an event. Last year I didn't blog but still watched. It's becoming a more solid tradition to engage heavily in Holiday horror and seasonal schlocks. Not just a little but to excess. Work kept me extremely busy this month so I didn't even have a chance to sit down to a movie of any kind for two weeks leading up to Christmas. Because of general exhaustion and getting a late start, it was a very low key Holiday. I committed to taking it easy and getting into some festive atrocities. Here's everything I watched on my three day bender ranked from worst to "best".


14. Yule Die (2010)






























I've seen a lot of shitty killer Santa movies in my day but none so uninspired as "Yule Die". Not surprisingly it takes cues from Silent Night Deadly Night, and every other Christmas horror movie of this ilk. On top of being completely unoriginal, the acting is beyond dreadful. Clearly civilians reading lines for their friend's movie. The zero budget would be forgivable if there was some kind of pay-off or charm but it truly leaves you feeling cold. On her Lettboxd review Hollie Horror said she couldn't immediately tell whether or not they filmed this with a cell phone. A sincere question all viewers might find themselves asking. I cannot say enough bad things about it. It's the kind of terrible movie that makes you feel angry for having endured it. The kind that sets the bar so low for every other movie, nothing so horrendous could even sink to it's level.


13. Two Front Teeth (2006)






























What can I say? It isn't good. But it's NOT Yule Die. The acting is bad but at least they're trying. They're trying REALLY hard. The overacting from the leading lady often had me cringing. The story was all over the place and actually quite ambitious. Killer elves, killer tooth fairy, killer nuns, killer rogue easter bunny. Lots of killer-things. The use of color was nice. The biggest problem was the forced dialogue. It tries to be too quipy and on-the-nose like say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It doesn't succeed. Again, I didn't particular like it but after Yule Die, every film has a silver lining.



12. A Very Brady Christmas (1988)































I've been on a Brady kick lately. It happens every once in a while. I've been watching part of an episode before going to sleep. It's such ignorable popcorn, almost white noise. I've seen this before but it had been years. I hardly remembered a thing. Seemed like as good of a time as any to revisit it. It's possibly more square than the original series. Something about the Brady's in the eighties just doesn't feel kosher. All that teased hair and white furniture. It's odd. I'm still weirdly comforted by all of these characters. I know what to expect. They're all just a bunch of dependable old squares.



11. the Monster's Christmas (1981)































I was honestly surprised I didn't enjoy this more. Based on pictures I'd seen it looked like some kind of John Waters/Richard Elfman offspring. The creatures are neat and the witch's wardrobe kind of rules. Despite all of these things working in it's favor, it's utterly un-fun. Something like this should be brimming with quirky quirks. It's not. It falls extremely flat. The story meanders and completely failed to capture me. Oh well...




10. Santa Claws (1996)






























I honestly expected this to be much worse. Again, and I'm seeing a trend here, it isn't good. But I found it tolerable. Debbie Rochon helped A LOT. I like her, she always brings something to the otherwise not-outstanding movies she appears in. She's smart, and it shows. I met her once, she was very sweet and classy. Written and Directed by Night of the Living Dead alumni John A. Russo. This movie has a horrible reputation for being in the gallows of shit Christmas horror, and aptly so. But hear this, any misgivings toward Santa Claws were formed many years before Yule Die was made and is therefore void of all meaning.




9. Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater: Present (2005)






























The one I thought would be the shining star of killer Santa movies this year. Also, my first experience with Kazuo Umezu's Horror Theater. I've read mixed but mostly unfavorable things about the whole series so I had certain reservations. This particular Christmas entry however, I was convinced would be great. Japanese Christmas movies are rare I figured by simply being NOT-Western, it would be interesting. It more or less followed the same cues as American killer Santa movies, leaving very little to celebrate. Mostly cheap, a little slow in spots (despite only being 50 minutes), and slightly confusing - it's never really made clear why the characters are seeing different killers. But still relatively engaging, at least enough to watch without resentment. I won't praise it from the rooftops but I won't send it to the clink with Yule Die.




8. Ski Party (1965)































Not really Christmas but there's snow and a snowMAN even, so whatever. Another Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello (though she's only in it for one scene) beach party vehicle. only it's a SKI PARTY, etc. Exactly what you can expect from literally every single one of these. They are fun and frivolous. This one does have a leg up for having a different setting, though there are inexplicably girls in bikinis IN THE SNOW. Some great musical moments from Leslie Gore and James Brown. Really fun and probably deserves to be higher on the list but I judged it harshly for being not-super-Holiday-ish. I'm very particular about watching seasonal stuff IN season. I will not watch anything else on this list (with the exception of Shake, Rattle and Roll perhaps) in any month other than December. Ski Party, I could watch whenever.




7. Saint (2010)































This one surprised me! It was recommended to me for enjoying Rare Exports. I knew of course, that nothing could or will ever top Rare Exports. It's totally wonderful and unique, but as you can see, I'm running out of options here! All suggestions must be explored. I had pretty much decided in all of my Scroogey Curmudgeon-ness that Saint would Suck. It didn't. It was far from Christmas perfection but I found it quite enjoyable and with a flavor I'm totally not used to. While it's nothing like Rare Exports, I've realized that my enjoyment of these films is rooted in the idea that Santa being an actual monster or killer is much more interesting than a guy in a Santa suit killing people. Especially when it's the European folklore style Saint Nick/Krampus/Belsnickel. Which I don't think has been explored enough despite being infinitely more interesting. Anyway, this movie is very flawed but the foundation is great. It has some amazing moments and a few that even made me jump.





6.Silent Night Deadly Night 4: Initiation (1990)































So, what the's deal with everyone hating this movie? Not just this one but the last three Silent Night Deadly Nights - I'll get to the 5th in a few paragraphs. I LOVED the 3rd. I thought it was totally idiosyncratic and dreamlike. I could maybe understand why these sequels would be reviled if the first, and second were stellar cinematic achievements but they're all essentially b-movies. The bar was not set by a'one of these films. That being said, this one which is probably the biggest misfit is about a coven of witches and is barely even a Christmas movie. I still say it has a lot working in it's favor. First, Brian Yuzna in the director's chair. Not his finest moment but not so far gone from what we love him for. The practical effects by Screaming Mad George aren't just addequate they are AMAZING. Totally disgusting and on par with Society. And lastly, CLINT HOWARD AND REGGIE BANISTER. I'm upset that this movie has been painted as some kind of wart on the Silent Night franchise. Sure, the script is weak and Neith Hunter's acting range isn't dazzling - but it's weaknesses are counteracted by all of the aforementioned strengths. You know what else? It's not Yule Die.



5. Shake Rattle & Roll (1984)





















In the Philippines it's tradition to watch this (or it's brethren) on Christmas day. This has nothing to do with a content. The Metro Manila Film Festival starts on December 25th every year and with a whopping 14 sequels, this popular campy horror anthology series usually makes the bill. I've been told by word of mouth that it is somewhat synonymous with Christmas for this reason despite having no thematic ties to the Holiday (until the 9th sequel). I've been trying to spice up my Holiday marquee by digging a little deeper and exploring seasonal cinema outside of all these shitty Santas. This seemed like a good opportunity to learn about another culture's customs while conveniently experiencing the most popular pinoy horror film ever made.

Like all anthologies, it's patchy. Perhaps patchier than I'm used to. The opening story is an overdrawn historical piece about a love triangle and curse. It's not scary, or even very interesting for that matter. The second story, slightly better, was about a haunted refrigerator. While this sounds right up my alley, it took itself surprisingly serious which is uncalled for in a killer appliance story. There were also some weird sexual overtones that were far from sexy and left me with malaise of "ick", though that makes it sounds much more salacious than it is.

Finally there's the last segment, "Manananggal". Towering above the others, this one is about an "Aswang", or flying torso blood-sucking witch-type-thing, that's terrorizing some boys in a small village. This creature is akin the Leyak/Penanggalan flying headed with intestines hanging down that you've seen in Mystics in Bali, Witch with the Flying Head and Ghost of Guts Eater. This version's torso literally rips from her lower half and she sprouts giant bat wings, but the sentiment is the same. The penanggalan is possibly my all time favorite monster so I was won over immediately. The general flavor of this whole segment had those same qualities. The other two feel like filler, but the last part is a must see. I've heard that the 90's entries are even better. I could definitely see this becoming an unconventional Christmas trend for me.




4. The Magic Christmas Tree (1964)






























Watching some kind of kitschy 60's kiddie matinee Christmas feature is a must. The obvious and traditional options are Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and Rene Cardona's Santa Claus. As all of my favorites, I re-visit those every few years, but I know there's more out there. Magic Christmas Tree entered my radar last year but I wasn't able to locate it in time. It's extra fun because it starts on Halloween and takes you all the way to Christmas, which really when you think about it is one big blur anyway. Some laughable dialogue and scenarios make it super enjoyable. Seems to exist in the same universe as something like Jimmy the Boy Wonder. Off-kiltered little gem. Totally worth working into the Holiday roster. Highly recommended.















































Seriously dorky straight-to-video tape of organ player Dennis Awe. It's more of a special than a movie but with his sequined jacket, interactive rainbow puppets and ultra-kitsch personality there's really no reason to ever go a Christmas without popping this on. I'm adding it to my Things-to-show-at-Christmas-Parties list. The highest honor of shitty Christmas-dom!




2. Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991)






























I know I already vented a little bit about how I've been dissuaded from seeing these last few SNDN films, so forgive me as I go on. THIS one was shockingly entertaining. While admitedly part 4 was more balanced between good and bad, I felt completely and utterly won over by the Toy Maker. For starters, it's about Mickey Rooney making toys that kill children. Jesus Christ, people. What more could you ask for? Let's go a step further and add that again we have Screaming Mad George, Clint Howard and Brian Yuzna (producing, but still present). The entire movie had me endlessly delighted but the finale with Pino was almost more than I could bear. I've become instantly obsessed with this character and story arc. Brian Bremer's portrayal of this sexually twisted Pinocchio usurps the seminal Pin in his brief, maybe 15 minutes total of screen time. I can't even remember the film's flaws because I'm so enamored with him. Do I dare say it? Yes, this is my favorite Silent Night Deadly Night. But you know what? The whole series rules. Watch Yule Die, then any one of these and tell me otherwise. 

















































1. Feeders 2: Slay Bells (1998)





























The Polonia brothers entered my life this year. I saw Splatter Farm for the first time in October. In fact, I had planned a big review, I watched it TWICE, once with commentary and even took screenshots but wasn't able to find the time to write the lengthy review I had planned before falling into a work-spiral. So let's just say for now, the official Atomic Caravan Splatter Farm review is TBA. I will say that it was pretty much love at first sight with these guys. I adore their approach, sense of humor and style. I knew that for the Holidays I absolutly had to make the Feeders films a priority. I watched them back to back, thinking that the first was also holiday themed I spotted a "Seasons Greetings" sign in one scene but that wasn't really enough. It was good. Not as good as Splatter Farm but fun for sure. Part 2 on the other hand, was exactly what the doctor ordered.























Starring one of the two twin brothers, Mark Polonia. He plays a disgruntled insurance clerk who struggles to make ends meet for his family, barely able to give them some kind of Christmas. One night he witnesses a UFO landing. The Feeders have arrived, looking even more feeble and useless than they did first time around. We're treated to that awe-inspiring Polonia dialogue that makes these movies a treat, a Santa Claus that conquers the Feeders and then this fantastically breathtaking scene....






The greatest movie boss in history

That about wraps it up for this year. I'm ready to squeeze in a few more good movies before committing to my Top 50 of 2014. I normally do 25 but I watched A LOT this year. Over 500 movies if you include shorts. I promise to at least link my list if I can't muster up the energy for a formal 50 review post, which is will likely be the case. See ya next year my little reindeer farts!



12/6/14

Heungbu and Nolbu (1967)




















I'm not even sure how I came to land on this discovery. I fell into some kind of internet worm hole and this was at the other end.

Heungbu and Nolbu is a Korean folk tale about two adult brothers who are left an inheritance from their father. The older bother, Nolbu, is greedy and hateful so he kicks his brother Heungbu and his family out of the estate so he can have all the money and property to himself.




















Despite having plenty of his own problems, the kind and benevolent Heungbu saves a defenseless swallow from a snake and mends his broken leg. The swallow is from magical bird land run by a lady bird queen. To thank Heungbu, the swallow gives him an enchanted gourd seed. He and his family work together to build themselves a modest grass hut to live in. They plant the seed and big green gourd grows, when they cut it in half to eat and suddenly prosperous treasures begin to appear all around them.






















Heungbu bashes the snake until it's dead and bloody. This is where the children's begins to feel less wholesome.

























Queen of the birds.






















When Nolbu discovers the good fortune of his brother, he gets jealous and steals a seed to grow his own magical plant. This is where the film takes a turn for the insane.

Nolbu and his wife are first greeted by a vicious tiger...








...that breathes pink smoke.









Then a fire breathing dragon...













































And best of all...

























Nolbu and his wife are visited by a variety of spooky ghouls.
































































Including these absolutely amazing and terrifying Japanese-esque Onryo style female ghosts that look like a cyclops Sadako and green-faced Kayako Saeki. This is not the kind of imagery I'm used to from puppet films in the 60's. I could go on about the story, but why? I was really just leading up to this. These images say it all.

I've found very little information about this South Korean gem. There's a live action version from 1959 that seems to be easily confused with this one on the few sites I've unearthed. It has tinges of Jiri Barta's work and elements of the more recent Blood Tea and Red String by Christiane Cegavske. Despite the shades of horror, it's a bit too traditional to be akin to someone like Jan Svankmajer, though I struggle not to mention that fans of his might get some enjoyment out of this. It's a bit slow to start but once the magical elements take shape, it unfolds into a highly entertaining example of Eastern Kiddie Matinee cinema. I watched it without subtitles, but having a basic knowledge of the folk tale, it wasn't hard to follow along. If you're interested in seeing this one, I could only find it streaming on viewster...

Heungbu and Nolbu



This isn't much of a review. I'm not sure how to be critical of a flick like this. This post serves more to spread the words because as far as I know this has no Western audience what-so-ever. On that note, I'll leave you with all the weird-y cute animals from the film...