Friday, April 18, 2008

FF#8: House of Clocks (1989)

Here's a Fulci film from 1989 that was originally made for TV. This one was surprisingly good, considering that it's origins made me think going in that this was going to be the worst of the bunch.

It opens with an old house inhabited by an old couple that are keeping an eye on a couple dead bodies they have in another room. Meanwhile a group of young troublemakers is driving through the country side after robbing a convenience store when one of them decides to trap a stray cat in a plastic bag and leave it to suffocate. The symbolism is Fulci-ian in it's obviousness, but luckily the master delivers on the set up in a way that we only hoped for in BLACK CAT!

So once the kids find the old home, they decide to break in and rob the old people. Here is where it actually gets good. Of course, like every old couple taking care of dead bodies, they have a one-eyed Al Cliver in tow and he really makes things interesting when he tries to halt the robbery, only to get shot and cause the quick deaths of all those around him. So now there are a couple dead old people, a struggling Al Cliver, and 3 freaked-out troublemakers with a dying cat in their car.

This all happens at around the 30 minute mark, and from here the film really gets good. The house is filled with clocks, and all of them start running backwards. One by one the kids start freaking out and stranger and stranger things start happening. The film actually holds interest, and leads to an ending that seems bad, but quickly redeems itself in spades!

F for Fair

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

FF#7: Black Cat (1981)

Lucio Fulci returns, this time with a tale of an old man who is being psychically controlled by a killer cat. Leave it to Mr. Fulci to stick to the narrow minded cliches. The film opens with a mysterious car accident caused by a BLACK CAT, and from there follows a photographer as she slowly (SLOWLY) pieces together an explanation for a few recent murders and connects them to a BLACK CAT. She suspects a man who claims to have psychic powers, but who is seemingly being controlled by his BLACK CAT. As she gets closer to solving the mystery, she not only stumbles into more fake bats (Fulci loves those guys), but she accidentally re-enacts a scene from Fulci's The Psychic, which itself was re-enacting a scene from Edgar Allen Poe.

Seriously this film is slightly amazing, due in no small part to the fact that the killer cat in question NEVER looks threatening! Basically this movie is like watching a CG heavy film before the CG is put in...actors reacting to nothing. The scenes where the cat kills look hilarious, because Fulci never quite communicates what happens, but it somehow leads to death. A man sees a BLACK CAT in his car and drives off a cliff, a couple try to have sex in a boathouse and get locked in a room and suffocate at the paws of a BLACK CAT, another man sees a BLACK CAT and gets freaked out so he tries to walk across some boards at a construction site, sees the BLACK CAT again, gets scratched by said CAT, and falls on spikes Mortal Kombat style.

This movie is so bad that it is actually fun to watch, and Fulci scored high marks for trying to create a Giallo with a cat...and fake bats!

F for Fair

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

FF#6: Conquest (1983)

Whoa! I'm not really sure where this movie came from. In 1983 Fulci decided to try his hand at the sword and sorcery genre, and here are the hilariously mixed results.

The film is about a young man from a "distant land" who must hang out with this older man until they both fall madly in love and go try and kill the evil Ocrin. One thing that can often be said about the sword and sorcery films is that they almost always contain a gay subtext, and this film is no exception. In this film, if there wasn't a gay subtext, you'd be hard pressed to get through the whole thing without falling asleep. Also, this movie is about Fulci attempting to get artsy with his direction. There are so many filters and weird lenses used that it is often difficult to tell what's going on. Sometimes the sky is purple and the grass is yellow, other times everything is just black...for long stretches of time.

Being an 80's sword and sorcery film, you can't escape bad/awesome laser effects, and again this film does not skimp on them. Besides a bow that shoots glowing laser arrows, our heroes at one point find themselves under attack from hundreds of dubbed in normal arrows, that look like and are simply animated scratches in the film print!

But the real kicker, and the thing that best shows Fulci's love of jumping on trends, is the inclusion of wookies. That's right, like the Star Wars wookies. Those Life Day celebrating dogmen are all over this movie, and a lot of fun to watch as they celebrate life by scalping foes with their giant clubs!

So in the end, this movie is all about a nude lady with a gold mask, wookies, and two closet homosexuals swinging rock-nunchucks and teaching each other how to shoot laser arrows (seriously).

F for Fair (because it is watch-able...but only if you heckle the crap out of it)

Monday, March 24, 2008

Fulci's Follies

Hi, and welcome to my new film review blog. I lead a band called Glows in the Dark and maintain a blog on us, and had slowly been realizing that not only did I love writing about movies, but movie reviews don't always belong on band sites. I have developed this habit of watching movies in a strangely organized fashion, usually focusing on one director or one genre for a long period of time (the Italian cannibal period being the roughest), and will be framing my blog in a similar way. I'll be examining the work of some of the best in genre cinema, and use goofy and lame puns to discuss and rate their films. With this method and easy to use categories, I hope to build a sweet database of reviews that's really easy to follow. The bad puns will be used to make sure you don't get too into the reviews (my puns tend to repel). So we start with a look at one of Italy's most infamous genre-masters, Lucio Fulci. This man made a ton of films in many different genres, and I will be reviewing probably way too many of them. I'm calling this series "Fulci's Follies" and I'll be using the following system to rate the movies:

F for Fantastic

F for Fair

F for Failure

This should help familiarize you with the work of this mighty Italian of Italy.

Let me know what you think; any and all sweet ideas are welcome.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

FF#5: Manhattan Baby (1982)

Description via Amazon (except I fixed their spelling for "archaeologist"):

"A young girl on vacation in Egypt is given a mysterious charm, causing her archaeologist father to be struck blind inside an unexplored pyramid tomb. But when the family returns home to Manhattan, a plague of supernatural evil and sudden violence follows. Can this ancient curse be stopped before it is unleashed on the streets of New York City?

Italian shock master Lucio Fulci combines elements of THE EXORCIST, THE AWAKENING, POLTERGEIST, and more in this bizarre horror thriller. Also known as EYE OF THE EVIL DEAD and THE POSSESSED, MANHATTAN BABY is notable as one of Fulci's final films to be released in America."

Finally, a genuinely terrible film pretty much from beginning to end. A year after House by the Cemetery, Fulci is back again, with the wondrous Bob in toe (this time, Bob is known as Tommy). Basically Mr. Fulci watched The Exorcist, and tried to copy the slow methodical pacing, but drop the "development" part in favor of that "nothing"ness he is so often fond of. So this time, the movie is slow AND nothing happens, a first for the Fulci. By the end, the film's excitement increased only because my girlfriend's cat jumped on the TV and let his tail dangle in front of the screen--adding an element of "motion" not found anywhere else in the film. I've read that this movie grows on you, but honestly I can't imagine trying to get through it again. Despite the copious amount of 80's laser effects the film just can't hold attention. The only exception being a hilarious scene where once again Fulci shows his creative use of budget constraints. He wants to copy a scene from Hitchcock's The Birds, but can't afford real birds at all, so he has a scene where stuffed birds come to life and peck this guy to death:
In the end, if you watched the The Exorcist, Poltergeist, The Awakening, and The Birds back to back, it would seem WAY shorter than one time through Manhattan Baby.

F for Failure

FF#4: House by the Cemetery (1981)

Description from Amazon:

"A young family moves from their cramped New York City apartment to a spacious new home in New England. But this is no ordinary house in the country: the previous owner was the deranged Dr. Freudstein, whose monstrous human experiments have left a legacy of bloody mayhem. Now, someone - or something - is alive in the basement, and home sweet home is about to become a horrific hell on earth.

Catriona MacColl (CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD), Paolo Malco (THE NEW YORK RIPPER), Ania Pieroni (TENEBRE) and Dagmar Lassander (FORBIDDEN PHOTOS OF A LADY ABOVE SUSPICION) star in this outrageous Italian shocker from Lucio Fulci, `The Godfather of Gore.' Considered to be one of the master's last great films, THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY is presented complete and uncut, featuring a mind-blowing onslaught of throat-ripping, skull-knifing, maggot-spewing and more!"

A haunted house story by Fulci featuring a creepy kid named Bob (who most likely moved to Twin Peaks).

This film is an odd combination of creepy elements, unconcerned parents, underacting, gore, mystery, and Frankenstein. No where is it more clear that Fulci wanted to capitalize on The Shining then in a scene where we see blood slowly rising and covering a tomb. It's basically Fulci's version of the famous scene from The Shining with the elevator filled with blood.

That said, I actually really liked the film. It is definitely slow in parts, but I thought that overall the film ends up being quite entertaining. There is one unfortunate scene involving a lady moving her head so that it looks like its hitting steps, but its not very long and is oddly comforting in the midst of all the gory shit thats happening at the time. I like Fulci's use of atmosphere, and this is one film where his typical slow pace doesn't get on my nerves quite so much.

F for Fair

FF#3: The Beyond (1981)

The Beyond just might be Lucio Fulci's masterpiece. The film is almost totally incoherent, and deals with pure imagery to shock and confuse all who see it. The story apparently involves a girl named Liza, and an old house--but this set up, which is barely a set up, quickly turns into a surreal journey that is always interesting and never bores. You get to see all kinds of crazy things that I won't go into here, but no doubt Mel Gibson learned a few things from this film when he made his modern exploitation flick Passion of the Christ. I will say that like my gf wrote, there is an epic battle of man vs. zombie involving a doctor that has apparently lost the ability to learn--or maybe in between edits he developed a short term memory problem. This one is highly recommended to those seeking a pure experience. If you try to follow the story, you will be sorely disappointed, but if you follow the film's wacky logic, you're in for good times!

F for Fantastic

FF#2: The Psychic (1977)

Before I review this film, lets deal with a term that will pop up multiple times when looking at the work of the late great Mr. Fulci: Giallo.

This is an Italian term that refers to a particular genre of crime/mystery and "pulp" that first became popular in the 20's and 30's. In film, starting in the late 50's and early 60's through the 70's, Italians created many many movies in this genre--which thrived on setting up a murder and keeping audiences guessing who the mystery killer was until the inevitable twist ending. Fulci directed may of these films, and The Psychic (aka Seven Notes in Black) was actually one of his last before moving into more straight-forward horror fare.

The film opens with a great scene of a little girl seeing a vision of her mom jumping off a cliff to her death. Pleasant enough...okay Fulci, I'm with you. This is by far the goriest and really only gory scene in the film, but really sets the mood for the rest. Flash forward to modern day (70's) where the little girl is all grown up, and named after the great state of Virginia (Jennifer O'Neill). She sees visions of murders that lead her to an old house owned by her husband. Inside she discovers the bones of a formerly alive person buried inside the wall of one of the rooms, and this leads into a great yet slow paced mystery with many twists and turns ala giallo.

My problem with the film was that I was expecting it to be more gory Fulci stuff, and it was anything but. That said, I liked the film, but was a little bored because from the outset I was literally just waiting for the gore (actually a really lame way to watch movies). The acting was actually pretty good, the music good, and the atmosphere also good, it was just not what I was expecting.

If this film taught me one thing it's to go into a Fulci film with no expectations, because the man made films in every genre so you just never know what he's gonna give you. So on first viewing:

F for Fair

FF#1: Zombie (1979)

So to kick things off in a grand and gory fashion, we have the amazing 1979 Lucio Fulci classic Zombie (aka Zombi 2 aka many other names). I first saw the iconic cover for this film as a kid in Fredericksburg, VA. My mom used to take us to Erol's Video a lot to rent the latest and greatest to watch on our Beta-max VCR (that's right, and we still have it and it still works). I used to beg my mom to rent movies solely based on my impression of the covers. It was this that led to my childhood obsession with The Dark Crystal, a film that I begged my mom to rent EVERY time we went to Erols. She actually had to force me to watch different stuff like The Goonies, and Breakin (the latter became my second great childhood obsession film). Anyway, I got freaked out every time I saw the cover of Zombie. I knew where to find it because I had just learned the alphabet, and knew that "Z" meant the bottom right, and even though I saw it a lot, the cover freaked me out every time. I was just too young to be actively seeking out pictures of worms crawling out of corpse eyes, but alas.

Years later, Resident Evil (the game) led me on a hunt for zombie movies to watch with my friends (college creates these types of situations I swear). I found a new version of Zombie at Suncoast and bought it after seeing the cover. I couldn't believe that the movie that freaked me out as a kid was just at a store and I could just buy it. I had pretty high expectations, and for once this film actually surpassed them!

The movie opens with an abandoned boat floating just outside of New York City. Slow creepy camera work sets the template for the rest of the film. Two guys from the Coast Guard find the boat and hop on...only to be attacked by a super fat zombie that looks like Kingpin!!! We then find out that the boat belonged to Anne's (Tisa Farrow) father, and they quickly get an ad hoc group of adventurers together to journey to the island where her father was last seen. On the way, they encounter a shark just outside the island which leads to one of the all time great scenes and battles:

!Zombie Vs. Shark!

Real shark the whole way through too! When they get to the island, they find a doctor that has been trying to cure an epidemic that has led to the dead coming back to life, and that this epidemic took Anne's father. From here on out, this movie is almost one big action scene, and highly recommended, as the dead return to kill the living. The film is very gory, and often times looks realistic, as in the famous eye gouging scene--so be warned. I think one element that really made me like this film more than many other zombie films, was the atmosphere. The island is really a great setting, and the fact that voodoo is believed to be the cause also strengthens the film to me. For some reason I've never liked when radioactive stuff leads to zombies. My favorite cause for zombies has alway been the slightly more organic(?) voodoo/magical explanation. So on that note:

F for Fantastic