Since I have a perfectly reasonable predilection for 1970′s exploitation, I sometimes find myself in a WTF moment after watching a film. Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS had that effect on me (and again, after I got the box-set as a birthday present), as did The Night Porter. Call it a job hazard. I’ve seen a lot of sleazy things from the era, but none more odious than Tinto Brass’s controversial epic, Salon Kitty, about the Third Reich’s plan to spy on their own soldiers by replacing bordello whores with German double-agents (yes, you read that correctly). Now, Tinto Brass. Say that name again. Does it sound familiar? Of course it does. He’s the ballsy genius who made Caligula, one of the last great and offensive opuses to hit the big screen before the 80′s–and the MPAA–came along and ruined everything.
Archive for December, 2011
Somewhere between Born Innocent and the regrettable Savage Streets (“Too bad you’re not double-jointed…you’d be able to bend over and kiss your ass goodbye!”), Linda Blair slipped in this little genre gem about a group of Greek pledges terrorized by a crazed mongoloid.
The hazing is deceptively simple: spend one night in Garth Manor, an overgrown castle at the edge of town, where the patriarch slaughtered his family–and then committed suicide–years ago. There’s a catch, the pledge master informs us: one of the sons, Andrew, a mangled “gork,” is said to have survived the massacre, and still resides somewhere in the house. Off the pledges go, locked in till dawn. Now, if you don’t believe Andrew is still alive and ready to tear a bunch of teens limb from limb, you a) would be wrong, and b) should be ashamed for even trying to watch a movie called Hell Night. Andrew is, indeed, still alive, skulking about a maze of underground tunnels. If he doesn’t exactly tear body parts asunder, he manages considerable damage with an assortment of sharp and rusted weaponry.
Back in 1984, when it was still acceptable to present an original horror idea, Wes Craven unleashed what is arguably his most famous film. And with that, he brought about a new genre icon, Freddy Kreuger, who would forever be copied, parodied, and satirized–and exploited in a series of increasingly poor sequels.
Everyone knows the story by now: A group of post-nuclear teens in acid-washed jeans and and over-sized sweaters is having nightmares, all involving a horrifically burned man with razors for fingers. This is Freddy Kreuger (née Fred, in this first installment’s credits), a child molester who was lit up like a Roman candle by the town’s parents after a technicality got him acquitted at trial. Kreuger is back, and the children are paying for the sins of the elders, who have, themselves, kept the secret buried all those years.
[Note: This review is for Michael Haneke's original film, not the remake starring Naomi Watts.]
Michael Haneke’s notorious thriller about a family taken hostage by two young sociopaths at their sprawling lake home. The captors play an increasingly disturbing game of mental torture–in the form of witty repartee, lies and humiliation–that leads to appalling physical brutality, all for their own amusement. I wish I could say more about the plot, but that’s all there is.
Haneke does a good job of ratcheting up the tension, which gives the film a sense of power, and the actors are convincing in demanding roles. But all the obvious allusions to the randomness of violence or disaffected youth, or attempts to make a statement about audience voyeurism, can’t disguise the fact that this is really just an exercise in nihilistic violence. Some believe the film to be satire, but I can’t imagine that anyone could find this subject matter even remotely amusing–and I don’t want to know anyone who does. This is a bleak film, dark and depressing in a way few films are, and that equates to utter hopelessness, which isn’t a fun, interesting, or engaging expression of cinema.
“There is no way–no way–that you could come from my loins. As soon as I get home, the first thing I’m gonna do is punch your mama in the mouth.”
That line is uttered by Sheriff Buford T. Justice–his Louisiana bayou accent practically dripping off his tongue–about half way through Smokey and the Bandit. And when he says this to his shockingly inept son, Junior (Mike Henry), we just about believe he’ll follow through on the promise.
You see, Junior was all set to marry Carrie (Sally Field), but she ditched the poor oaf at the last minute and met up with the Bandit (played by Burt Reynolds, his Fuller Brush moustache fully intact), who’s hauling beer across the Georgia state line with his long-suffering trucker friend, Cletus. Justice isn’t too happy about the situation, and makes it his personal mission to take the Bandit down.
On the eighth day, God said, “Let there be early-80′s exploitation and slasher.” And so it was, and it was good. And then He commanded the good folks at Troma to take a holiday (or any other special occasion) that hadn’t already been pilfered for profits (Friday the 13th, Halloween, Prom Night, Happy Birthday to Me) and make a rollicking awesome slasher flick. And behold! Graduation Day came into the world, fully formed.
Now that I’ve exhausted my questionable metaphors for the day, there’s very little I need to tell you: Poor Laura, Midvale High track star. She’s been pushed to the limit by her sadistic coach (that gleefully awful genre staple, Christopher George) and dies during a meet. The titular day of commencement arrives, and someone starts killing off the rest of the athletes. Laura’s sister arrives in town for the ceremony and tries to uncover the identity of the killer. Who is it? If you don’t figure it out in the first five minutes, you shouldn’t be watching these kinds of films.