Tuesday, 28 August 2012



How could it fail? They got the director of the hit TOP GUN, the mega-in-the-moment screenwriter Shane Black, and superstar Bruce Willis to all come together to star in an R-RATED cynical take on the Hollywood action film! Did you see DIE HARD? People LOVED the shit out of that stuff.

It’s a shame THE LAST BOYSCOUT is a depressing mess.

The story is simple: Bruce Willis is a down and out private detective who is hired to protect a woman, fails to do so, and then finds himself caught up with a disgraced football player Damon Wayans in a head scratching plot to…Legalize gambling? There’s an evil southern millionaire in there somewhere. Hm. Well, I thought it was simple, but it really seems needlessly convoluted and thematically unconnected. Okay. We don’t come here for the complex emotional story. We just come here for the visceral excitement. We get some of that right?

The character of Bruce Willis should be likeable in a sleaze ball sort of way, but he just comes off like a bullying prick. Damon Wayans can be a charming guy, but the little he’s given to do here (versus a LOT of useless back-story that involve dead girlfriend, a dead wife/child AND a drug addition!) adds up to nothing of value. The two leads aren’t helped by the fact that their chemistry is never allowed to rise above a low simmer. I’ve never read the original draft of the script, but I’d be highly surprised if Black meant things to play out at such a charisma free level. I lay the blame at the feet of Director Tony Scott. His stylistic tricks here are all on auto-pilot. For a director that prides himself on visual invention, this film is a slow paced chore to get through. He bathes the film in ever present smoke, the sun is setting/rising in a purgatorial loop and the (very few) action scenes translate to “SHOOT IT IN SLOW MOTION!” For a renowned action director Scott has little to no interest in geography or choreography. His action scenes are quickly cut messes of guns going off, people being brutally blown away, and a few lame one liners. For a film that advertises itself as a comedy, it’s painfully unfunny, with every one liner falling to the floor like lead weights – the opposite of the man that gave us the fun LETHAL WEAPON and KISS KISS BANG BANG.

If anything, THE LAST BOYSCOUT is a testament of its time.  If you can distill the worst of eighties action film in the (highly enjoyable) Stallone vehicle COBRA then you can summarize the nineties cynical gloom shrouded post-modern action films with the grueling THE LAST BOYSCOUT.

Friday, 24 August 2012


 First Part: Why I’m obsessed with things ‘working’

Second Part: I love HIGH FIDELITY. No one is surprised.

Third Part: Judge you by your stuff.

One of the things I like babbling about the most is what makes a film WORK or NOT WORK. I realize that many may balk at such reductive claims, but at the end of the day a film exists to perform certain functions that are born out of its creation: To entertain, sadden, enrage and so on and so forth. If goals (conscious or subconscious) are set out to be reached in the final product then I can judge the film based on its ability to meet those goals. This is not an iron clad system, because quite a bit of comes down to the creator’s intent, or lack therefore, so a lot of my musings are made up of trying to puzzle out exactly what was going down in their mind when they made it (Not enough support, not enough money, not enough time, they just really love bunnies) and trying to figure out if they succeeded. It may be blasphemy to equate WORKS OF ART under such seemingly restrictive terms, but this is one person’s opinion (THAT’S ME!), and I can only speak from my personal world perspective. At the same time something WORKING and NOT WORKING can fall under about a million different sub-categories so it’s not as limiting as you think. I have films that I wholeheartedly love, some I respect but don’t like, some I’m fascinated with but can’t recommend, and others that I LOVE LOVE LOVE, but for all the wrong reasons. Criticism for film is often boiled down to the question of IS IT GOOD OR NOT!? and I’d say that word ‘Good’ is even more restricting then ‘Yes, it works for what it sets out to do.’ You may find something bad, but feel that it works in it intent, and at the end of the day, that’s one of the things that makes film discussion interesting for me.

Top 3 Zombie movies – Without counting any of the EVIL DEAD FILMS which really aren’t ‘zombies’ at all but should be classified under the category of demonic procession/monsters.

  1. DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978) - Often cited as my favorite film EVER
  2. DEAD ALIVE/ BRAIN DEAD (If you want to show off) – No one has ever done splatter comedy as successful (or in such a mass quantity)
  3. THE BEYOND – Barely a Zombie film, but this always sneaks on to people’s list and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more hypnotic collection of horror set pieces with that Italian Exploitation shine that just can’t be recreated.

Last night my girlfriend put on HIGH FIDELITY before bed, so I sat down and watched a film that I whole heartedly love from top to bottom. John Cusak is charming in it, Director Stephen Frears translates the book with ease into cinematic form without losing any of its playfulness, and Jack Black gives one of his most rock solid character performances. It’s the kind of movie that almost everyone that loves music/movies/statues can relate too, so it’s easy fodder for someone like me to talk about.

For all its pop-culture savvy and cinematic stylistic tricks, one the most interesting part of HIGH FIDELITY is that it makes no bones about making its main character a self-absorbed nitwit with zero interest in anyone but himself…so it’s exactly like me/you/that person that’s sitting beside you on the bus! The trick of having someone that’s a terrible person be the centre of attention in a film is to get the audience to sympathize with their plight by getting an actor with an affable screen presence – and there’s no more suited to that role then the rumpled charm of John Cusak. As I talked about in the last article I wrote about GROSSE POINT BLANK Cusak works because the audience brings its own baggage to the table in their perception of him. Sure, he’s flawed, but he’s kind of a FUN GUY, he’s self-aware, and he’s actively looking to figure out where his spot in life is. It would have been easy to make him more ‘likable’ or ‘friendly’, but by sticking him in a mindset that allows him to react realistically dour to the situations we can more easily say “Hey! That’s what I would have done too.

At one point John Cusak/Nick Hornby/The Projection of Every Self Centered Pop Culture Obsessed Person Ever say something along the lines of “I know it’s shallow, but you have to judge people by the stuff they own” It’s interesting to reach your mid-twenties, because that’s a period in people’s lives where the STUFF THEY LIKE and the STUFF THEY HATE have pretty much solidified. Sure, new elements and obsessions can be discovered, but there are a certain number of walls that rise up to narrow interests into what you TRULY love.  In my personal experience, if someone loves movies, then they will continue to love movies (unless someone mentally stamps it out), and if it’s been nothing but a mere trifling distraction for the first twenty some years of someone’s life, and then it will continue to be something they put on in the background to drown out the dullness of life. People CAN still fall in love with new things, but these new things will often fall into broad categories of things they already do love.  You can have things fall into your field of vision, but you rarely go out and hunt them down.

Which begs the classic question (which I really haven’t built up to at all, but SO WHAT!?) - Can you date someone that doesn’t like the same things as you? Some would respond with a resound NO, but I don’t think it can be summed up that easily. Music,as well as film, reflect your personality in certain specific aspects. The classic episodes of THE SIMPSONS trades on a very specific brand of comedy that I feel defines about 85% of what I do and say, so it’s hard to imagine dating someone that does not respect it as a comedy milestone (and I have). I believe that the person you are dating needs to RESPECT the things that you enjoy. They don’t have to love them, or even particularly enjoy them, but they need to open to your passion for them. This openness can translate into a number of ways: Listening to you rant about it without rolling their eyes, going to events with you related to the things, or dressing up as a character and participating in lewd sexual acts. (Oh. Maybe not that last one.) This openness and respect is the most important part of all when you are OBSESSED with something that doesn’t particular interest the other person. If an accord, one that isn’t born out of forced bitterness, can be reached, then a relationship can blossom if personalities are compatible.

Enough of that! Let’s talk about MONKEYS next time! Hilarious Monkeys who run their own complex steam train based economy. THEY LOVE BANANAS AND DELIVERING THE MAIL ON TIME!

Thursday, 23 August 2012


 The following dry desert trek through my thoughts will not be about GROSSE POINT BLANK until later. If you want the junk about the movie, skip a few paragraphs down and save yourself from the moanings of someone who should know better.

I hated writing about film in school. It was an arduous process of checks, balance and iron clad scripture. I was passionate about the pictures that would flickered before my eyes in class, but my essays would come back stamped with harsh red words along the lines “THIS WOULD WORK BETTER IN A FAN ZINE” and “THIS SHOULD BE SCREAMED ON A STREET CORNER.  Look, I’m not going to pretend that I’ll ever be anything other then an enthusiastic fan doing back flips down the hall as I babble the joys of a swooshing camera move. I have no problems with my lot in life. I’m happy to churn out reams of work about the things I love.  It’s just that every time I sit down to put pen to paper, a sickening realization hits me…

I have nothing new to say about anything that was ever been made in the history of the universe.  Those people over in the corner of the internet already said it better then me. AND THEY HAD NIFTY PICTURES!

Sure, it’s EASY to write about myself and insignificant existential angst, but diving into critical analysis has the baggage of FACTS and TRUTHS.  I’m scared of those things. If you want to talk about something, and you get it wrong, it’s human nature to jump onto your mistake and gleefully torture the poor sap that was stupid enough to speak up in an uninformed fashion. I’ve been guilty of it before.

I need to stop being a sensitive baby.

These articles are just here to get me to write. They won’t all have a clear cut point, or mind breaking thematic links, but I’ll try my darndest to make them kinda fun to read. The whole point of this experiment is to talk about film, but at the same time, let the conversation veer off into whatever direction I feel like. These articles are not critical dissertations. They are simply personal musings on a particular picture with many diversions before the final word. I will get things wrong, and I will reiterate points that have undoubtedly been shared by a multitude of people in much more eloquent (and grammar perfect) ways, but at the end of the day, those things weren’t written by me. This is written by me. It’s a completely selfish exercise.  

Oh shit. Didn’t I have a movie I was supposed to talk about here? RIGHT!

The “Hitman goes to his Tenth High School reunion to confront his abandoned love” movie GROSSE POINT BLANK was a TBS cable stable. If you tuned in on a lazy Sunday afternoon there’s a good chance you’d catch it squished between a screening of RUSH HOUR and RUSH HOUR 2 right before RUSH HOUR started again. This would lead a viewer to believe that GROSSE POINT BLANK could be considered to be disposable entertainment. The viewer would be wrong.  It’s a perfectly tuned example of genre mash-up magic.

GROSSE POINT works because it plays all of its genre elements on the same level. The romance/existential searching gets more screen time then the hit man stuff, but they are all on the same level. The film never makes excuses for John Cusak being a professional hit man. He just is. All the elements mesh well with themselves because it never has to stick out and scream LOOK AT ME! The three action scenes that happen in the film – a gunfight, a fistfight, and a group gunfight, happen with zero build up. They just happen. It’s the key to making these elements organic. All the action scenes could have been carefully set-up, hinted at and finally delivered, but they would have felt at odds with everything going on around them. They would have forced the viewer to evaluate them separately from the relatable story line. Once you accept the basic premise that John Cusak is a hit man, and this is part of his life, you can accept anything else that pops up. It helps that Cusak can portray a morally ungrounded person, who kill people because “They probably did something wrong”, and still have an audience happily follow all of his lovable underdog emotional beats.  It’s inherent in his screen persona. People will always associate Cusak with Lloyd Dobler even when he’s blowing people away begging for their life.

For a goofy romantic comedy I was impressed to see how gleeful the director is in making Cusak suffer.   The violence on screen isn’t very visually gory, but it’s visceral. Cusak is burned, punched in the eye (suffering a bruise that stays around for the last third of the picture) and gets a nasty cut on his hand (which bleeds profusely) not at the service of any big gag, but because they are all interesting details that allows the audience to empathize with his character.  It’s this empathy that allows the relationship between Minnie Driver and Cusak to be charmingly engaging. The ground work has already been laid in both character’s pasts, so all the viewer needs to know are clues and elements (“Give me the airplane!”) that hint to that past to make it feel real and well rounded. It’s tough to build up a believable relationship from the ground up, but if you tell the audience it already existed, and have the characters talk about it in concrete terms, then the audience is much more likely to buy it.  It’s the same way that the hit man elements work – they simply already exist in this universe – they are nothing new – and you should just take them as day to day occurrences.

This is most evident in the scenes between Dan Akroyd and John Cusak. Both of them are hit man with a past behind them. Their dialogue is composed of rapid fire allusions to previous job, other assassins, and a unionized future.  . In effect, all the plot elements (except for the one that ties them all together for the final scene) exist fairly independently from one another and don’t have that much of a big impact in the grand scheme of things. They are simply backbones to let the characters wander through and react too.

My one beef it just doesn’t end satisfyingly. The final action scene works great, perfectly encapsulating violence and emotional outpouring, but the culmination of the journey that Cusak is going through is decidedly cut short. His constant insistence after every murder that “It’s not me.” is never addressed nor is the complications of his hit man past with Minnie Driver. They just drive off in the sunset with a smile on their face

I love the fact that Benny ‘The Jet’ Urquidez is the hit man after Cusak - only because I love seeing the guy on screen in all his goblin faced glory.  He helped popularize the sport of full contact karate! He’s worked mostly as a stunt choreographer and trainer on films, but you can catch him every now and then in the background of pictures he’s worked on. His most famous on-screen appearance will always be his epic fights with Jackie Chan (some may arguue some of Chan’s best) in WHEELS ON MEALS and DRAGONS FOREVER. He can also be seen in SPIDER-MAN and ROADHOUSE!

The genre mash up is a tough gamble – especially when you’re dealing with something that’s predominantly a romantic comedy running hand in hand with violent unrepetennt action movie trappings. Director George Armitage succeeds because he knows exactly how to present the material – which is often the most crucial step – and get the audience to buy into it completely.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


Williams is shitting himself IN FEAR! 

JUMANJI is easy to dismiss. It was a big budget CGI spectacle starring Robin Williams about a jungle based board game that summoned a bunch of crappy looking CGI monkey. I remember DEVOURING it endlessly on VHS until I lost interest and the film moved into the graveyard of TBS Sunday morning oblivion.

I never realized how freaking BALLSY it was. 

Second A.D: Lucio Fulci 

Just sit and think about some of the ideas that are at play: Robin Williams (as a child) is trapped in a killer jungle for 26 years (!!!), the girl he played with has grown into a shattered motional wreck, and the creatures (and there’s a surprising large number of them) that spring from the game don’t want to frighten the players -they want to FUCKING KILL THEM and any hapless bystander that get in the way. We get killer plants, giant spiders, alligators and stampeding elephants and its all portrayed as a real threat. The film even tackles some big topics with a surprising amount of success (The father and the hunter are played by the same actor!? SUBTEXT!) for such a seemingly mindless blockbuster.  

Oh, don't worry kids, she's just been..uh...killed...by giant mosquitoes. 

Director Joe Johnston has always lived in the shadow of the big blockbuster players. He hasn't had the successes of the bearded one and he takes a lot of work for hire (THE WOLFMAN anyone?), but there’s a certain old school magic to his work. It would have been easy to play JUMAJI as a joke, get Williams to act all CRAZY-TIME and leave it at that. Instead, he treats everything with the right amount of gravitas to keep things fun and thrilling.  Some of the CGI really doesn’t hold up (Those monkeys with the bulging eyes are nightmare inducing), but there’s a whole lot of prosthetic work to marvel at (Dig those giant spiders!) that give the film a charm you just don’t find in modern kids films 



JUMANJI is an exciting, scary, and impressive special effects extraganza. It’s the kind of kids film that are rarely made: The ones that don’t treat its audience like idiots. 

Oh, and check out the fantastic ZATHURA too while you’re at it too. 

Thursday, 17 May 2012


 I’m not a big fan of the original Frankenstein. Sure, the monster’s make-up is undeniably iconic, but I find it too chatty, uneventful and a wobbly in its execution. The concept is there, but Mary Shelly’s original novel was stripped too close to the bone, and there just wasn’t enough to fill the (relatively short) running time to keep the audience interested. If they weren’t going to do a straight adaptation featuring the chatty mad monster and the unending tortured angst, they should have just gone off the wall with the concept – which they happily did in the sequel.

 BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIM (also directed by the original’s James Whale) is a master-class in examining the humanity in horror without ever sacrificing any of the excitement. Whale electrifies the whole film, from the set up to and unavoidable climax, and never lets things die. This movie is ALL about the Monster (while the other was about his creation) without ever feeling exploitative or tiresome.  Whale is a pure master craftsman with a screenplay credited to ELEVEN writers!?!

This may seem like an obvious choice, but it’s easy for most people to shrug off.  It shouldn’t be put up high on a shelf and forgotten. It should be watched, it should be discussed.  I’ve been guilty of skipping over the ‘classics’ (“Eh. I get the jist of it”) many times in the past, and I’m sure I’ll do it in the future, so heed my warning and WATCH IT NOW!  IT’S A GOSH DARN CLASSIC! 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012



An Interview with GHOST SCARE Director/Writer/Editor Patrick Larrivière


I met Patrick in a bar during the 2011 Montreal Fantasia Film Festival. I found him on top of a table ranting about the meta-contextual nature of a live action remake of SPEED RACER vis-à-vis the Nixon  Era politics through the filter of SONIC THE HEDGEHOG 2 (Knuckles Edition).  The Bouncers were about to throw his drunken ass out, but I cleared up his 300$ drink tab, and we spent the rest of night walking through Old Montreal discussing the politics of BRIDE OF RE-ANIMATOR (Uncut Edition). It was pure magic. 

His ideas were at once flabbergasting fascinating, erotically terrifying, and paternally engrossing. Patrick doesn’t use the internet, so when I received a letter on the back of a WHEATIES CEREAL BOX a few month later, I was humbled to find he wanted me to act in his 4th feature length directorial opus GHOST SCARE. Yet, even after spending a whole night with the man in an undisclosed location (he blindfolded me on the bus ride there), I still had no idea what made him tick. He was gracious enough to allow me to interview him for this website in a public location where witnesses were present.

Patrick Larrivère at Burger King 
How are you doing?
I’m living in my mother’s basement. All I want to do is cinema and no one will pay me for it, so I sit in the darkness, and watch the flickering images.  It is blissful slow death. I watch BASKET CASE 2 a lot.
I’m sorry to hear that.
If it wasn’t for Cinema, I would be a bloated corpse rotting under my moth ridden Aladdin sheets.
You obviously love movies, so why would you make one where nothing happens?
Because the nature of cinema is expectation
Could you elaborate on that statement?
When you watch a film, you go with preconceived expectations of what you are about to receive through your ocular and audible receptors. It’s kind of like Antonioni’s  LA NOTTE.  I wanted to make something that was a direct translation of the experience of those expectations through the experience of an experience that is experienced through the expectations of the viewer.
Ghost Scare Storyboard #121
Were you influenced by the work of experimental pioneers like Michael Snow’s WAVELENGTH?
No. I find them a horrible bore. I’d rather watch SHERLOCK JR.
So, is that why the people are WATCHING a movie in the movie that is GHOST SCARE?
Originally, the concept was four people sitting in a maize room playing a game of SPACE RISK. It ended with a mongoose jumping out at them screaming in Latin “YOU ARE THE LOW.”, but due to commercial pressure, I changed it to a Ghost and shrunk the cast to a Dolt and a Princess.  In retrospect, having them watch movie says a lot more about filmic expectation then having them play SPACE RISK. I should have thought of that one first. Silly me.  I just freaking love SPACE RISK.
Are you a fan of horror films?
I am a fan of ALL film genres, in all of their forms, on every plane of being known and unknown to man.  So yea, I like it when things jump out and go BOO!  
"Pure Terror in its Purest Form."
Why the title GHOST SCARE?
Because there’s a ghost and it scares people…I could draw you a picture in my blood if it would help.  Or you can watch 2 OR 3 THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER to really see what I was going for.
What movie are the two characters watching?
In the first half, it’s a mixture of failures, forgotten treasures and guilty pleasures. Originally one film was supposed to play through the entire length, and on some copies that may still be the case, but I wanted to create a collage that would disappoint and disarm the casual viewer.
Why is it all in one take?
Expectation is linked intrinsically with the pain of wait and the fear of rejection. I felt it would let the audience off the hook if there were cuts, even hidden wipes (which the audience would know because they’re savvy cats like that) so I decided that two actors had to suffer through the experience AS IF IT WAS REALLY HAPPENING. Plus, you’re a terrible actor, and I was hoping the pressure would make you better, but it really did the opposite.  

Self Portrait of a Director 
Is the film autobiographical in any way?
No. Every movie I have ever shown to anyone has been universally loved. It’s actually based on a 14th century Russian folk tale…Idiot.  
Why does the clip play twice?
Because once natural expectation is met, the expectation turns into something ugly, and it that leads to excess. Once people see something happen, people will expect more of it, and that is all about excess. It is the lust for the thrill once more. The second part of the film features audio from an uncompleted film by a group of enthusiastic, but deluded, filmmakers that have more hope in their heart then sense.  It’s the worst kind of navel gazing maturational backflips.    
Why the twist ending?
Because the nature of cinema is expectation
This has been enlightening. Thanks for your time.
Can I have some money for the bus home?  

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


Z is a perfect political thriller molded into populist entertainment. The film moves at a brisk pace, keeps the audience guessing, and has no interest in damning a particular party. The events are supposedly based on a real life events, which were later used as the basis for the novel, but you don’t need to know the history of the communist manifesto to understand the politics (and the country is specifically unnamed in the film) The audience is meant to simply side against the corrupt, and there’s a lot of corruption in the world of Z, and not all of it can be punished.  The protagonists can only try and hope. 

Costa-Gavras directs Z with a sense of never ending propulsion, crisscrossing from character to character, and keeping the camera moving at all times. It could have easily turned into a dull series of conversation in nice looking rooms, but Gravas gives it the momentum of an action movie and the editing does its experimental best to catch up. You’ll remember every character, and there’s a lot of them, as you truly get involved in their plight and the impossible wall of authority and misdirection that gets in all their way. 

I had a disconnect reading all the difficulties Z had in being released, because I usually associate censorship issues being linked with ‘difficult’ work, and Z is anything but difficult. That’s not a slight against the content of Z, which will have you yelling at heavens and curse evil in all its forms, but a compliment at the fact that it functions as such an engaging piece of flat out entertainment. A CLASSIC. 


The great Taj Nabhani drew this take on the South Korean Wrestling Comedy THE FOUL KING and it's so darn good I have to post it here.

Check out more of Taj's work at http://tajnabhani.ca and you can pick up THE FOUL KING from EYESORE CINEMA in Toronto (801 Queen Street West) 

Monday, 14 May 2012


I must have gone completely insane. I didn’t hate RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR.

My pal Jay Clarke at http://www.thehorrorsection.blogspot.ca/ has been championing RATS: NIGHT OF TERROR since the dawn of time. He only got ignorant groans in response. The film is famously directed by shit maker Bruno Mattei (HELL OF THE LIVING) and written by his partner in crime Claudio Fargasso (TROLL 2). I remembered RATS being a  turgid, dull and uninvolving post-apocalyptic snooze fest  with a lot of horrifying animal cruelty. The night Jay showed up with a grin and T-SHIRT embezzled with the the rodent covered poster I knew it was time to act  I’d better do something fast before he showed up dressed as a giant rat with a flamethrower raving about how he would re-enact the FILM FOR OUR PAINFUL PLEASURE. I needed to take steps before someone got hurt.

So, I watched it.

And I enjoyed it.

Something must be wrong with me. Horribly wrong. 

THE THRILLING PLOT: In the world AFTER THE BOMB a bunch of out of work Road Warrior Extras show up at an abandoned building to…party…I guess? Maybe they want to start a school! The wooden blocks with legs (actors) discover that the building is a sustainable habitat, but it’s just their luck, that a bunch of nasty rats are going to PUT UP A FREAKING FIGHT!  They board themselves into the building (What was the plan exactly?) but they can’t fight the menace that are RATS. Eventually, they all get eliminated and the viewer is forced to witness one of the most ludicrous twist endings of all time.

The film will not surprise you. It’s exactly as cheap, badly acted and grating you’d expect from an exploitation still-born from the Italian Exploitation Factory. Yet, at the same time there’s an unnerving charm to the whole affair.  I’ll be the first to admit that I rarely watch movies to laugh at them. I’d much rather something that was GOOD then something BAD. There are way too many films that are BAD BAD (It hurts my eyes. They bleed) as opposed to BAD FUNNY.  RATS hangs in the middle (with a lean to BAD BAD) while making its own surreal waves. It’s obvious that the director is really giving it his ALL and truly wants to ENTERTAIN (Mattei has admitted that RATS is his favorite film).  Madman Mattei truly believe that this film about Killer Rats (TM) has something to say. "It will be thrilling feature length ride along the likes of THE BIRDS" he told the stoned investors.

It’s not.

Let’s be clear here. These are not giant rabid rodents or super rats with fantastical flame powers. They are normal looking four legged vermin. There's just lots of them and they’re PISSED THE FUCK OFF! They're so angry that they'll bite you. Yea! Bite YOU! SCARED YET!? Really, that’s all the rats do. They bite people. Angrily. Everyone in this film gets killed by having a bucket of rats dropped on them – from the top of a ladder, from the roof, from heaven (I assume). The person screams, contorts and die. What do you want? There's only so many ways to be killed by RATS! Do you not feel THE TERROR!? The NIGHT OF TERROR!? 

By the time the survivors boarded themselves into the building NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD style while the hysterical blond woman screamed “RATS WERE GOING TO GET THEM!” I was completely enraptured.  It was moving at its own dream like pace, there were a dozen of annoying characters waiting to die, and the flesh was being gnawed. Plus, it looked pretty good. People always forget that when someone says that the film is “THE WORST EVER!” they don’t take into account the technical or basic storytelling skills of the director. Look at the work of Hershel Gordon Lewis and you'll see a man who NO IDEA how to make a movie. RATS may move sluggishly, be terribly acted and have some loopy special effects, but it’s all in focus, and there’s a real organ tinged mood to the proceedings.  I wouldn’t go far enough to call it ‘stylish’, but it has its…charm.

I keep coming back to that word like a rat to cheese. Charm. There’s something infectious about a director working his ass off, a game cast, and a clueless screenwriter (Oh, Claudio) that birthed this unaware piece of fun...turd...FUN TURD (TM)  It’s not filled with enough good to make you wish there was more, or enough bad to make you wish it was turned off, it just glides over the sewage with a smile on its face and a thump up in the air. If you’ve made it this far, you should give it a watch with a group of like-minded academically inclined individuals to dissert its true sociological themes*. If this shit was made by Bunuel, people would be praising it to high heavens.

Will I enjoy the stock footage fileld HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD next? Will I give up movies completely?  Will I wake up as pure energy and  sail off into the cosmos to find the true meaning of light?
Anything is possible now.  

*Don’t watch it if you have a problem with Rat Cruelty. It must have been cheaper to just kill real rats, cause they’re on the top of the stuntman’s head when he’s on fire, when a stuntman go out windows, and when the actors kick them across the room.   


I'm going to tell you why I watch so many Spaghetti Westerns.

It’s cause I freaking love them.

I love the gritty all-round feel, the anti-heroes, and the action scenes that begin and end within seconds. The Spaghetti Western is not just a genre, but a TAKE on a genre that rose from an aesthetic that was informed by what had come before then filtered through the populace cynical consciousness. Its a definitive BRAND on a subject that is in itself incredibly narrow, but can still sbe explored in many different ways.

Or it can just be more of the same.  

He was surrounded by at least thirty men.  This was it. He had a few more digs into the soft earth and then those canons were going to send him to hell.  

“You’re digging your own grave” the mayor sneered.

Django didn’t say a word. He just reached down into the hole, cracked the coffin open, and pulled out the final thing those bastards would ever see.



That scene is from the ending of DJANGO, PREPARE YOUR COFFIN. It could have easily been from DJANGO AND THE SHARKS, DJANGO, KILL or even DJANGO, INSERT SOMETHING VIOLENT HERE. They all end pretty much the same. 


Over the last six month I must have watched at least fifty Spaghetti Westerns, but if you asked me for titles I’d probably just stare at you blankly and go “Some of them had Django in the title…others had KILL…some others had REVENGE…”. It’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy a lot of them, and some of them did stink like putrid horse poo, but it’s undeniable that a Spaghetti is made up of some very specific elements that can only be switched around so much.  It really doesn’t help that all of them have a million different vague titles, the poster art all looks the same, share a lot of the same actors. Oh, and due to the success of films like DJANGO some crafty producers decided to put the name Django in all ALL OF THEIR WESTERNS TITLES even though no character that even resembled the original Django appeared in the film.


You’d think that a feeling of ‘same-ness’ would tire me out eventually, but that hasn’t proven to be the case yet.  It’s kind of like that TV SHOW you used watch every evening when you came home from school. Sometimes it’s good, but usually it’s just all-right, but it fits like a comfy poncho every single time. This is not to say that there aren’t CLASSICS out there, but with the sheer volume, it’s easier to find ‘solid’ films then an out of nowhere genre revelations.  

If you ARE looking for classics* (which you should cause they’re FANTASTIC) you should start with the great TOP 20 lists at SPAGHETTI WESTERN DATABASE  and then move on to books like ANY GUN CAN PLAY or 10,000 WAYS TO DIE (Written by Director Alex Cox!). You sit through a bunch of disposable oaters, but then when you find the REALLY good ones like THE GREAT SILENCE or the Gothic Horror Western AND GOD SAID TO CAIN it all makes all those really crappy ones worthwhile.

I wrote in the previous article that you should give chances to films like FAUST and broaden your horizons. I still stand on that point, but at the same time there’s always place for something that you just LOVE. Not everything has to STICK OUT AND BE SUPER ORIGINAL. Sometimes all you want is a grimace, a six shooter, and a dirty rotten bastard to blow away.  

* A few of the bigger films have gotten solid widescreen releases in North America from such companies as Anchor Bay and Blue Underground, but a lot of the slightly less work floats around on shoddy 99 WESTERN FILMS FOR 10$ box-sets.  On the other hand, countries like Germany and Italy treat the films like holy grails and give them immaculate widescreen releases.

Saturday, 12 May 2012


The 1926 silent film FAUST directed by German cinematic auteur F.W Murnau is filled with magic, heart wrenching performances and jaw dropping special effects. It’s undoubtedly an artefact of its own time, but it’s a piece of art that will always have a universal appeal because Murnau somehow figured out how to exploit all the available cinematic techniques to their breaking point. It’s a masterpiece that everyone should give a chance.  

Yet, many won’t, because you know, it’s a silent film, and that means it tough to swallow to our modern honed sensibilities.


It’s easy to forget that film hasn’t been around for very long. We’re coming up to a little over 110 years now since a man flickered an image at 24 frames a second and the leaps and bounds that the art form has experienced are mind blowing.  Sound, color and the honing of technology and technique (editing, cinematography, and acting) have only gotten better which means the films have gotten better.

Or have they?  

Art doesn’t always evolve, but it is always mutating - and that is especially true in a form as young as cinema. The picture gets more detailed, the sound clearer and the construction more complex, but CREATIVITY never expires. It’s not tough to find someone that waxes nostalgically for the grittiness of the seventies, or the excess of the eighties, or even the classicism of the fifties. They will always argue which is best, but none of these are necessarily BETTER then each other, just different ways to deliver a piece of entertainment. Sure, you may not be used to the locked down camera or the wide compositions, but once you get pass those preconceptions you’ll find there’s THOUSANDS of treasures that are out there to be discovered. We may be in a world of naturalism these days, or have an emphasis on the speed of delivery, but if a viewer can calm themselves and take in a story in way

Oh, and go see FAUST.