Okay, they say a life unexamined is not worth living, and so it is with writing. Here I am cracking the seal on a collection of really old film reviews written in the early nineties, mainly at 3am. I present these unaltered, with only minor typos corrected. I have even left in the director credit on Dust Devil to one Paul Stanley (it’s Richard Stanley in case you need to be told).
Back in the early nineties kids, there was no internet I had my battered copy of the Time Out Film Guide and the impressive collection of big box VHS tapes on the shelves of the late and lamented Edinburgh video emporium Alphabet Video for research. These were published in the pages of Convulsion, a music fanzine to which I contributed excitable and occasionally chemically deranged writings on the pop platters of the day and interviews with bands mostly conducted in toilets backstage at the Edinburgh Venue (RIP also you were a foetid pit, but I loved you).
Anyway, mostly this is of stuff I will have seen at the Edinburgh Film Festival, the occasional pre-release VHS from Alphabet, and the odd bootleg. Dig in…
Dir Paul Stanley
Cinema release early 93
In retrospect Stanley’s previous film Hardware, for all the praise lavished on it by the genre press, really only amounted to a well made Alien rip-off with slick visuals. Stanley’s new film Dust Devil, is obviously a project of a more personal nature.
Tipping the hat to a cornucopia of different filmmakers (most prominently Sergio Leone and Dario Argento) Dust Devil is a wildly ambitious hybrid of spaghetti western, slasher movie and African mysticism.
Tightly paced (perhaps a bit too tightly as I’ll explain) the film bludgeons the senses into submission before introducing a welcomely complex plot to unfold.
Visually Dust Devil is ravishing, shot entirely in Namibia, Stanley transforms the stunning scenery into a landscape of dreams and nightmares.
Dust Devil follows the trail of mayhem left in the wake of a demonic hitchhiker (played by Robert Burke from The Unbelievable Truth). On his murderous journey he picks up a dissatisfied South African housewife, is pursued by the local police chief Zakes Mokoe, and the wife’s fascist husband.
Unfortunately the film’s distributors have cut the film by over half an hour. As a result the film loses coherence at crucial moments and some of the folklore becomes merely gimmickry.
Despite these faults however, Dust Devil confirms Stanley’s place as the most exciting new name in horror since Sam Raimi.
Dir Tamra Davis
How this gem of a film slipped out with nairy a hue or cry raised, is beyond me. For Gun Crazy is one of the most interesting genre pics I’ve seen in simply ages.
Owing and obvious debt to Badlands (The Citizen Kane of road movies) Gun Crazy explores the emotional and romantic awakening of poor white trash teenager Drew Barrymore (a million miles from E.T.) The catalyst for her coming of age is a correspondence only affair with a young convict. If this sounds like just so much gloopy sentiment, think again. Once her new found love is released on parole, Drew discovers female empowerment through firepower. Scary idea guys.
Full of weird Americana, a cool soundtrack, great cameos from the likes of Joe Dallasadrio, and Ione Sky. Gun Crazy is a real cult movie in waiting. Doesn’t wimp out at the end either.
Highway to Hell
The signs were bad, made in 1990 and left to gather dust on a distributor’s shelf, Highway to Hell was directed by a guy who went on to make execrable Rik Mayall vehicle Drop Dead Fred. However against all the odds Highway to Hell turns out to be the most original slice of cinematic weirdness since Beetlejuice.
Rocketing away from its knowingly cliched opening Highway to Hell spends 90% of its running time on a frenetic sightseeing tour of Hell.
Full of memorable visual gags (especially the donut shop that houses ‘Hell for Cops’, and army of Warhols who clean the trash off Hell’s Highway and a great Jerry Lewis joke). Highway to Hell is destined to be a cult classic.*
The plot is perfunctory: boy meets girl, girl gets abducted by Satan’s very own cop, boy enters hell in search of the lost girl; but who cares?
Anyone with a cop-phobia is in for a rough ride, Hell Cop could be designed to be the new horror icon for the nineties. There is also a refreshingly suave satan. The only things that worries me is that if Hell is half as fun as this movie, then I’ve got some heavy duty sinning to catch up on.
Meet the Feebles
Dir Peter Jackson
New Zealand 90
If Jim Henson wasn’t dead already, this film would have killed him. Initial reports way back when, that Peter Jackson (director of the Monty Python meets Leatherface chunkblower Bad Taste) was going to make a muppet movie as a follow up stretched credulity. Now the Feebles are here, it makes sense. Meet the Feebles pushes the envelope of Technicolor barf-o-rama to breaking point. You’ll puke with laughter, or disgust, but you will puke.
Following roughly the same lines as the original Muppets TV show, Feebles adds some less than wholesome ingredients to spice up the mix. These include: muppet sex, muppet porn (hardcore), muppets doing coke, farting, belching, felching, murder, STD’s, Morris Minor stretch limos, coprophilia, and assorted perversions, and the funniest Vietnam flashback sequence ever.
Movie of the year.
My Heart is That Eternal Rose
Rick, a young gambler, is persuaded by his girlfriend’s father to help smuggle a gangster’s son into Hong Kong. It all goes horribly wrong when the bent cop whose help they’ve enlisted throws a wobbly and kills the irritating teenager. Rick kills the cop is self defence and is forced to flee to the Philippines. His girlfriend’s father is less lucky and is abducted by the gangster’s henchmen. Lap (the girlfriend) pleads with Godfather Shen, and old associate of her fathers, to intervene on her behalf. He agrees on the condition that she becomes his possession. Fearing that Rick will do something rash, she doesn’t tell him of the deal.
All this is merely the prologue, the main action takes place six years later when Rick returns. But Rick has changed, he’s now a contract killer and believes Lap deserted him. the pair reconcile, and with the help of a sensitive mob bodyguard, attempt to escape from Shen. Matters are further complicated by the bodyguards secret love for Lap.
Eternal Rose eschews the stylish visual pyrotechnics that characterise much of the Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed genre, for a gritty realism and downbeat tone. It’s more Mean Streets than Scarface. Having said that, for Western audiences it is still pretty violent though nowhere near the body count of John Woo’s The Killer.
The benefits from a strong script and some really terrific performances, and is directed with flair and style. I’ll take this over over-hyped junk like Nikita* any day. Also for you purists out there, it is thankfully subtitled.
*I really had it in for Luc Besson around this time, I dunno why.
File under ‘Weird Shit”.
Nobody is gonna claim this is a great film, but I guarantee that you have never seen anything quite like this before. Ostensibly it’s a slapstick chop-socky comedy, but every quarter of an hour it’s punctuated with a grisly slasher killing which seems to have wandered in from a different movie.
The film juggles puerile (but amusing) comedy, ludicrous (but terrific) kung fu, and gruesome bloody death. It features some terrific fight sequences, including roller skate fu, meat cleaver fu, machete fu, blunt instrument fu, transvestite fu, and plain old kick-the-bastard-in-the-balls fu. Moon Lee, the plucky heroine, is a demon with the leg work.
Recommended post pub entertainment, marred only slightly by the subtitles running offscreen, but great fun nonetheless.
Dir Quentin Tarantino
Reservoir Dogs is destined to be the year’s most controversial directorial debut.* Quentin Tarantino’s visceral heist film grabs your balls in a vice-like grip as soon as the opening credits finish rolling.
Detailing the events before a failed robbery, as the various participants are initially hired and after as they they and discover why the job went disastrously wrong.
the cast is excellent featuring Harvey Kietel and grizzled veteran Lawrence Tierney, but honours must go to our very own Tim Roth in a truly electrifying performance.
Words of warning however, Reservoir Dogs is only recommended for those with cast iron stomachs, the consequences of the heist make this the goriest film in years, but unlike say Lethal Weapon there is no glamour in the violence, only agony and the taste of bile in your throat. Simply stunning.
*This one, I got right! Yay.
Do you sit around all day dreaming of being in a band, or writing a novel, but never end up doing anything? Do you squander your intellect concocting bizarre theories about the sociological significance of Scooby Doo or the Smurfs? Is your life a warn aimless lazy haze? Are your favourite bands Mudhoney, Mercury Rev, The Buttholes, Nirvana and Pink Floyd?
If so, then you are a Slacker and this is the movie for you.
Slacker the movie, is plotless, aimless and pointless, it is also original, witty, and articulate. In short Slacker is its subject and that is its strength. It doesn’t tell you that your life should have meaning, or direction to be valid. Likewise the fact that the movie has no meaning or direction isn’t important either.
Everyone in this film (and there’s literally a cast of hundreds) is a twenty something layabout just like you and me. There are no actors. Falling into a grey area somewhere between drama and documentary, Slacker is a genuinely original film, often very funny in its depiction of a day in the life of a youthful community in Austin Texas.
Hopefully someone will give it a long overdue UK release soon. Also listen carefully for a selection of great songs by the likes of Crust, Ed Hall and the Buttholes.
Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend
Things that make you go… fuck!
If you haven’t seen this, then you won’t believe me. In fact I have seen it and I don’t believe it. Overfiend (as it shall be known due to my inability to pronounce the Japanese title) is the most awesome, thrilling, yet utterly repellent anime to have received a UK release to date.
It’s sort of a horror/fantasy thing (believe me, you ain’t gonna worry about the plot) but what raises it to the level of a genuine sicko is the animated sex, which is plentiful and graphic and mostly of a brutal and aggressive nature. The sexism of the film crosses previously uncharted areas of vileness. Rape, mutilation, masturbation and a bunch of stuff with demonic tentacles that I don’t know any word for.
Kind of like watching a car crash or listening to a Geto Boys album. View with caution.