Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Volumes of Blood

Volumes of Blood is a new indie horror anthology from directors Jakob Bilinski, Nathan Thomas Milliner, John Kenneth Muir, P.J. Starks, and Lee Vervoort. I have yet to see any of these filmmakers previous efforts, but this is a clear example of why that needs to change. Each director brings their own distinct flavor to the table and works with the central theme given for the film. Prepare for fun.

Volumes of Blood follows a group of college students studying Urban Legends. For a project, they decide to delve into how exactly these stories start, and how they spread. They start by sharing ideas of potential fables to spread. Each one plays out in some way involving a library, like the one they are meeting in.

The first story shows a girl who is in dire need of more hours in a day. Although this isn't a feasible option, there is another, more convenient alternative: more energy. A simple solution, offered by a shady peddler, ends in a more unsavory manner.

Following our first gal, the second fable to be passed is of another nature. One man, left alone after hours to work, finds one particular task to be rather hard to accomplish. As he tries to place the books in their rightful homes, a book on the supernatural seems to gain a mind of its own. The more he tries to replace the book, whilst catching glimpses of something out of the corner of his eye, the more redundant the task becomes. The further from its shelf the book becomes, the closer something else gets to our leading man.

Next, we find ourselves in a library again after hours. This time, it is a young coed trying to finish her studies. Her eccentric boyfriend joins her, urging her to leave her responsibilities for a bit of fun. She compromises, saying she'll join him when she finishes. She is then left alone to her work. Or is she? Something is lurking, waiting for a chance to distract her by means other than drinking.

The last idea to be bounced is the story of a girl named Paige. Paige finds herself working in the library alone at night. Familiar, right? Except the fact that it's Halloween, and an unfamiliar book, supposedly able to allow its reader to speak to a deceased loved one, has found it's way to our heroine's desk. Most people would probably have the good sense to leave such a book alone. At least, people who don't harbor guilt for the suicide of an ex boyfriend. This is why children shouldn't play with dead things...

As we hear the stories passed around by the students, we start to realize that while they are discussing a part of their thesis, they have yet to discuss how exactly these grisly scenarios become perpetuated into a viral part of folklore. The head of this group of students seems to have a pretty good hypothesis. The best way to spread a make believe tale, is for it to have actually happened. 

I've always been a sucker for anthologies. They are my favorite type of horror film and have been since my childhood. While I love anthologies, there is one little problem that rings true for the bulk of them. When lacing so many short stories together, it is very difficult to compile more than a few of the same quality. Even the "top dog" V/H/S series for this generation hasn't managed to put out a consistent package in their three attempts. In this film all five tales manage to deliver the goods. They all bring a different tone to the table but not a single one of them is below average. Volumes of Blood maintains the perfect balance of camp and tension. Each segment manages to contain enough of these elements to satisfy your horror loving needs.

Overall Volumes of Blood is an old school anthology that stays consistently awesome. The final story and the tie in finale are easily my two favorite sections here. Things wrap up with a bang followed by an onslaught of bloodshed. These final moments are probably my favorite of any anthology that has came out within the last decade, and possibly the best wraparound featured in any anthology I have seen. This is a must watch for all indie horror fans and anthology lovers alike. It's definitely getting another spin from me come Halloween. It really is a blast that every horror fan should experience. Keep an eye out for Volumes of Blood to release on DVD, you won't regret it!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Computer Hearts

Computer Hearts is an interesting short directed by Canadian duo Turner Stewart and Dionne Copland. The directing team has a few shorts under their belt and have recently tackled the cinematography on Ryan Nicholson's Gutterballs 2. Watching this short, it is easy to see why they were chosen for the long awaited Plotdigger sequel. Computer Hearts is an incredibly well crafted early film project that should easily put them on the radar of most low-budget film enthusiasts. 

The film centers around a man named Albert who has become overly obsessed with a character on an interactive sex game website. He's letting his relationship with his fiancee fall apart by feeding this addiction. As he slowly begins to fall apart at the hinges, his future wife decides she is tired of his distance. She leaves and with that Albert is alone with nothing but his computer. Things go south quickly when Albert reconnects with his digital playmate quite literally.

Vanessa2 seems to have Albert's heart, though she is lacking one of her own. She is his escape. She is seemingly perfect, no real obligation (though he doesn't seem to notice), and she is always happy to see him. This low maintenance dream girl starts to really byte. Pun intended. Once the 'real' Vanessa leaves Albert, Vanessa2 sees an opportunity. Albert must decide exactly which of his lives he really wants to live.

This release contains two vastly different cuts of the film. Although most of the content is the same, the extended "Hentai Cop Cut" throws in a bit more dialogue and info that manages to completely change the intentions of our lead, Albert. If you are going to check this out I would recommend giving the "Vanessa Cut" a watch to start out with. This cut is significantly shorter, and although both cuts have things I prefer over the other, I would say this one reigns supreme. The pacing in "Vanessa Cut" makes for a much more enthralling watch, while the "Hentai Cop Cut" sacrifices that for a few extra plot points and character building.

Overall Computer Hearts is an exhilarating exercise in the oddities of the body horror subgenre. If you thought browsing the dark side of YouTube at 1 a.m. was intense, think again. Albert showcases how easy it is to get sucked into alternate reality, especially if yours is monotonous. Albert enhances the creep factor by showing how even though he plays through his every day life, his virtual feelings seem to have more depth. The extremely stylish black and white bathtub scene alone is worth the price of admission. This one comes highly recommended for fans of strange, twisted horror flicks. GET IT!!

Monday, June 8, 2015

American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts & Gore

Bouquet of Guts & Gore is the first installment in the American Guinea Pig series. As a big fan of the original Guinea Pig series, I was a little skeptical about the creation of this film. Slowly but surely, as I saw the names attached that feeling washed away as I remembered all the delicious, gory abominations Marcus Koch and Oddtopsy FX have splattered onscreen over the years. The Guinea Pig title is a lot to live up to in many extreme horror fan's eyes. The level of notoriety that series has garnered over the years is nearly unmatched by anything else in the realm of horror. In anyone else's hands matching the vibe of the early flicks would be a daunting, if not impossible, task. For all the fine people behind this film, making it their own, and shattering expectations seems to come with ease.

From the moment we are introduced to the torture chamber, hearts will drop. This is a feeling that keeps me coming back to the more extreme areas of the genre. Unfortunately it is not a feeling that is easy to achieve for me these days, the last film that effectively brought it on was Hate Crime, and before that way back when I first witnessed August Underground. Immediately when this room and our trio of miscreants come into play the mood shift is monstrous. It feels as though this room is hidden within an abandoned warehouse, on the seediest alley the Earth has to offer. It's a little piece of Hell that happened to make its way onto our playground, and its minions are here to play with us. As viewers we get to glare into this chunk of Hell from the comfort of our own homes.

Bouquet of Guts & Gore is a film that seems necessary at this point in time. The "extreme" horror genre has slowly but surely been losing my attention in recent years. I still love the classics, and sure, there's occasionally a new one that blows me away; but that experience has become further spread apart throughout the years. Many directors in this field seem to be giving the gore a backseat position and utilizing shit, piss, and vomit to achieve their gross-out factor. While this did work for a certain director, who I'm sure you are all familiar with, I would hate to see the extreme horror genre all have that uniform attribute. The American Guinea Pig series works as the retaliation of that. Biro and Co. show that these cheap gags aren't the only way left to shock jaded audiences. This is the return to gore, this is the defibrillator blast to the nuts the extreme horror genre has been in need of. 

Overall, American Guinea Pig: Bouquet of Guts & Gore is a must see for all gorehounds. This is a film that is so gritty, and full of hate that it's almost hard to take in one sitting. THIS IS FUCKING MEAN. Meaner than I could have ever hoped it would be. I had very high expectations for this when it arrived and it surpassed all of them. Biro has created a monumental flick for this style that will be looked at the same way the original Guinea Pig series is now. The terror isn't ending here, as there are already sequels planned. Hopefully, this string of films will ignite a fire under the extreme horror genre's ass. American Guinea Pig has upped the ante, it's set the bar, and from now on, making a well received torture flick will be an uphill battle. Essential viewing for all of you sick twisted fucks. GET IT AND SQUIRM! 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Massacre Gun

Massacre Gun is the second film directed by Asian film legend Yasuharu Hasebe. Shortly after this movie's release, Hasebe went onto be one of the biggest forces in the Pinky Violence movement of the 70's. Here we see a far more refined style compared to his defining films throughout the coming decade. 

Massacre Gun tells the story of Kuroda and his brothers. One day his Yakuza boss gives him the order to kill his significant other. Kuroda had planned an escape route for her, but out of fear of what would happen after his betrayal, he decides to follow through with the murder. After the deed is done, he returns to his brothers and they are very angered by his decision. The turmoil within the family quickly comes to a halt when Kuroda decides to leave his old crime family behind and start up his own operation. Soon, an all out war is waged between the two factions, and the only way it will end is with bloodshed. Kuroda not only has to deal with constant paranoia, but also the internal struggle of knowing his best friend Shirasaka is still fighting for the opposing side. The tension quickly rises, and hundreds of bullets begin to fly, but only one side can stand victorious.

Massacre Gun is an intriguing Yakuza film in the fact that it seems very Americanized. A smooth jazzy soundtrack is peppered in throughout the entire movie that complements it surprisingly well. The story builds at a slow yet precise pace, and while it can at times be a bit of an endurance test, it never becomes too taxing due to the high level of style on display. You truly feel for these characters and the hardships that they have brought upon themselves. Strong character development and performance is what really makes this film work on the level it does. Without the insight on Kuroda and Shirasaka's struggle to succumb to the violence that is inevitable, the final scene would not have hit anywhere near the level it does. This buildup is what anchors the movie down, but when the finale comes to life it is more than a fair trade.

Overall, Massacre Gun is a very entertaining Yakuza flick. Although the film is not without its flaws, it features enough fight scenes and fiery gun battles to keep most action fans at the edge of their seat. It does all this while still managing to maintain its cool as ice atmosphere. Having not seen many 60's Asian crime movies prior to this I was pleasantly surprised by how far from dated Massacre Gun was. If you're into Yakuza flicks this one is definitely worth a shot.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Under the Rainbow

Under the Rainbow is Luke Ramer's first feature length film. This was my introduction to West 2nd Productions, and it was a very insightful viewing. The initial viewing of Under the Rainbow is like traveling through an unknown wormhole of the low-budget film world. It's safe to say Ramer took a step off the beaten path with this one and started forging his own. If you're looking for something different from the underground horror scene, you've found it.

The movie kicks off with a cult preparing to drown their sorrows in the Kool-Aid and travel to a realm that promises nothing but glorious things. As with most cults, it is all an illusion and once the bodies start dropping, these sugar-coated lies take them to a place vastly different than expected. We then get to know Vivi. She's a troubled soul whose pastimes include slicing away at herself and getting lost in a world of illegal substances. Vivi lost her mother during her birth, and has carried that guilt her entire life. When things go sour between her and her sole friend during a botched drug deal, she decides that suicide could be her great escape. She doesn't manage to end it all, but instead passes out on a train track.

Vivi awakens in another world, and quickly discovers what happens after suicide. She is now trapped in a purgatory of sorts and is being pursued by the minions of the Queen, who runs her new home. Given that Vivi didn't commit suicide, she is of high priority to the Queen. She trails one of the minions back to the royal fortress to get to the bottom of things and find a way out of this hell hole.

Under the Rainbow sucks you into a dimension that could not be any more captivating. This world seems to be the best of a vivid dream, coupled with the most unsettling areas of a nightmare. This flick grabs you, and pulls you into a Wonderland-esque world that you won't want to escape, if you even could. Ramer succeeds in finding a superb balance of discontent, and comfort. The film caters on the brink of reality and daydreams, teetering from craziness to sanity and back. Ultimately, it holds a thought provoking anti suicide message. Ramer conveys this message in a subtle, none-too-pushy way, allowing the viewer to perceive it in as much or little depth as they'd like.

Overall Under the Rainbow is something that all indie movie fans should give a shot. It is far from a conventional horror film but that is what makes it so great. Although Ramer was a much younger director when this was made, you could already see signs of a well defined filmmaker. It delivers on all fronts, containing a labyrinth of a story, visceral imagery, a dark tone, and solid performances all around. This is a true breath of fresh air in the genre. GET IT HERE!  

Monday, June 1, 2015

Island of Death

Island of Death is a Greek exploitation film from 1976. Greece isn't an area that is exactly known for its cinema. Watching Island of Death always makes me wish it would have sparked some kind of trend of shock movies being filmed there. The fact that a movie like this can get such an awesome blu-ray release makes me a happy camper. Nico Mastorakis successfully takes anyone who has the pleasure of viewing this flick to a strange world where sexual perversion and murder are the norm. This is truly a Video Nasty that actually deserved its spot on the list. Hide your old women, hide your goats, Island of Death is rolling in, packing a tidal wave loaded with bodily fluids.

Island of Death starts up in a way that reminds me much of the Italian cannibal films that came around this era. This illusion doesn't last long though, it wastes little to no time getting into the filth. Within 15 minutes our lead character tries to get freaky with his significant other. When she denies his pleas, he goes out and fucks a goat... yes, you read correctly HE FUCKS A GOAT. This is just the beginning of the onslaught of madness brought forth on the screen.

The essential story here is pretty thin, and is really just an excuse to deliver shock scenes in surplus. We follow an extremely religious couple who's favorite pastime is murdering sinners. However, it appears fairly early on that these two are in fact, the biggest sinners on the island. Upon unleashing their wrath on the island they leave an alarming number of unusual crime scenes in their wake. The whole film showcases just how horribly fractured their minds are.

If I'm having a bad day, nothing does the trick like the last 20 minutes of Island of Death. The final chunk of this film is one of the greatest endings in the history of cinema. I will refrain from giving away anything here, but I'll say the insanity displayed here is unmatched by anything I've ever seen. The fact that so much ridiculous over the top perversion is crammed into such a small time span is nothing short of amazing.

Overall Island of Death is a real sight to see. It is extremely odd to think that this film was made in an attempt to cash in on the shock that came with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It honestly makes me wonder what kind of warped shit was finding its way into a Texas Chainsaw print on its way to Greece. The easily offended should stay far, far away. Island of Death makes no excuses about what kind of film it is. An alarming number of taboos are shattered throughout without hesitation. This is pure, uncut exploitation for die-hard exploitation fans, anyone else can steer clear. GET IT!