BLOG: YTC EpisodeXXXI: For-F-Sake

FINAL.2.2Well it’s the Summer in England, which means a mix of Sunshine and rain; joy and gloom. Ideal for a Horror Film Festival then, eh?

Last year I volunteered my cameraman ‘skills’ (aka ‘drink coffee, carry equipment and press buttons’ skills- you know it’s all true, camera operators!) to FrightFest. A recap of that can be found here http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/hollyweird/hollyweird-episode-na-what-happens-at-frightfest-stays-at-frightfest/

ff

This year was my second go round on the old FF merry-go-round of death and doom, gore, applause, fans and fandom at the 2013 event. Here were a few of 1/2 of the You Total Cult experiences of FrightFest 2013.

Does this count as a deviant act given where my left hand is?

Does this count as a deviant act given where my left hand is?

First up on the first day was meeting Chucky. Well, Don Mancini, the creator, writer and partial director of the entire Child’s Play franchise and Fiona Douriff were there too since were interviewing them. But Chucky was the main point of interest for myself.

This was an actual puppet with a metal frame, not just a toy replica. Apparently it was not used in the latest film, but it was genuine- and I completely believe that because it weighted a ton. Naughty Chucky needs to lay off the pies.

By the way, Don and Fiona were both lovely and happy to chat away to fans, which is a great energy to start off a festival with.

Later in the evening, the European Premiere of the new- and for the first time uncut- screening of Curse Of Chucky occurred. For this event, masks given out to the crowd which led to a weird ‘Cult Of Chuck’ moment that I was able to observe from my position as a Cameraman.

My name is Legion...
My name is Legion…
... For we are many
… For we are many

Curse Of Chucky brings a haunted house feel to the film series and absolutely gets it closer the spirit of the original film. For the record- it is cannon and does tie into the other movies. And also for the record, it has one of the best Post-Credit sequences I have ever seen.

 

Later in the same evening was the UK Premiere of You’re Next. This was probably my favourite film of the event- it features a seemingly simple home invasion story with a nice twist; one of the intended victims is a serious badass who begins to decimate the invaders. Technically it is not a decimation as there are not 10 invaders, but the Protagonists ingenuity deserves some hyperbole.

The film had a nice creepy feel, but it was the strength of the leading lady that really made the film such a delight. It was just refreshing to see a female lead who is smart, tough and capable and is not allegedly those things whilst relying on wearing tight leather trousers or posing seductively with guns.

The screening also featured these nifty posters being given out. Score!

 

I'm gonna need some more wall space for this bad boy
I’m gonna need some more wall space for this bad boy

 

By the next day, my cohort, and experienced Media Wall interviewer, Jennifer Eiss was given a chance to interview the Variety Icon award winner of the festival, Ben Wheatley.

Not only was this fun for Jen, it also meant that I got to ask Ben what his favourite pub in Brighton is. I know now, but you all never shall… unless you offer to buy me drinks there in which case I will lead the way.

ben jen

Anchor Bay gave out some fun Coloring Books that were filed with a few games and a cut out Michael Myer’s mask. Fun for adults and kids, but kids really shouldn’t be at Frightfest anyway.

anchor bay

Hatchet III was more of the same, but it is in the same tone as the first two entries. So it is a fun way to see the end of a franchise that plays as one large, single movie when put back to back. It also features Gremlins star Zack Galligan in featured lead role, and some fun cameos too, so bonus points all around for that.

One smaller film that I can recommend is In Fear. I knew nothing of the film, and resented having to film the screening event as the title was so poor. In fact it was an extremely well acted drama that wring a surprising amount of tension out of two people lost as they drive their car around eerie countryside. I found the final act a bit dull as it features a third character and the tone shifts a lot,but it was certainly well made. I stand by the title being poo, though.

Picture 009
Some random Cult

Another film that I did not expect to like was Odd Thomas. Although a little bit cloying and trying very hard to be cool, the film is genuinely breezy and unique. It seemed to me like a horror-detective version of Scott Pligrim Vs The World, and may be just as equally destined for cult status

V/H/S 2 was introduced on stage with the line “If you love V/H/S, then you’ll love V/H/S 2!”. That may be factually correct, but I found V/H/S a mixed bag of overall mediocrity. A better descripition may be “If you didn’t mind V/H/S then you’ll not mind V/|H/S 2, either!”

My final film of the festival was Rewind This!, a documentary about the rise of the VHS Format, its part in popular culture and how it still remains loved by a small and passionate few fans. The film had some problems, but it was very heartfelt. I think this was an idea film for myself to exit the Festival on- something that was low key, sparsely attended and made with love. Just like many classic horror film viewings that undoubtedly caused such devotion in horror film fans.

 

rewind_

As the 2013 festival wound down, I can reveal that there is a particular bar frequented by the crew, the guests and the organisers of FrightFest every year.

Although I could not manage the main drink-a-thon after this years event, I ensured to graffiti my name onto the 2013 Poster hanging in the bar the night previously. I’m just to the left of Bobcat Goldthwait in faint biro.

If you can't make it- fake it!
If you can’t make it- fake it!

 

Although there were numeorus incidents I got to chat to directors and actors etc, and there were a couple more movies that I saw at the festival, there were also a lot of highs and lows that will arise with any large event. Instead what I will say is that for horror fans, FrightFest is a great chance to meet icons and see a mix of unknown films and bigger releases.

Oddly enough though, my own highlight may well have been separate to the entire Festival. During a break, I managed to pop to a small 2nd hand music shop in Berwick Street that I frequent whenever I can.

Inside the shop I found a £2 Album from a band I had not heard of, but that makes me smile even now. Ladies and Germs, , allow me to present a CD by whoever the hell Orcquesta El Macabeo are.

Cover

 

Yep. The front has a Goat playing bongos…

macabeo2…and the inside cover has a Bowtie-wearing skull with Macarneenas for crossbones!

Sadly, the music does not live up to the enticement of the featured images, but the very fact this CD exists make me stupidly happy.

 

E-C- F'n-W... Wait up, I mean T-F'n- C!
E-C- F’n-W… Wait up, I mean T-F’n- C!

This Total F’n Cult will now leave you with an interview that I helped to film. It features one scholar and one gent. I will not say who is which, but it was the most fun interview that I was a part of this year.

Incidently, Bobcat was promoting his new movie, Willow Creek. I did not manage to catch the movie, but I hear it was genuinely terrifying for those that did.

So, until next year, uh…maybe, I hope you had a ball at FrightFest if you were there and check it out one year if you like the sound of it.

-MJ

BLOG:YTC EpisodeXXX: I Love (Bloodied) Lucy!

FINAL.2.2Hold onto your hats, coz’ from out of nowhere comes a bonus edition of the You Total Cult blog!

Having found myself with a spare hour, and having recently Freddy in Space’s blog, (http://www.freddyinspace.com/2013/08/the-30-question-horror-lover-challenge.html) I found John Squires over at F.I.S. had tackled a Horror Quiz.

In the spirit of a recent blogger who lost a book deal, I’m re-cycling other people’s ideas as my own. Unlike that mystery blogger- who frankly does not deserve to be named as they clearly want attention for nothing- I am citing my sources. (In addition, also unlike that mysterious blogger, I wouldn’t get involved romantically with a Quentin Tarrantino since I’m too lazy to get a pedicure). According to John’s blog, he obtained the quiz via Facebook courtesy of a link from Twitter’s @LiZZYizTWIZTid.

So, until You Total Cult’s next proper blog entry, here is my take on @LiZZYizTWIZTid‘s Horror Love Challenge!

 

      1.  SCARIEST KID CHARACTER IN A HORROR MOVIE- Esther form Orphan. Sure there are far scarier films featuring killer kids, but towards the end of the movie Esther’s antics involve making sexual moves towards her adopted father. This sexualisation of a small girl just gives her such a creepier aspect overall to any other child in a horror film that I can think of. (NB:If you’ve seen the film then you know all is not as it seems, but even so it’s a freaky concept)
      2. BEST SEX SCENE MURDER- As I recall, Delamore Dellamorte involves sex, impressively heaving bosoms and zombies getting shot all during the same sex scene. And if I remembering wrong and this sex scene never happened then I don’t apologise as it proves my brain is a wondrous place.
      3. CREEPIEST DEAD BODY- John Carpenter’s The Thing features a torched corpse that was roasted as it was mid-way through changing up its many different types of DNA. So. Damn. Creepy.
      4. A HORROR MUSICAL YOU ENJOY- There’s really only 1 option and it involves a shameless plug. http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/hollyweird/hollyweird-episode-xxiii-between-a-rocky-and-a-horror-place/
      5. FUNNIEST HORROR MOVIE CHARACTER- Whoa, this is tough. Obviously Evil Dead’s Ash, Big Trouble In Little China’s Jack Burton or Braindead’s Lionel are all hilarious. But in an act of balance, I’ll actually pick Leslie Vernon, the killer from Behind The Mask: The Rise Of Leslie Vernon. Frankly, Ash, Burton and Lionel are too evenly matched. Besides which Vernon’s comedic charisma carries the entire film which is harder to pull of when he’s aiming to slaughter people, rather than save the day.
      6. FAVORITE WOMAN IN THE WORLD OF HORROR?- If only there were a women who had written definitive books on Zombies and Cult movies… oh wait, my girlfriend has!! Seriously though, she’s uber-smart and a tough cookie, so she could easily survive a Slasher Franchise. Plus we even met a Horror Festival!
      7. A HORROR YOU’D BE IN- Let me paint you a quick picture. A few months back I was in Japan. At many restaurants you have to remove your shoes, stow them away and proceed in your socks. At one such place, I was putting my size 12 Dr marten’s back on post-meal and I was met by a squealing waitress. She kept pointing and exclaiming “BIGFOOT-OU! BIGFOOT-OU!”. So I ‘d best be in a Sasquatch movie.
      8. FAVORITE ALIEN-RELATED HORROR MOVIE- John Carpenter’s The Thing is the best straight up alien horror that I know of, Predator is the most action packed alien-film and Killer Klowns From Outer Space is the most fun. So it depends if I’m in the mood for terror, machismo or popcorn.
      9. BEST HORROR TV SERIES- Gravity Falls, which is basically Eerie Indiana in an animated form but somehow even better! I’m also giving a shout out to American Gothic, an often forgotten TV show brought forth by Sam Raimi and one episode even cameos Bruce Campbell.
      10. A SERIAL KILLER YOU HATE- Yeeeeeah, this is too tasteless to answer as they’re all scum. So I’ll change it to ‘A Fictional Horror Film Serial Killer You Hate’ which goes to The Leprechaun. Because he has yet to get a decent kill even across 6 films. Keep chasin’ the dream lil’ buddy.
      11. MOST DITZY CHARACTER- Any human in Prometheus. They’re all morons with zero character-logic to them.
      12. FAVORITE HORROR MOVIE FROM THE PAST YEAR- It’s a Marmite choice, but I liked Resolution.
      13. BEST IMPALEMENT- Phantasm features a flying, spiked sphere ramming into a dude’s cranium- and just when it can’t get any worse a drill starts to burrow on into his forehead. It’s certainly creative.
      14. KILLER WHO HAS THE BEST WEAPON- Although it’s a one-off stabbing, Sleepwalkers has a cop get gets stabbed to death by a corn on the cob. How could I not pick it?!?!
      15. A HORROR LOVE-STORY- Every Slasher film concerns the love between a maniac and their blade…
      16. BEST THROAT SLICING- The Undertaker when he’s calling for the Tombstone.
      17. FAVOURTE SEQUEL TO A HORROR- To my mind Evil Dead 2 just may be the greatest film of all time.
      18. BEST HORROR MOVIE IN THE WOODS- See above.
      19. AN ACTOR YOU ENJOY WATCHING GET MURDERED- Paul Reiser in Aliens. Damn yuppies!!!
      20. MOST ATTRACTIVE HORROR MOVIE KILLER- Katharine Isabelle in American Mary- Grrrrr!
      21. BEST FAMILY IN HORROR- Aw, I’ll just name check the horror community as a whole! We’re all one big happy family! No, wait that’s a bit twee for this quiz. Matt Cordell and Turkell in Maniac Cop 2 seem like the horror equivalent of the film Step-Brothers. I’ll give them a shout out just so that Maniac Cop 2 gets a mention in here.
      22. WORST RECENT HORROR MOVIE YOU’VE SEEN- There are so many I can’t pick. I guess Texas Chainsaw 3D as it’s too lazily written to even work out a year to set the film in.
      23. FAVOURITE 1970’S HORROR- I don’t want to keep referring to a particular film beginning with P, so the absolute classic that is Romero’s Dawn Of The Dead.
      24. FAVORITE HORROR THEME SONG- Oddly enough I was whistling the Cannibal Holocaust theme earlier today. So that’s my answer for today.
      25. BEST VERSIO OF JASON VORHEES- Screw it, I’ll risk Kane Hodder’s ire and go with the Jason from Freddy vs Jason. Dude was a decaying bulldozer, which to me seemed a bit more threatening than a mentally handicapped guy in a boiler suit and some protective sports gear. In fact come to think of it, why does Jason wear a safety mask? Pfff- pansy!
      26. A HORROR MOVIE YOU CAN’T WAIT TO SEE- Whatever it is, I can wait.
      27. BEST BEHEADING- Adam Buxton in Hot Fuzz. Admittedly it’s more of a squishing, but the body ends up headless in a spectacular fashion.
      28. MOST RIGHTEOUS KILLER (FOR GOOD)- Shaun (Of The Dead) uses a cricket bat and hides out in a pub. That’s as righteous as an Englishman can get.
      29. FAVORITE B-MOVIE HORROR- Almost all horror films start out as B-Movies, so I can’t even begin to pick.
      30. HORROR WITH AN ENDING YOU DIDN’T EXPECT TO HAPPEN- Puppet Master 6: Retro Puppet Master. Yep, that’s my pick and here’s why. This terrible film had the lone ‘selling point’ of explaining the origins of some of the killer toys. After a horrendously dull film, the character recounting the tale still has not cleared up the toys origins and he ends by pretty much saying “Oh, I got distracted! I’ll tell you another time”. I never expected Puppet Master 6to be good, but when the one thing you are expecting from the entire concept is ignored that’s pretty unexpected!

 

Bye for now and thanks for reading. Next time I really will be back with some bits and bobs from behind the scenes at Frightfest. Probably.

-MJ

 

BLOG: YTC_EpisodeXXIX: Blog Vs Blog!

Episode XXIX: Blog Vs Blog!

Our once proud Hollyweird woke up one morning to find it had become a giant insect. An insect of two halves, with a blog under one name and a podcast under another. With too many figurative legs in two (sic) many pies, Hollyweird rallies it’s brain cells and decides to become one with it’s other half.

In a flash the estranged halves amalgamate. A new force emerges to once more to bring balance to the force. Well, um, the blog at any rate.

FINAL.2.2
NEW Hollyweird blog photoWelcome to this inaugural episode of the You Total Cult blog. This blog is very much a continuation of its former state as Hollyweird. I will still be writing my thoughts on the more unusual cinema offerings in the same way, which is either a blessing or a curse depending on whether you enjoy this blog for fun or out of loyalty!

The name change of this blog from Hollyweird to You Total Cult is purely to allow it to be keyed into my other work, both as a Podcast co-host and as a Twit-terer.

You Total Cult_new photo FINAL black white

(Shameless plug: You Total Cult Podcast is available on iTunes and also directly from http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/ . Our Twitter address is @You_Total_Cult. The co-host of the You-Total Cult Podcast, Craig Lakin Ennis also has his own blog of recently viewed films at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/scragg/ )

R.I.P. Hollyweird, we hardly knew ye. But what the heck, it’s all the same really. In fact, I’m even going to keep the numbering system in place without re-setting it. That’s what happens when you grow up rereading 1960’s American Superhero comics- a longing for continuation rather than constant reboots.

So this may well be the first You Total Cult blog, but it is also Episode 29. Given then that this is a tale of two blogs, it seems only fitting to pick apart a film with a perfectly suited title to opposing forces- Japan’s 2000 release, Versus!

 

versus-poster_350
Versus, as the title may imply, is a film of conflict. Not the sort of internal conflict via a deep character study but more the straightforward conflict of a Martial Artist-Samurai-Mass-Murdering- Convict fighting a bunch of Gangster-Zombie-Demons in a forest.

2r7afqtThe Martial Artist-Samurai-Mass-Murdering-Convict, known only as ‘Prisoner KSC2-303’, has been broken out of secure transit by a small crew of Yakuza hoodlums. Also along for the ride is a kidnapped girl, known only as ‘The Girl’. Prisoner KSC2-303 is not sure why he has been rescued or why The Girl is there, so being a Martial Artist-Samurai-Mass-Murdering-Convict, he decided he’s had enough of the Yakuza. He grabs The Girl and they high tail it through a forest.

This is no ordinary forest, though. The forest itself is a Portal To hell where dark energy is leaking through. As it turns out, the secretive boss of the gangsters, known as ‘The Man’, is actually a reincarnated force to be reckoned with. The Man, Prisoner KSC2-303 and all the other players in this tale have fought previously on this very ground 500 years ago.

This dark power means that no-one can die in the forest, instead they just come back as zombies. Unfortunately for the oblivious gangsters, this is where they have been hiding dead bodies for many years. Consequently there is a lot of Undead-cannon fodder around as all the forces come into conflict once again.

 

Ketamin's bad for raves, fool
Ketamin’s bad for raves, fool

 

Although this ‘dark power’ from the Portal To Hell is never quantified, it’s enough of a reason to fight as any. Each cast member essentially goes at it for the entire run time of the film based on this premise. Versus showcases a prisoner against gangsters, gangsters against zombies, self-serving gangsters against loyal gangsters, a good spirit against a bad spirit and pretty much every variant in-between.

In fact there are also two more characters who slowly become introduced over the film. These are both detectives chasing the escaped Prisoner KSC2-303, but one happens to be serial-killer and the other a braggart. Invariably both of these detectives become involved in the numerous fight scenes, too. Evidently sometimes Zombies, Yakuza, Samurai, Convicts are not enough for a non-stop action film, You also need murderous Policemen.

Cop Killa!
Cop Killa!

In fact, all-in-all, it is safe to say that Versus has a perfect title. It can be fairly accurately described as 119 minutes of ever changing action set pieces, with the occasional calm moment thrown into the midst of the combat.

Versus plays as a film whereby the film makers took everything they loved and threw it all into a DIY picture. When I first saw the film in 2000 this made the film a refreshing blast of disposable action. It led to me forcing it onto friends for evenings in with beer and snacks more times than I can shake a pointed stick at a zombie’s brain.

Yet a decade or so after this gluttony of Versus, the film now sadly feels dated and duller than I first thought. How can a non-stop, Zombie-Kung-Fu-Gunplay film feel dull I hear someone at the back cry? Well, partly because it is just too much genre-love thrown in together with no weight behind it.

 

The Eyes have it
The Eyes have it

From a visceral perspective, Versus is too rammed up with characters and fight scenes for its own good. Films such as The Raid prove that an action film can be virtually non-stop and still be highly watchable, even though it is rare. One thing that The Raid possibly had in its favour was an incredibly clear, simple genre. It is a Martial Arts film. So if a viewer likes the hard hitting, impact-style of Martial Arts movie then they will likely enjoy The Raid. Regrettably though Versus as though is a case of ‘jack of all genres, master of none’.

There is some swordplay, some gun play, some zombies and a fair amount of cameras spinning around many of hand-to-hand combat scenes. Yet none of these elements are played for their individual worth. Instead they are constantly jumbled together.

Prisoner KSC2-303 has the typical ‘Warrior Progression’ as his skills improve from Boxer- Gun Smith- Swordsman throughout the film, this progressive drama of him becoming prepared for his ultimate fight with The Man. But this ‘skill progression’ is totally undercut by all of the other characters action scenes. Any pace of following Prisoner KSC2-303 as his skills become more impressive is interrupted so often by the gangsters’ fights, or the detectives’ fights or The Man’s fights that the film as a whole suffers from a muddled flow. Unfortunately this result in all of the films action scenes as a whole feeling jarringly repetitive rather than smoothly flowing.

Never bring a knife to a gunfight. Unless it's a Katana.
Never bring a knife to a gunfight. Unless it’s a Katana.

(Besides all of which, Versus is certainly not aided by a hideously-dated Techno soundtrack)

 

However, before this blog reads as too much of a list of Versus’ shortcomings, there is a fantastic aspect to the movie. The most curious thing about re-watching Versus is that its unclear plotting is also perhaps its saving grace. Surprisingly, Versus’ muddled story and vague characterizations means that by the end of the movie it is entirely possible that the audience have been following the villain of the piece all along!

 

"Say What?!?!"
“Say What?!?!”

During the final battle between Prisoner KSC2-303 and The Man, both men fight to the death via an epic, Supernatural/Gun-addled Swordfight. The Girl and Prisoner KSC2-303 come out victorious and they ride off into the horizon together for anew life… At least until a title card informs the viewer is it is now 99 years later.

A generic dystopian image
A generic dystopian image

The world has now become a charred, barren dystopian place. A mysterious figure carrying a sword cautiously walks into an abandoned building. Before him lay a gang of Cyberpunk-Zombies in wait… the very same, resurrected gangsters from the Forest! Leading them is Prisoner KSC2-303 who now holds The Girl as a captive. He explains in a monotonous tone that there is nothing left to destroy on Earth. He is bored as there is nothing left to ruin. As the man advances we see him to be… The Man!

The Girl then cries something that is perhaps the key to this entire sequence. She shouts to The Man that “I was wrong! I should have joined you all along!” The Man and he Prisoner launch into a fight as the film ends with their seemingly eternal conflict.

The line “I was wrong! I should have joined you all along!” possibly puts all of Versus’ events into a different spin. Upon a first viewing in 2000, I assumed this to mean that the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ characters swop roles every re-incarnation. Thus The Girl is saying on this occasion she chose the wrong one of the two men to support.

However on this latest viewing it occurred to me that maybe The Man was always the hero and Prisoner KSC2-303 was always the villain.

idea-lightbulb

Going back over the earlier moments from the entire film, The Man never truly does anything ‘evil’. He only kills the Gangsters, all of which he knows will either return as zombies or be reincarnated. The one person he turns into a Demon was a Yakuza boss who had tried to kill The Man first. In fact the nastiest thing he does is lie to The Girl about intending to sacrifice her when he really wants Prisoner KSC2-303.

Meanwhile Prisoner KSC2-303 is presented throughout the movie as much more of a bad man. His very first appearance flashes his motto up onto the screen- ‘Some people deserve to die’. After that he knocks out The Girl quite a few times, eviscerates anyone he comes into contact with, cuts off a Policeman’s Hand and successfully challenges one of the gangsters to a fist fight- who Prisoner KSC2-303 then immediately pulls a gun on.

versus111
You mean this dude may be the hero???

 

What is interesting is that for both The Man and The Prisoner, their actions can be seen as either good or bad. The Man is either playing games with everyone else in The Forest whilst believing everyone is too beneath him to worry about. Or it is equally possible that The Man is actually trying to avoid hurting anyone directly. He could just want to ‘go to the other side’ via sacrificing a murderous sociopath and without upsetting anyone else.

Similarly Prisoner KSC2-303 can either be a slightly bad boy struggling to do the right thing , or else he’s out to do whatever wants so long as it gives him an excuse to kill- and along the way he gains enough power to become deadly on a global scale.

It is actually surprisingly tough to know which way around Versus is. Maybe the typical good guy is the hero, or maybe he is the bad guy. Or maybe The Girl’s piece of dialogue about picking the wrong side does not mean anything significant. After all, Versus is a very loosely constructed film with barely any explained story in place that has been translated into English.

0

Whatever the true intention though, there is no denying that this possibility of Prisoner KSC2-303 being the evil all along makes Versus is a much more intriguing watch from the start.

Whilst Protagonist= Evil plot twist takes place in Thrillers such as The Usual Suspects or No Way Out, it is not one known to myself to occur in Martial Arts\ Action Films very often (Sonny Chiba’s Street Fighter series is a notable exception).

This may be because with thrillers, audiences are invited to go on twisting turns and enjoy the elegance of deception within dubious moral comfort zones. In action films though it seems clearer to simply want a good guy to hurt bad guys. Any reversal of that principal runs the risk of seeming sadistic.

Whatever the intent of the film makers and wherever the truth lies about who the hero of Versus I supposed to be, it is encouraging to be able to still find something new and exciting in a film that seemed less fun than in the past. It just shows that we can all take something new from the old- even if it is just a new blog title for an old blog.

Next time on the You Total Cult Blog I will be recapping Frightfest 2013 for y’all. Unless I get fired. You never know.

Thanks for reading,

MJ