Sunday, January 31, 2016

V/H/S Viral "Discardings"

Basically, some images from the movie I didn't include in the review, but I liked them just the same. So I will dump them here. God, the women cast in this movie. My, I was quite smitten at times.















I guess some might deem some of these important enough to include on the write-up, but I think it is cool to cull images from a film that left an impression with me and give them their own place outside the written word. No harm, no foul.

V/H/S: Viral





While a viral virus outbreak seems to be spreading across the internet superhighway, as the film follows a teenage young man biking through a city searching for his love who seems to have been kidnapped in an ice cream van (that has seen better days), we are privy to a series of recorded episodes where characters face incredible, supernatural events.

Dante the Great


The first tale doesn’t follow the found footage format religiously as the fourth wall of the popular subgenre is broken as pieces of it are shot by a “cinematic camera”. It involves a trailer park magician-wannabe named Dante (Justin Welborn) who finds a demonic black cape (supposedly discarded by a frightened Houdini!) and exploits what it can do for great success. He records his cape’s magic tricks and what the cape allows him to do with his hands and mind when wearing it. 

However, the cape is a carnivore (I can’t make this stuff up!) and demands human nourishment (!) in order for Dante to be given access to perform with its magic. So a number of magician assistants wind up missing, and Dante records (why?) the process of the cape’s feeding from them! In found footage, the obviousness of recording events which defy common sense, reeking of implausibility, finds its way into another example of the genre. You just kind of have to accept that what we mostly *wouldn’t* record will be in order for us to experience what the characters do. This tale is a special effects showcase where the cape does some amazing things.

 Arial stunt work (climbing walls, the cape teleporting a person from one place to another and a rabbit from one place to another), bodies of a police task force suffering crushed bones without actually being touched by Dante, a rabbit being split open by Dante with him just moving hands right above it, the cape “eating” victims, and Dante performing fireball maneuvers that develop and fly from just his hands and mind making them appear; the tale has plenty of effects work to dazzle. The stunning red head, Emmy Argo, is the assistant who might just get the upper hand on Dante due to how much he likes her. Her boyfriend’s fate is particularly ghoulish. Irony of the cape’s feeding habits doesn’t stop at just Dante’s victims…he had better watch out as well!
Parallel Monsters


The second tale deals with parallel alternate universes *meeting* as two scientist Alfonsos (Gustavo Salmerón) discover each other after building successful dimensional machines in their basements. Exhilarated by their mutual encounter, the two Alfonsos decide to cross over into each other’s worlds for a fifteen minute visit. One of the Alfonsos realizes that the alternate universe he crossed over into isn’t necessarily to his liking…it seems the people in this universe are a bit biologically different (that is an understatement!). The horrifying addition to this is the alternate Alfonso has a particularly unique penile difference from his counterpart which might have bit of an overbite! Alfonso’s alternate wife, Marta (Marian Álvarez), might just also have a biological, anatomical overbite all her own! Just its premise is creepy and unsettling enough to leave quite a Cronenbergian impression hard to forget (even if you *want* to unsee it!). The creation of the basement teleport machines certainly cause more harm than good to their creators!

Bonestorm



The third tale features skateboarders traveling to Tijuana for the ultimate experience, but the perfect location to vert presents more than they bargained for: true Mexican occultists in Day of the Dead skull makeup and attire arrive to attack them! An arm pulled from one of the boarders causes blood to leak on this chalk symbol which seems to awaken something evil. Eventually the occultists who die at the hands of the boarders awaken as ghouls! Even a monster seems to emerge thanks to the black magic that responds to the blood of the boarders! Mostly seen through the cameras hooked onto the helmets, with one boarder shooting from a hand-held, this features gruesome violence from skateboards, animal bones, and even a sword! The most virtuoso and exciting use of the POV approach of found footage. The stoner characters aren’t exactly ingratiating, but they sure defend themselves well (well, two of them do!).

Other found footage additions include a woman whose nude recording was posted on a website getting revenge on the blogger in a taxi and a Spanish harlem gangster soiree erupting into chaos when the lead hood gets enraged by the fork-stabbing of his pet dog! The wraparound story isn’t anything to write home about. It has a young man chasing after a van (a van dragging a biker across a paved road is nuts!), eventually finding it with no one inside, perhaps left with a decision to make which could affect the entire city, maybe even the world!

Emilia Zoryan, "Iris" in Vicious Circles


I think the wraparound and the tales involved are just not cohesive even though those who made this 2014 V/H/S installment give it their best shot. They try, so help them, but the glue doesn't stick. Emilia Zoryan (in the wraparound Patrick Lawrie is pursuing) is beautiful, particularly when the sun hits her face just right. Her being easy on the eyes helps when in Lawrie's grandma's home, but absent her, "Vicious Circles" is much ado about nothing except a street pursuit. Even the viral outbreak (virtually) doesn't get enough elaboration to make the impact it so desires.

The visit inside the taxi cab is included as a kind of aside as is the Spanish hood party, both of which do little to increase the quality of the whole. The girl gradually stripping in the taxi cab is hot, but it turns ugly for the blogger with the camera quickly, defusing the seductive quality that was on screen.

A monster belly eating a head, a penis monster, skeletal menaces right out of a Tombs of the Blind Dead film, skateboard wheels and the skateboards themselves serve as effective weapons, a bone stabbed into a throat, cameras in the POV turning circles due to those behind them suffering punishment, and a magician's cape eating folks when its host isn't using its power to break arms and legs all are certain to provide some with enjoyment, so I can't totally dismiss this. I think it is clear that the franchise is nearing its end. None of the three have been earth-shattering but the found footage genre got a boost from their horror fan interest.




"Vicious Circles" : *½ 
"Dante the Great": **
"Parallel Monsters": **
"Bonestorm": **½ 
The tax cab installment: *½
The Spanish harlem installment: *½

** / *****


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Vampyros lesbos: Closing Write-up



I think Vampyros lesbos is Franco at the peak of his powers. He really has a command of his craft here.





“I lost myself completely in her. She was me, and I was her.”

Dr. Seward runs a nearby sanitarium (he’s played by Dennis Price), and he has a special patient who perhaps would be considered the Renfield of the film, Agra (Heidrun Kussin). Agra refers to the Countess as the “Queen of the Night” (I love that!). The Countess has left a residue of her control over Agra. Agra experiences what the Countess does. Feels what the Countess feels.
I kind of look at the Westinghouse character as a combination of Harker and Mina. Westinghouse went to see the Countess on business, and her fate is perhaps sealed when she, prior to the visit, had dreamed about her before their first meeting. The stage performance is when Westinghouse is spellbound by the Countess. This event spawned the dreams. The meeting set-up, and the actual face-to-face contact. She is the conquest pursued and eventually taken. A really wonderfully off-the-wall and unexpected scene comes when Westinghouse sees the Countess lying (it appears to be) dead, seemingly, in a pool, naked with just her iconic red shawl, her eyes staring out into the sky, body motionless. It has this impact because it is only about 30 minutes into the film. It leaves you wondering what it means and where the film is headed.





I think casting for the lead vampire can be a crucial step in how successful a movie about a member of the “great undead” is. I truly believe Franco knew what he had with the enigmatic, alluring Soledad Miranda, and his camera makes the most of her particular casting. Look at his camera set ups for her and shot selections/compositions. She is more than some character in the movie: she is the dark heart of the movie. I love this monologue she has about how Dracula came into her life. How he killed a soldier raping her centuries before. His taking her blood, addicted to her body, and eventually bringing her into the vampire fold. Morpho (José Martínez Blanco) is her henchman, accomplice, and family. He’s part of her “inner circle” even though she admittedly hates men. The rape may have something to do with that. Dracula feeding from her after rescuing her might have had a hand in such hatred. Whatever the case, Murpho is an ear, a dedicated loyalist of hers, and he’s always just in the area. He’s an enigma, too. Few words, if any, leave his lips; Morpho has this serious tone about him, a very intimidating look, and quite a brooding presence.





“You are one of us now. The Queen of the Night will bear you up on her black wings.”

There is the mild lesbian encounter where Westinghouse answers the drawing call of her Queen. This whole experience is not remembered by Linda, while the Countess places her under a vampiric spell. When Omar, Linda’s lover, is becoming a feed-victim, she will need help from Seward (who has become an expert in ‘occultism’) in order to halt the lure of the bite. Intriguingly, the method described by Seward to kill the vampire is “trauma to the brain”, not the typical stake to the heart (again, a differing method Franco has updated from the roots of the Dracula legend).
Agra is an amusing character to me. You see in other Renfield incarnations, this lunacy and deprivation of blood promised him. In Franco’s film, Agra is devoid of a satisfaction of lust. One scene shows her totally in this orgiastic euphoria that has her writhing on the floor of a room at Seward’s sanitarium. It seems the Countess visits her from time to time, a type of spiritual possession that leaves Agra devoted sexually to her master. Seward is powerless to stop the Countess. The Countess wants to meet her adversary, and Agra is like a buffer between them. Lust as an albatross and sexual delight as a weapon: quite a unique means for the vampire to torture the human possession.







Also, Franco takes the Seward character and turns him inside out as well. As he reads up on vampires, he becomes completely involved in gaining access to the dark world of the Countess’ empire. To be given access to the supernatural and be a member of the undead becomes Seward’s goal…too bad the Countess hates men. Their official meeting ends rather abruptly as Seward attempts to go all Catholic and call upon God (a little too late for calling on the Lord considering just moments ago you wanted to go bad and never come back…), with Morpho putting an end to that right quick-like.




“I’ve come to say goodbye. I have to leave you forever.”

With Seward out of the way, Agra has no rehabilitative support, and the Countess needs to rid herself of “excess baggage”. With Linda almost secured to her, the Countess doesn’t need Agra summoning for her and still around to be all in synchronicity…in other words, the link needs to be severed. There is a clever trick where Franco has the Countess appear to Agra, with Agra reaching out to touch the master who has been seemingly so far away. But the Countess doesn’t stay around very long, just saying goodbye. Agra is denied her master.



“My hate and love for you are infinite.”
“She felt happiness in my arms through my torture.”

Memmet returned a little later to snag Westinghouse and hole her away to torture her into becoming his love bunny. She’s tied up and he salivates homicidally about what he plans to do to her, and how she’ll respond in adoration to him! Weird for the sake of weird, the scene does tie into the film. Agra was Memmet’s wife (!), and he will take his pound of flesh. Or so he thinks. Linda wisely carries on with him until he frees her through some manipulative goading. This hacksaw that Memmet parades around, and the female body of a previous victim stored away as a torture trophy just add to the absurdity of the whole scene. With the saw in her possession, Memmet is toast.




“Only through your blood will my strength return.” – Countess
“No, I don’t want to belong to you.” – Linda 

There is a kind of betrayal at the end of the film. The Countess has put a lot of stock in Linda being a member of her intimate entourage (a trio, instead of just her and Morpho). Linda isn’t so keen to be a vampire, and the master and potential bride meet one last time. Linda has a decision to make…join the Countess or defy her. Linda decides on the latter. A sharp metal spike (very small) hidden in her pocket, Linda takes advantage of a weak Countess who needs to drink or die. Linda actually bites (!) her, drawing what little blood is left before ramming that spike right into her eye. Morpho suicides once that happens by using the spike that killed his boss to jam it into his own chest. Linda rejoins her man and current psychiatrist (Paul Muller; the Franco stock company in full force) at the end, putting this whole ordeal behind her. The scorpion had been used by Franco as a symbolic example of what the Countess is: a danger with a sting. Once the scorpion (in a pool, starting to die) keels over, soon the Countess follows suit. 









The film is known for Soledad’s unique stage performances. She has the aforementioned human mannequin on stage to perform off of. Undressing herself in the second stage act, and dressing the mannequin, Soledad is scantily clad and in total control. It is very similar to her work opposite the Westinghouse character. Westinghouse (Agra, perhaps even more) is in many ways like the mannequin…seemingly a playtoy for the vampire to do whatever she wanted. Where it differs is that the Countess gave over a love for Linda that cost her dearly at the end. The Countess admits that Linda was different that other past victims. In allowing love to creep in, the Countess’ countenance fell and her power depleted to nothing. The bride-to-be feeding from the master has quite a distinct irony to it.

****/*****

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