Posts Tagged ‘war

01
Oct
14

Ravenous (1999)

ravenous

a Rebecca Keel review

I had the pleasure of seeing ‘Ravenous’ for the first time recently.  This 1999 slow-burn horror film starring Guy Pearce,  Robert Carlyle,  and David Arquette surprised me in a lot of ways.  I didn’t know much about the film when I sat down to watch it;  I’d seen it recommended here and there on the Internet,  and I had a vague idea that it was about cannibalism,  but beyond that,  the whole thing was an impressive surprise.  The general consensus seems to be that it’s never gotten the attention it deserves,  and while I definitely agree with that,  it seems like its own quirkiness has been instrumental in keeping it a well-kept secret from the mainstream horror scene.

Cinematically,  ‘Ravenous’ represents the collision of several elements which don’t typically walk around holding hands.  Its pacing,  character development style,  and quite a lot of its cinematographic choices feel more like a classic Western than a modern horror film,  and apparently I was far from the first to make this connection (Jacob Knight over at nerdbastards.com highlights the role of elements from the Western genre as being fundamental to the film:  http://nerdbastards.com/2014/06/03/retro-review-ravenous-is-an-even-better-western-than-it-is-a-horror-film/ ).  It’s also filmed in a retrospective style that often makes it easy to forget that it came out the same year as ‘The Matrix’.  This combination of Western genre film construction and old-fashioned filming style successfully tricked my brain into repeatedly thinking I was watching a film much older than this one actually is.  Meanwhile,  the gore and makeup effects have an offhand realism that reminds me of sweeping,  dramatic war films. The kind of horror story it presents is in tune with the film’s style:  it’s constructed with fairly limited plot twists and instead of relying on cheap startle techniques,  it tells a thoughtful tale which stayed with me long after I watched it,  enticing my mind to play with the sharp edges of its implications.

ravenous1

The film’s setting was quite unusual as well.  The Mexican-American War,  which went down during the mid-1800s before the outbreak of the American Civil War,  is far from a typical time period setting for any genre of film,  and it seems even more bizarre as the backdrop for a horror flick.  Yet the film’s writer,  Ted Griffin,  and its director,  Antonia Bird,  made good use of the features of the setting to generate genuine feelings of isolation and desperation which sometimes feel forced in horror films set in the Information Age.  Utilizing Native American culture and legends gave the story an air of authenticity that was hard to dispel and made for convincing storytelling of a caliber I typically only associate with a few horror novelists (such as Dan Simmons,  whose historical-fiction horror is some of the best in the field).

Yet it’s easy to see how fans of mainstream horror could lose interest in an artistic film like ‘Ravenous’.  The film’s  score is at times grating,  though the effect seems intentional and helps drive home the events playing out on-screen,  while at other times idyllic background music which seems like it would be more at home in ‘Little House on the Prairie’ has a jarring effect when taken alongside the foreshadowed events and the horrors that have already taken place.  Such decisions can alienate viewers who prefer and expect a more conventional film score,  though this technique is increasing in popularity (or at least acceptance) among mainstream viewers.  The pacing of the plot’s revelations requires patience fans of films like ‘Saw’ and ‘The Grudge’ aren’t always willing to grant a film,  and the lack of monster makeup might make it hard for some to swallow a film that is,  frankly,  set up to be a type monster movie.  But for fans of old-fashioned horror,  ‘Ravenous’ has a lot to offer.  Many elements of the film would feel at home in a story by Lovecraft,  Matheson,  or Poe.  And the film’s unabashed frankness and realism in the face of the supernatural leaves me hovering in that delicate space between belief and disbelief which is the hardest form of terror to shake off.

15
May
14

Godzilla (1954) My Favorite Monster

Gojira_1954_Japanese_poster

a Primal Root written review

His career spans sixty years. His exploits are legendary. The casualties? Countless. The property damage? Immeasurable. The beast’s name? Of course, we’re talking Godzilla (or, Gojira, as many folks are always at the jump to correct me because otherwise they would have no idea who I’m talking about) the radioactive, prehistoric, fire breathing titan who, on one hand, is a deeply horrifying monstrosity intent on wreaking as much havoc as possible, and on another, might be regarded as a complete innocent and product of our own insidious nuclear testing. No matter hoe you slice it, we brought this gigantic, people broiling, city crushing mother fucker down on us through our own technological advancements in ways to kill one another.  A good message to take home, you fuck with nature and nature will gladly fuck you right back in the brown eye with a Godzilla sized strap that breaths fiery death from it’s scaly plastic dick hole.

Sure, over the years Godzilla eventually became a hero of sorts, coming to the aid of our planet earth and all it’s inhabitants when bigger, badder monsters showed up on the scene the dominate. He fought such intimidating foes as Megalon, Destroyah, Mechagodzilla, Hedorah, King Ghidorah, and countless others head on, without fear, without hesitation. Surely, in Godzilla’s later career, we would have been totally fucked without his help and support.  But in the beginning, Godzilla was the ultimate in radioactive monster terror. Especially when it comes to the 1954 original Toho production.

Out at sea, military vessels and fishing boats are vanishing, being burned to embers by what seem to be blinding white flashes of heat emanating from the ocean itself. The mystery grows as soon, terror strikes the rocky beach shores, demolishing houses and crushing people into meat patties during a violent storm in the middle of the night. The reports come in and survivors testify to seeing some enormous, living, terrifying creature stepping on their humble abodes and their families within. The government is at a loss as the casualties in and around Tokyo begin to pil up, but soon, during a daylight attack, the people of Tokyo come face to face with what’s been causing this devastation. a 164 foot tall, fire breathing lizard spoken of in legend as…GODZILLA (or Gojira, right, right)!

godzilla1954c

Thanks to mankind’s penchant for testing their nukes in the Pacific Ocean, this radioactive shit-kicking reptile from the Jurassic Period is back on the scene and looking to reestablish itself as master of all he tramples under foot and roasts to an ember. It doesn’t take long before this guy rises from the depths of the ocean and reduces Tokyo to a pile of smoking rubble during a terrifying, grueling, none stop violent attack on Tokyo where men, women and children flee for their lives, many to no avail, as Godzilla stomps his way through every damn thing that stands in his way.  Sure, this stuff has been parodied to Hell and been used for laughs over the last fifty years, but watching it now, and keeping in mind the recent history in Japan, more specifically Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the detonation of15-megaton American H-Bomb on Bikini Atoll…which irradiated 7,000 square miles of ocean, what Godzilla represents, and the scars Japan was still coming to terms with at the time, these scenes of mass death and destruction are no laughing matter.  In one harrowing moment we see a mother comforting her young daughter as the city burns and collapses around them, no help on the way and no escape. She tells her daughter that they will be with Father soon and that everything is okay. Gang, this is some dark shit and far cry from those days in the seventies when Godzilla was teaming up with dip-shits like Jet Jaguar or playing basketball against Charles Barkley to sell Nikes. This is the real deal. The foundation that would establish one of the most iconic monsters we will ever have. Godzilla. Or Gojira , if you want to get all anal about it.

The original 1954 film still stands as a titan of horror filmmaking. Filmmaker Ishiro Honda manages to harness the horror and tragedy of  Japan’s recent past and uses that as the very root of his creation.  Bringing to life a deeply meaningful and fantastic story that brought those harsh memories it’s audience recently captured to the surface.  Godzilla serves as a warning in the atomic age, that mankind has open a Pandora’s Box of horror with such technology. One that, as the film suggests through the character of Serizawa, can only be closed by individual choice and sacrifice.  Serizawa has created a new weapon of mass death and destruction he has named The Oxygen-Destroyer, a weapon more deadly than the H-Bomb, a weapon sure to have world governments drooling over and eventually becoming the love-baby in a new arms race. At film’s end, he chooses right over wrong, Godzilla is stopped,  and a new age of atomic war is averted by Serizawa’s heroic final actions.

sacrifice

But we are warned at film’s end, that not all of humanity is as brave and noble as Serizawa and as long as nuclear testing persist, Dr. Yamane warns us, other monsters could rise to threaten civilization. Godzilla ponders some pretty big philosophical questions as Godzilla lays waste to Tokyo and burns images of the scorched, dying city and it’s populace into our mind. This is what man’s inhumanity towards man looks like. Giving these images the fantastical backdrop of a giant monster lizard only provides a modicum of escape. Because behind this horrific monster a more devastating and shameful reality is revealed.  Godzilla is a film of fire, suffering and death, and remains a remarkable and harrowing viewing experience.

I give Godzilla aka: Gojira (1954) Five out of Five Dumpster Nuggets. This film is a masterpiece.

 

Stay Trashy!

-Root

04
Feb
12

Hobo with a Shotgun: Make Your Own Change

a Primal Root review

 

I found out moments before I watched this film that it originated as a grand prize winner in a mock trailer contest as part of a publicity stunt for the Tarantino/Rodriguez helmed double feature “Grindhouse”. What was the prize? The folks who made the trailer  got to turn that trailer into a feature length film. Now, let me tell you, the feature length version of  “Hobo With a Shotgun” isn’t going to appeal to the wide breadth of film goers out there. Hell, I have close friends who love Trash Cinema who thought this flick sucked sweaty goat balls. I, for one, thought it was one of the craziest, blow it out a shotgun, fuck it message films I’ve seen in a long, long, time.

“Hobo with a Shotgun” tells the story of an earnest, older transient Hobo (played with gravity by the ever awesome and always game Rutger Hauer) who goes from town to town looking for a break and a means to begin living his humble dream of making a decent living as a landscaper. But, as we all know, in the real world this can be tougher than it seems. Especially when you’ve been reduced to sleeping on sidewalks,  trying to come up with clever card board signs asking for donations and having the chew broken glass for the folks who film shit like “Bum Fights” for a measly couple of bucks. When you are that far down, it’s near impossible to get back up without some kind of helping hand.

If only he had written something witty and clever as opposed to honest...

Sadly, our Hobo has managed to ride the rails into Dartmouth Nova Scotia which looks to be the ninth circle of Hell as it is ruled under the blood thirsty fist of a tiny, greasy, sociopath by the name of Drake  (Brian Downey) and his two equally psychotic, well groomed sons Slick (Gregory Smith) and Ivan (Nick Bateman). This Father and Son triple threat of bloodthirsty scumbaggery have turn this city into a gut crunching, head obliterating, meaty chunk strewn wasteland where no one bats an eye if someone has their skull crushed between two bumper cars or a school bus full of children gets burned alive…as long as it’s not them. In this reality, whoever visits the most brutal death to the citizenry and generates the most fear is king. This is hardly the town to look for a decent person with a dream to find that helping hand.

Our Hobo befriends Abby, the hooker with a heart of gold (played by the talented and gorgeous Molly Dunsworth) who shows him warmth and kindness and becomes a bit of a daughter to our hero. But once Hobo witnesses atrocity upon atrocity and is brutalized himself, he trades in his landscaping dreams for a loaded shotgun and decides to level the playing field as only a vigilante with nothing left to lose can do.  As the bodies of murderous, drug dealing, rapists cock suckers rise Drake and his sons are left with no choice but to retaliate as a full fledged war is declared between the haves and the have nots…and no one is spared.

To be honest, it took me about ten minutes to really warm up to “Hobo with a Shotgun”. It;s early sequences felt like some kind of second rate Troma flick…but as the violent set pieces of the opening came to a close and the film began to focus more on the story of Rutger’s Hobo and his rise to become a homeless moral avenger, it rose way above the the trappings of your typical no-buget grue fest.  This flick has a surprising amount of heart, stays true to it’s characters, and delivers on all fronts.

Hobo with a Shotgun is an interesting animal. On one hand the filmmakers seem to be inviting you to laugh at the brutal carnage going on throughout the film. When a character has his head ripped off and a scantly clad woman writhes in the geyser of fresh blood spraying forth from a gaping hole where the victim’s head should be you can’t help but laugh at how ludicrous it all is. But several scenes later, a character we’ve grown to know and care about is suddenly in mortal danger of being killed off and we suddenly can’t bring ourselves to laugh…we realize this is a world without ruled. A place where the filmmakers are willing to do anything and kill off anyone at any moment. In Hobo with a Shotgun, the typical cinematic tropes need not apply.  Just like the world we live in, it’s so easy to laugh at a crazy headline or crack a joke regarding someone’s misfortune, but when it suddenly that same fate shines on us or someone we love, it ceases to amuse.

And in this I feel Hobo with a Shotgun finds it’s message. It’s not just a film that focuses on the violence, and there are copious amounts of  it to be sure, but it also manages to drive home the idea of desensitization, apathy, detachment and how detrimental it is to us as a society.  For us to stand by as other well meaning and good people are crushed under the heal of our oppressors, being too afraid to stand up for fear of the same harm being inflicted upon us,  doesn’t that mean evil has already won out?

One of “Hobo with a Shotgun” ‘s strongest scenes comes when Hobo enters the maternity ward of a hospital and there before him, separated by a pane of glass, are a dozen new born babies. fresh from Momma’s loins. These little souls are pure, innocent and precious.  But for how long? And aged, craggy faced and beaten down man with nothing but the close on his back and a blazing hot, fully loaded shotgun looks in upon them and their advocate, as the spokesperson for their future. You were born into and are inheriting this world of pain and suffering.  This one Hobo finally hit rock bottom, grew tired of seeing his world repeatedly;y raped and violated around him and chose to stand up. Come life or death, this man chose to make that stand to change things.  What kind of world will these babies grow up in?  That’s entirely up to us.

Hobo with a Shotgun, it’s one very bloody,extremely brutal film. One which takes no prisoners, makes no apologies and leaves you feeling like you just took a trip through some kind of cinematic Hell on earth. A weird alternate movie universe tucked somewhere in the scummy, unwashed regions of Trash Cinema that stinks of canned tamales and makes your fingers stick together.   Hobo with a Shotgun sure as shit isn’t for everyone, but for those of us in it’s sights, Hobo with a Shotgun is a blast you won’t soon forget.

And, though I think they’re fucking awesome, I have no idea what The Plague is all about. But I do want their arcade game…

Stay Trashy!

-Root




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