Blast Vegas (2013)

Destuction: Las Vegas is not as cool a name

Destuction: Las Vegas is not as cool a name

This film tells you pretty early on that it’s not going to be quite as po-faced and serious as many SyFy Channel original films. Frankie Muniz and Barry Bostwick, two stars of TV sitcoms, are main cast members, it’s got a silly title, and there are couple of cameos right at the beginning which are a real treat for fans of this sort of cinema.

Joe Dante and John Landis, who between them have directed classics like “The Howling”, “An American Werewolf in London”, “Gremlins”, “The Blues Brothers”, “Matinee” and “National Lampoon’s Animal House”, are billed as Salesman No.1 and No.2 in this movie, and exist to give us a flavour of the magical sword that is this film’s catalyst. After trying to steal it and getting killed, the film proper can start…if you’re wondering why a priceless Egyptian artefact would get transported to Las Vegas in a normal postal van, then brother do I have some plot holes for you later in this movie.

The important thing when dealing with your cannon fodder is to be simple when you’re sketching them in. So, our two main groups are a fraternity – two scumbags, a decent-ish guy and Frankie Muniz, the bookish guy who’s only there because his grandfather founded the fraternity – and a group of party girls down for spring break (with a similar breakdown of personalities, only for Muniz insert Maggie Castle, best known for “Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil”). They meet up and pair off remarkably quickly, as if the film is saying “come on, you guys! You know how this goes!”

The sword from before has made its way to its final location, the lobby of a casino. Now, I’m no antiques expert, so I’ll ask you, dear reader. If you were displaying a priceless Egyptian artefact in your casino, would you:
1. Put armed guards nearby, put it inside a locked glass case, make sure there was a ton of security measures
Or
2. Leave it sort-of attached to a statue, with one bored-looking, easily distracted guard and no other security whatsoever?

Thankfully, this place picks 2, so the frat guys can steal the sword, take it outside and ram it into the ground, activating the ancient curse, which is mainly snakes, sand, and snakes made out of sand. Frankie and Maggie, along with the rest of the boys and girls, Barry Bostwick as a truly dreadful lounge singer and a large group of people they just pick up along the way, team up to try and stop the curse, getting separated and killed along the way.

8714923-2-150007

Maggie has a rather odd journey. Getting separated from the rest of them near the beginning of the all-out assault on Vegas, she is able to call and tell them she’s in a certain casino, so the rest of them try and make their way to her. She then goes off for an adventure of her own, making her way to the motorway overlooking the city, meeting a poor-quality Elvis impersonator and fighting off a CGI tiger, before going back to the casino and getting trapped under some rubble just before the cavalry arrives. It feels like they were ten minutes short and decided to just insert some stuff with a line to justify its presence, because it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever – first and foremost, she must have walked for miles, in a sandstorm, and done it in a very short amount of time. Anyway.

Thankfully, with Maggie and Frankie being geology / ancient legend experts, they’re able to identify the things they need to stop the curse, and the rest of the film is them zipping to and fro to pick up the pieces. All their hangers-on meet a rather hilarious end too, as they ignore good advice, try and get out of a side door and are immediately killed. Karma is virtually instant in this film – be horrible, and chances are by the end of the scene you’ll be dead.

I think SyFy Channel should keep employing these people to make more movies. This was fun, had lots of nice little touches to let you know the people making it gave a damn, and even the digressions clearly added to pad the runtime were okay to watch. I’d pay to watch Muniz, Castle and Bostwick take on other problems in other exotic locations, even.

Rating: thumbs up

Advertisements

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006)

cyborg1

Directed by: Park Chan-wook

Films set in a high security mental institutions tend to vary dramatically when it comes to accurately presenting what life is really like for people in such confined environment. They vary from the superb ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’ to the god-awful ‘It’s Kind of a Funny Story’. Ultimately the point is always the same, as screenplay writers and directors end up roundly critiquing the inhumanity of how people are treated, either by being drugged into stupor and losing all what it is to be alive and human, or sadly even tortured. Such environments seem unconducive to providing the necessary conditions in order for someone to not necessarily get better, but be of sounder mind. Simply put, people no longer behave like people.

I suppose it is difficult to capture what life is really like in such institutions. I remember one day after I visited my Grandfather in a residential home several years ago I referred to the place as being like ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest’. It was an unsettling environment, as zombified people grabbed at me in the corridor. They stared with dead eyes, convinced that they knew me; that I was a family member or a friend, but they could only partially recognize. Their memories were disappearing. It was horrific, the staff had to restrain the unruly, and in order to maintain control ran the home like a prison. This was a hell where many saw out their final years.

‘I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK’ tells the story of Young-goon, a woman who believes she is a Cyborg, realizing this causes her to stop eating. When working in an electronic factory Young-goon thinks that she needs to charge her batteries, she cuts a hole in her wrist and wires herself up to a power supply, electrocutes herself in the process. She is taken to a Mental Hospital after this act is perceived as a suicide attempt. We learn that Young-goon is not the only member of her family to be carted away against her will; her Grandmother also spent time in a Mental Hospital.

Park Chan-wook, who has long since established himself as South Korea’s most well-known and arguably talented director, through the word of mouth buzz that flew across the world after ‘Old Boy’ (recently remade by Spike Lee), and then a few years later launching into English speaking cinema with ‘Stoker’. Chan-wook tells this story a little looser than in his work that proceeded ‘I’m a Cyborg…’ and I suppose this could interpreted as another way of putting across the disorientation and delusion that represents what it is like to be consumed by a Mental Illness.

There is a certain amount of sweetness in the relationship between Young-goon and the sneaky masked man Park Ill-sun, who soon becomes fascinated with the new waif-like girl who arrives as the hospital. Ill-sun suffers from an anti-social personality disorder which causes him to compulsively steal; he has no regard for other people. This all stems from what was stolen from him when his Mother disappeared. Ill-sun indulges in Young-goon’s belief that she is a Cyborg by stealing away her ability to be sympathetic through conducting a little ritual. This allows Young-goon to try break free from the control of the mental hospital orderlies. The film then floats from the harshness of real life within the hospital to violent dream sequences where Young-goon goes around shooting up all the orderlies. She turns into some kind of fem bot and fires bullets from her fingertips.

The film relies on quirk. There are a few other patients who interact with Young-goon. An overweight woman who enthusiastically consumes Young-goon’s lunch, a couple who appear to be trapped in a ‘Sound of Music’ fantasy, but the ensemble cast play second fiddle to the love story. Ok, I’m not really a sucker for a good romance, but since love can be a maddening experience, perhaps a mental institution really is the most suitable location to set a love story.

– RJW
6/10

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK on IMDB

Death Bell (2008)

death1

Directed by: Yoon Hong-Seung (aka Chang)

After watching ‘Death Bell’ I wondered why there has never been a British horror film made that speaks out against the enormous exam pressure placed on young people in this country. Maybe you could title such a film GCSE (perhaps standing for Gore, Corpses, Sadism, Extremism?). Have someone clubbed to death by a chalk duster or stabbed in the eye with a compass point. Alas, I digress. ‘Death Bell’ is basically ‘Saw’ set in a School, but unnecessarily complicated. And by complicated, I don’t mean the plot necessarily, I mean the puzzles that the students are set in order to survive.

Aside from ‘Saw’ there are similarities also with the well-known South Korean franchise ‘Whispering Corridors’, in that a restless presence haunts a school seeking vengeance. In ‘Death Bell’ we are introduced to the horror when our scream queen has a nightmare. Dressed in white she wanders through hundreds of burning school desks, the kind you’d carve the name of who you fancied, and discard bubble gum underneath. In the horrible dream she gets attacked by a zombie girl. Shamefully she wakes up in her dorm room dripping period blood; an early indicator of all the blood to come.

In this South Korean school the elite students are grouped together; they are ranked according to grade. The cream of the crop gather together to sit an important exam and in the lead up to this pressure seems to really be getting to the kids, so much so that a sensitive boy called Cho Beom sees a scary image on his exam paper, he later freaks out in the corridor, attacking a the girl who woke up dripping, her name is Kang Ina (Nam Gyu-ri).
The class receive another interruption a few days later when a television screen flickers on and shows a pupil trapped in a glass fish tank. The tank begins to fill with water. A sinister voice comes over the intercom and instructs the pupils to solve a puzzle. If they don’t then the trapped pupil will drown. The voice also tells them that if they try and escape from the school then they will die.

Director Chang goes out of his way to hide the identity of the killer, this cruel examiner who sets the pupils impossible to solve puzzles. This is to the detriment of the big reveal at the end of the film, which common to South Korean horror films is unnecessarily convoluted. So when pupils die in increasingly bizarre fashion, from getting covered in candle wax to drowning in a washing machine, there is not much of a clue of who could possibly be behind the slayings. Usually this leads to a good pay off, but in the case of ‘Death Bell’ it doesn’t really work.

K poppet Nam Gyu-ri plays the scream queen role satisfactorily, but her classmates are all pretty interchangeable, screaming girls with long black hair and boys with all the charisma of shop window mannequins. Aside from Lee Beom-soo, who plays the teacher with a dark secret, everyone else seems to be floundering in the roles, either gormlessly gathering around boards to solve puzzles and looking decidedly perplexed in the process or running through corridors in blind panic.

‘Death Bell’ is one of those horror films full of good ideas, but let down by poor execution, even all the cruel deaths seem to miss a beat. Not providing sudden jolts of fright, or the right amount of gore to unsettle the stomach. The most disturbing sight of the film comes at the end via the sight of a fire axe repeatedly hitting flesh, but by then my head aches terribly, having tried to get my head around all those blasted puzzles.

– RJW
4/10

Death Bell on IMDB

Welcome To The Jungle (2013)

welcome to the jungle0

If you wanted to pick the most generic title possible for your film, then “Welcome To The Jungle” could be it – 5 other films and 22 TV episodes of various shows share the name. But none of them have Jean-Claude Van Damme returning to comedy, which makes this the best one.

It seems Chris (Adam Brody) has never seen any films or watched any TV, because he allows his immediate superior Phil (Rob Huebel) to steal his idea for some product packaging and win a big contract with it. Don’t be so dumb, Chris! Anyway, the packaging-design company they work for is full of weird and wonderful types – sleazy scumbag Phil; Jared (Eric Edelstein), Chris’s slobby friend; Brenda (Kristen Schaal), slightly typecast by now as the kooky one; Phil’s pathetic assistant Troy (Aaron Takahashi); and the beautiful but friendly Lisa (Megan Boone). Now, those of you who watch “The Blacklist” on TV might be expecting Ms. Boone to be a bit wooden, but she’s great here – perhaps the wig she’s forced to wear on that show for reasons unknown is putting her off her game.

Boss Dennis Haysbert decides, because businesses in films do stuff like this, to send them on a 2-day retreat to a deserted jungle-covered island, with tour guide / former army guy Storm (JCVD) and that’s where the magic happens. The pilot of the plane dies almost immediately, the radio doesn’t work, Storm gets savaged by a tiger and disappears, and the poisoned meat / hallucinogenic tea that everyone but Chris, Jared, Brenda and Lisa eat and drink turns them from mild-mannered office drones into a Lord Of The Flies sort of group, only one that has orgies. Can our four heroes save the day? How fortunate is it that Chris used to be a scout and Jared was a radio ham?

welcome-jungle-2013-01

The problem with this film isn’t the cast. Huebel and Schaal are both talented comedians so they lift all their scenes, Adam Brody is good too as the sad office guy who needs to discover his backbone, save the day and win the girl, Boone is fine, and JCVD mocks his own film persona very cleverly, and can absolutely do comedy.

The problem is most definitely the script and direction. I like the way that Phil’s group turn into savages so quickly (they build a huge statue of him on a hilltop within a day of them landing there) but they go that far then sort of stop, and if anything turn the craziness down a little. There’s a weirdly scatological bent running through the film, too – Schaal has a monologue about how much she wants to take a shit, a corpse gets accidentally urinated on, and so on. Swearing is used in place of jokes once too often (and I like swearing just fine).

I picture Huebel, Schaal and Brody getting together every night after filming and wishing they could rewrite the script, because they’re ill-served by it all. It could do with being a lot weirder or a lot less weird, I think (I had an idea about how the main cast members crash-land on an island, and the rest of the cast is another office team, that got stranded there a year ago and have turned native, which would solve some of the problems…but no-one likes an armchair quarterback, sorry).

It’s almost great. There are plenty of laughs in it, a decent cast and an interesting, if fairly predictable, premise. JCVD is underused, but when he’s there he’s brilliant. If he ever gets bored of kicking ass in low-budget films made in Eastern Europe, I predict a decent sitcom role for him…I just wish the film overall was that little bit better. If your heart is set on a film about office workers trapped in a wilderness environment, then “Severance” is the film for you.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

thumb_WelcomeToTheJungle-2014-1

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

220px-My_bloody_valentineposter

As romance is in the air, I felt it appropriate to watch a romantic classic last night. And nothing says “romance” like a film about a deranged serial killer slaughtering his way through a town because he really hates Valentine’s Day, does it?

Valentine’s Bluff is a small town somewhere in Canada where 20 years ago, on Valentines Day a bunch of miners were trapped for weeks, and the only one who survived, Harry Warden, ended up eating his co-workers and going completely mad. He was committed to an asylum, escaped the next year and killed the mine supervisors whose incompetence caused the guys to be trapped in the first place, then…then, apparently, because the film is vague on the details, went back to the asylum.

The stars of the film are (along with the Sheriff, and the grizzled bartender who gives us all the information above) the hard-working miners of the town and their girlfriends,. Chief among them is TJ, a Rufus Sewell lookalike who left town and his girlfriend to try and make it big “on the East coast”, failed miserably and then came back. His girlfriend Sarah is now in a relationship with Axel, another miner, and this triangle keeps getting revisited through the film.

Anyway, if you wanted a badly written recap of the film you could have gone to Wikipedia. The town looks really convincingly run-down, and the mine (which was a real disused mine) adds a really good air of authenticity to the proceedings. They also dressed up the entire town to look Valentines-y, after deciding 20 years on that enough time had passed and they really ought to start exploiting the name of their town again.

The miners, lumpy and weird-looking to a man, are all punching massively above their weight when it comes to their girlfriends, but if you can ignore that then their lives and activities have an air of authenticity to them that it’s hard to find in films these days. Anyway, people start getting killed off, and the Sheriff keeps getting severed human hearts delivered to him in heart-shaped candy boxes. Should they stop the Valentines’ Dance and take down all the decorations? Is Harry Warden really back? Yes (and they do) to the first question, wait and see for the second.

my-bloody-valentine-the-miner

This is part of that glorious tradition of films that would be very different with modern technology. The Sheriff calls the asylum at one point to check Harry is still there, and the person in charge seems to barely give a damn about the location of a violent multiple murderer, and is annoyed when asked to check their records. Mobile phones, records on database, job done in ten seconds. It takes like three days to find out in this film! If I was the Sheriff, I’d have said “you know he’s a cannibal murderer, right?” Ah, the early 80s were a simpler time.

Of course, the miners and their girlfriends ignore the cancellation, and decide to have a party…at the mine. Now, I can’t think of anything less fun than a party at my place of work, and I work in a fairly nice office. If I worked in a mine? No way! When the women decide a trip down into the guts of the mine sounds fun, we’ve got our big set-piece battle coming up.

This is one of the original slasher movies, but even in 1981 films were showing a heavy debt to their predecessors – in this case, “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”. However, unlike Michael and Jason, “Harry” has an iconic outfit (not just a mask) and on top of being a completely implacable killer leaves charming little love notes with the severed hearts. He just wants to be loved! I think its status as one of the trendsetters of the genre allows it to get away with some truly rotten plotting, and while it’s plenty of fun at times, at others it’s just no good at all.

The worst / weirdest thing in “My Bloody Valentine” stems from the central character, TJ. He’s back in town and back working down the mine, and wants his girl back too. The problem with accepting him as a central character is he’s sort of an asshole – unpleasant to most of his co-workers, and a bullying dick to his ex-girlfriend. It seems like we’re supposed to think he’s the killer, really, even if a few seconds of thought places him nowhere near the murders when they occured, but as a central character he’s terribly thought out. And that leads on to the portrayal of women. I’m not even sure if it’s deliberately sexist, but women are ornaments for men and are absolutely 100% useless at doing anything other than screaming. I imagine it may well be rough for women in small mining towns, but some acknowledgement from the film that they disagreed with that way of things would have been handy. It spoils it, and there’s no need for it either.

So, have fun with this movie. It doesn’t let you get too bored, as the murders keep on coming throughout the film at fairly regular intervals…which leads me to the last point. This film was heavily edited on its initial release, and the really gory murders were only put back in in 2009. Without them, the film must have been incredibly boring, but with them it’s much better. All the removed footage hasn’t been digitally restored, either, so it looks grainy and nasty and fits rather well.

Rating: thumbs down (just)

Hologram Man (1995)

images

Our Joe Lara season continues! For those of you who haven’t read our “Steel Frontier” and “American Cyborg: Steel Warrior” reviews, Joe was the guy who played Tarzan on both the big and small screens, before retiring from acting in 2002 to concentrate on a country music career. In between Tarzan gigs, he made some surprisingly entertaining sci-fi-action movies, and we’re reviewing them.

Joe is Dakota, and it seems to be his first day on the police force (although someone calls him Lieutenant, which indicates I really ought to pay more attention to these movies) and he’s partnered with John Amos, who my American readers will know from “Good Times” and my British ones from “Coming To America”. He’s the grizzled veteran, you get the drift, and this scene appears to exist mostly to show that Amos has a gun so powerful it can blow trucks up with a single bullet.

I’m a huge fan of scenes where the director or other power-player in a film puts in a scene where they’re doing something gratuitous. Evan Lurie is the writer / producer of this film (his sole writing or producing credit) and we’re treated to an absolutely 100% unnecessary scene of him having sex with a pneumatically-breasted blonde lady. Have a screencap, and notice the rack of guns hanging in the foreground while the lovemaking is occuring:

MAXIMUM EROTICISM

MAXIMUM EROTICISM

Lurie is Slash Gallagher, as fine a name as you could hope for, and he’s got a plan which is sort of what Robin Hood would do if he were a violent psychopath. The city is run by an incredibly corrupt cabal so he’s all about taking them down – luckily, the city has Dakota to protect it, and at the end of a fairly amazing (for a low-budget B-movie) car chase / gunfight, Slash is arrested.

Now, here’s where the film gets a bit odd. The prisons of the future are rehabilitation facilities, where people are…turned into holograms and reprogrammed so their antisocial thoughts and feelings are removed, then (I think?) put back into their bodies and sent out as useful and productive members of society. If you think this makes no sense, then come join me on the “What the hell?” bench. Slash has been in prison for five years, and in that time the elite has built a huge dome over downtown LA to keep the air safe, but also to bleed even more money from the likes of you and me.

Slash is, of course, irredeemable even with this technology. Dakota’s girlfriend, conveniently, is one of the scientists in charge of the programme, and if only she had his powers of observation she’d have stopped the mole inside the prison from messing with the holograms and…turning Slash into an unstoppable hologram! He can move around freely and kill people with electricity. This, of course, makes no sense.

So, Slash and his cronies (Tiny Lister, awesome as always; the Hacker guy; and a chap with one eye whose co-cronies make an awful lot of mean jokes about it) continue on with his pre-imprisonment plans, and Dakota, now with the Joe Lara trademark stubble, continues on with his plans to stop him. Which is a bit difficult as he’s just a hologram – although, when they figure out how to create a plastic mold for the hologram, which looks exactly like their real human body (and then create perfect masks of other people), things get a bit blurred.

92 - HM

This film is amazing. On the surface, it’s sort of a weird combination of “Demolition Man” and “Face Off”, but it’s more overtly political than the former and much stupider than the latter. There are a lot of big firefights and car chases in this too, because as any good B-movie person knows, you need to keep the audience entertained. Lara and most of the supporting cast range from solid to great in the acting stakes, and indeed the only one who lets the side down is Evan Lurie as Slash. I’m intrigued as to why this was his only writing / producing credit, but he’s not the greatest angry villain in the world. He was ripped in this film as well, and his dreadlocks certainly made him stand out in the crowd. So it’s slightly odd to see his current career, which is as an art gallery owner just outside Indianapolis. Good on him for doing what he loves, though!

So, this is another hit for our Joe Lara season. There’s weirdness, disused factory fights a-plenty, hologram-on-hologram action, and the women in this film (aside from the lady at the beginning) are treated fairly decently. Also, the ending is one of the funnest and out-of-nowhere ones I can remember.

Rating: thumbs up

Triassic Attack (2010)

1_zps0a81fadc

Much like the Philosopher’s Stone allowed us to finally translate the ancient languages, I think “Triassic Attack” has allowed us to finally come to some sort of unified field theory of SyFy Channel original movies. At the end of this review, I want everyone reading to use the things you’ve learned and write your own scripts – be sure and put in a part for a brave and devilishly handsome film reviewer, though.

SYFY MOVIE MAINSTAY:Put it where it doesn’t belong. We drill somewhere we shouldn’t, or explore where we shouldn’t, or our experiments are just too experimental. Not the most original observation.

Straight away, no fooling, dinosaur skeletons attacking people! Are they zombies, or magic, or weird robotic creatures? We don’t know yet, but they look pretty badass. A brief blast of action, then “24 hours earlier” (surely my least favourite trope in all of film) to see a University about to take over a small run-down Native American village and turn it into…who knows? Probably a car park, or something with the word “Executive” in the title. The guy who played the villain in “Top Secret” is the Dean of the University, but of more interest to us is Emilia Clarke, who must have been minutes away from signing the contract to play Daenerys in “Game Of Thrones”, as the Sheriff’s daughter, the Dean’s soon-to-be-stepdaughter, and the girlfriend of one of the fraternity pledges. Oh, and she’s the grand-neice of the primary Native American character.

SYFY MOVIE MAINSTAY: The evil authority figure. It’s a Government science experiment, or a secret military thing, or something. This isn’t a particularly amazing revelation (again).

We then meet the Sheriff, who looks incredibly similar to the Sheriff in SyFy Channel show “Eureka”. Turns out this was directed by Colin Ferguson, who plays that Sheriff, so I can only assume he wanted to play the part as well, but SyFy turned him down so he hired his double. His wife is about to marry the evil Dean.

SYFY MOVIE MAINSTAY: The estranged couple and their teenage children. This is the biggest of them all – from “Sharknado” on down, SyFy movies are rotten with husbands winning back the love of their wives thanks to their ability in a crisis. Compatibility and mutual trust? Get back to the 60s, hippy!

The native chief, pissed off that he can’t save his town, does a magic spell and brings all the skeletons in the local museum back to life. Meanwhile, the daughter whines at the Mother until she’s allowed to go and hang out with her boyfriend and the rest of the people trying to get into the fraternity, while the wife takes out a group of archaeology students to look at bones.

SYFY MOVIE MAINSTAY: Cannon fodder. The kid of the main couple will be part of a larger group – cheerleaders, football players, tour buses, groups of horny teenagers – and it is from their ranks that the monster will get most of its food.

The main body of the film is people making poor decisions, then other people getting eaten, while the stars try and figure out a way to stop it all. While it’s hard to hate a film like this, it does its best to make you – the wife being the most egregious example. My notes read “I HOPE YOU DIE, YOU’RE SMILING ABOUT AND ALL YOUR STUDENTS AND YOUR DAUGHTER’S FRIENDS ARE DEAD”. She’s a former beauty queen, like ISCFC favourite Shandi Finnessey, but unlike Shandi she’s a horrible charisma vacuum of an actress.

001

Remember that flash-forward at the beginning? The way they work is, you either need to resolve them fairly quickly, or fairly near the end. It’s like a cliffhanger of sorts, or a setup to the world of the movie. What you don’t do is put the resolution to it 45 minutes in, and have it make no difference to the ending of the film at all.

SYFY MOVIE MAINSTAY: “Haha, all our friends are dead”. Regular readers will know and love this – when the problem is resolved, no matter how many of your nearest and dearest are dead, have a laugh with the other survivors!

This film has an extremely high number of British people in central roles. All four of the main people in the film are British, even though only one of them uses their real accent, which adds a layer of oddness when we see Emilia Clarke doing a rain-dance and chanting towards the end. She also has the film’s dumbest line, when Sheriff tells her that her Uncle can’t do magic, to which she replied “He can if we believe!” NO HE CAN’T, DUMMY!

The coolest moment in the film comes when the T-Rex and pterranodon skeletons get blown up next to each other, so when they reform themselves, Terminator 2-style, they turn into a super-scary flying T-Rex. Sadly, there aren’t enough cool moments in the film, and despite its fairly decent pace and effects, it’s a pretty boring film. It feels like an extended episode of “Eureka”, to be honest, with Native American magic replacing scientific craziness.

Don’t dwell too closely on the themes running through this film, dear reader – if native Americans can bring virtually indestructible dinosaur skeletons back to life, why didn’t they do so when white folk were killing and displacing them all? I hope Native Americans would think this film was as dumb as I do, and would be annoyed at the constant poor decision making demonstrated by the wife too.

Rating: thumbs down

FINAL SYFY MOVIE MAINSTAY: Twist of nature. Almost all the baddies in SyFy Channel movies are twists of nature – powerful storms, mutated animals, powerful mutated animal storms, etc.

So now I’ve given you the building blocks to write your own film! And if the handsome film reviewer could maybe have a model girlfriend in your “Croc-Pocalypse” script, that would be great too.

Visitor Q (2001)

visitorq

Directed by: Takashi Miike

I was reading about Xiu Xiu releasing their latest Music Video on a popular pornographic video sharing website, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to view the said video and saw cute kittens and plenty of the usual content that you might find on such a den of smut. I didn’t make it through the whole video, and for some reason clicking the cross and closing my browser, consumed by self-disgust I began thinking about a Japanese film someone had recommended me a few years ago that I could only watch the first few minutes of before thinking to myself “this is too much”. ‘Visitor Q’ was the name of the movie and I remember that opening scene was decidedly Gonzo, the kind of Sunday morning video you’d watch to get your fix and release some stress. It was pornographic.

It could be said that ‘Visitor Q’ was many years ahead of the curve, way before Lars Van Trier brought pornography to mainstream cinema. ‘Visitor Q’ begins with a question – have you ever done it with you Dad? In a dingy hotel room a Japanese man is bargaining with a prostitute. The scene is all the more claustrophobically disturbing because it is shot on hand held cameras by the participants. It feels grimy and voyeuristic. The man pays one hundred thousand yen act for ten minutes of sex. The prostitute turns out to be his daughter. Second time around I feel the same. Yuck, I feel dirty watching this.

The next question we are asked is – have you ever been hit on the head? This precedes a scene where the man who slept with his daughter is waiting at a train station. A spiky haired lad wearing a red shirt comes along and smacks him on the head with a rock. The third question – have you ever hit your Mom? We are then treated to the sight of a teenage boy whipping his heroin addicted Mother.

No more questions are asked, because from this point things take several turns for the weird. ‘Visitor Q’ is provocative and disturbing, a real test of endurance. Takashi Miike dares you to tap out, to switch off, to walk away. The film is a gruelling feat of endurance that you watch through your fingers, but it is impossible not to watch.

The man, the prostitute, the heroin addicted Mother and the sadistic son are a family. The lad in the red shirt stays at the home. Miike asks us. What would it be like to walk into someone’s door and observe the true goings on? Imagine picking a random house down the road where you live. You walk in through the front door and observe with sociological curiosity. What you see is the uncomfortable reality of people’s private lives. Essentially what Miike is telling us is that most families are fucked up. Of course he does this to the extreme.

Though some consider ‘Visitor Q’ as a black comedy, I was disturbed by the fact that I found the vinegar bathtub scene (I won’t spoil it) laugh out loud funny. I wondered what this said about me.

Films like this need to be watched at the right time. I was eating a lump of mature cheddar during the lactating nipples scene and almost vomited. You really need to take a deep breath, clear ninety minutes out of your schedule and just sit and stare, gawp open mouthed and allow yourself to be stunned. ‘Visitor Q’ makes you feel like you’ve been hit by a rock. It wakes you up, revolts you and then somehow surprises you with a happy ending that will melt even the coldest of hearts.

– RJW

Visitor Q on IMDB