Youtube Film Club: Bloodsport 4 (1999)

download

The Bloodsport franchise had managed the almost unthinkable – to have three martial arts movies in a row follow roughly the same continuity. But they took their eyes off the prize for the last one, having Daniel Bernhardt play a different character and have the entire film feel completely different to what came before it. But will it reach the heights of films 1 and 2, or manage to be worse than part 3?

John Keller (Bernhardt) is a cop who takes part in underground kumite events to keep himself sharp, accompanied by his partner, who looks like a busted Natasha Henstridge. Despite literally every kumite we’ve seen so far being full of death and absolute scumbags, Keller gets a sweet monologue in about not wanting to kill and honour and other such notions (the realisation that he’s a cop in a room full of people cheering on a potential murder is not really brought up). Later, answering a call from maybe the ugliest, most atmosphere-free bar in the Bulgarian town that’s subbing for the USA, they find a criminal who Keller had not only arrested years ago, but was supposed to have been executed, with the wonderful name Shrek.

b42

All this leads Keller to go undercover at Fuego Penal, where there’s a really dirty low-rent fight club, and where inmates are executed at the whim of the Warden. He fakes their deaths and ships them off to the home of the wealthy and fairly insane Caesar, who organises fights to the death for the amusement of his (hopefully paying) guests. The Warden is absolutely sexually aroused by death and extreme violence, which definitely adds an odd layer to proceedings.

2439515,MqveFMRzikFV7Hc_8n63Uc1ipmVb1vLp9msrFhS3XaFwpWgi6UYEvgJgPeOS3+TzP7qqwCcLyODdR79920XjOw==

The first thing you’ll notice is how ugly everything is. This is partly due to them not bothering to find sets that looked remotely American, but a lot to do with the way it’s shot. Cinematographer George Mooradian is a regular of ISCFC enemy Albert Pyun, and had been working for a decade before this, so I’m not sure the sickness-inducing spinning camera shots, awful handheld work and bizarre zooms can be blamed on him – I’m laying it on writer/director Elvis Restaino, who made a couple of films in 1999 but never wrote or directed anything before or since. He strikes me as someone who had no idea of how to do anything, so threw everything at the wall to see what stuck – one really odd example is the Warden walking towards the camera, pausing right in front of it and breathing in a panicked fashion, his breath fogging up the lens.

It’s like he was expecting to make a surreal little movie and then decided at the last possible second to make a fourth Bloodsport. It’s full of religious imagery, and I think there are some dream sequences but they’re shot too much like the normal sequences; plus the inmates wear pretty stylishly cut jackets, and Caesar dresses like a French dandy from the 18th century. Too many ideas and not enough clue how to execute them, maybe? Too many ideas but none of them were any good? One idea which was as strange as I’ve ever seen was, right before the fighting starts at the last kumite, where all the dandy-dressed folks are about to start baying for blood, they have an Eastern-European-flavoured song and dance number. Wow!

maxresdefault

The way the fights are shot also spoils them. Bernhardt is great, and there are some other fighters in there who really seem to know their stuff – plus there’s a couple of sequences that could have come straight from UFC, indicating MMA was at the height of its first flush of popularity. But the camerawork is trying to make it look ugly or expose the distance between fist and face, so a lot of it is tough to watch. But as if to get on the incompetence bandwagon, everyone else follows suit. The editor has decided to use multiple takes of some scenes, so despite us seeing a guy climb out of the ring before a fight, every third cut or so reveals him still stood there, watching things. A few of the actors look at the camera accidentally. Someone has a head injury, and the pressure pad is just stuck on top of their hair.

It’s not so much bad as, I can’t figure out why it was made. The idea of the kumite is a distant memory, and none of it feels “real” enough to get bothered about or unusual enough to just revel in.

Rating: thumbs down

 

PS. See if you notice anything unusual about the DVD covers for the three Bloodsport sequels.

51a2rl19hZLMV5BMTM3OTQzMDA2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzYwNTkxMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR3,0,214,317_AL_downloadThey must have really liked that pose, huh?

Advertisements

Snowboard Academy (1996)

Snowboard_Academy

When I was 12, I was in the Scouts, and to get one of our badges we had to put on a little play. We decided to do our own version of “Bread”, a popular sitcom of the time, and worked on costumes and sets, but the only joke any of us could come up with was to name one of the characters “Ramsbottom”. That play was still funnier than this movie.

Now, I don’t want you to think I’m just trying to be clever. This film is so unfunny, it will suck humour from the rest of your life. It’s a combination of elements which, on their own, are just bad, but together make something truly horrifying. Plus, it doesn’t really help that “ice movies” only really have one plot – the loveable losers who work at a ski resort are threatened by some rich developer or tax bill and have to win a ski-tournament to save the place.

Chantecler Resort, in Canada, isn’t doing too well financially. People are less interested in skiing, staff are having to work two different jobs, and a gang of snowboarders is terrorising the place – snowboarding is right out, as far as the resort is concerned (despite this being 1996, by which time snowboarding was enormously popular). The reason that these snowboarders aren’t arrested for their trespassing and criminal damage can only be that one of them is Chris (Corey Haim), the “cool” son of the resort owner Mr Barry (Joe Flaherty, a former “SCTV” cast member). The boring son is Paul, and he’s all about keeping the business afloat and blah blah blah. Mr Barry married evil Mimi ten years ago, then she disappeared immediately after the ceremony; she only came back when she found out he’d inherited a ski resort, and now she’s sleeping her way through the place and plotting her husband’s downfall.

2015200,ocIP4tMCiOK4zT2dBFT5Vhs_Ftr_z8nmzeTRzbLyVSpaBUxILOSY3kduIOHhLVzlj5H6rI2gIQODp4BxrptAyA==

Dropped into this stew of tedium is Jim Varney, best known as “Ernest” in the underwhelming series of films, adverts and so on. He was clearly told to play it broad, so he gives it his “all” – gurning, puns, clumsy physical stuff, actual standup, and general going all out for a laugh. His style of comedy was old before he was born, and every single bit of it falls completely flat, which makes for a really curious experience – like seeing a poor sitcom with the laugh-track removed. He’s joined at the bottom by James Salisko as the bartender, who’s also the co-writer, so therefore has no excuse at all.

The boss decides to give snowboarding at the resort a try, and business picks up, but the two brothers feud, which leaves the stage set for a snowboard vs. ski competition! I feel like one particular scene of this battle deserves breaking down a little. Paul hires a bunch of ringers for the skiiers, including a few Olympic champions, and the first race is between one of them and one of the guys who’s been training on snowboards for about a week. It’s a giant slalom, and up to the three-quarters point the novice snowboarder is beating the Olympic skier, until he gets knocked out by a giant snowball (wacky!)

Ai7FD

Now, skis are faster than snowboards. Olympic skiiers tend to be an enormous amount faster than your average novice, so factoring both of those in…and then there’s the fact that literally no-one seems to care that a masked assailant is trying to murder people with giant snowballs. If there’s no consequences to your actions, then nothing matters, not even the stuff you’re trying to get the audience to care about. It’s awful. It’s just so awful.

“Hey Mark,” I hear you say. “It can’t be that bad, surely. Can you provide me with, say, a screenshot that illustrates that rubbishness?” Well, I’m annoyed that you’d doubt me, and yes. The big important letter from the bank, that drives the plot, is seen very briefly and thanks to the wonder of the internet you can now read it all.

vlcsnap-2015-01-25-20h49m24s43

The way they frame the snowboarders-vs-skiers battle is, from the boarders, “skiing is bourgeois”. The idea that snowboarding is the peoples’ sport is actually a little offensive, coming out of the mouths of layabouts in their early 20s spending their parents’ money on expensive brand name gear and expensive snowboards, who are able to get to a mountain resort and pay the fees. Snow sports are not for the likes of you or I.

I wonder if this was intended as a kids film, as there’s Jim Varney, whose shtick could not possibly appeal to adults, no swearing, no nudity and a cartoony vibe from time to time. But even kids deserve better than this lazy, flat, terminally boring garbage. Corey Haim (RIP) looks high the entire movie, and almost certainly was; and they spell Brigitte Nielsen’s name wrong in the beginning and end credits. It’s such a horrible misfire, but is so bad so much that it’s almost worth seeing. Almost. Do you want an incredulous look on your face for 90 minutes? Then this could be for you.

Rating: thumbs down

Annabelle (2014)

annabelle 02

The Conjuring was released a couple of years ago and was a fairly uninspiring horror movie (based on the same real life story that would inspire the Amityville Horror).

At the beginning of The Conjuring, there is a little prelude about a china doll called Annabelle. That prelude is used to set up the concept of conduits, demonic influence and the paranormal investigation team.

That small sequence was really creepy and very effective, more so than the actual film. And so it doesn’t surprise me that they decided to make a prequel based on it.

Annabelle opens with the same prelude from The Conjuring. Set the year before that scene, this film shows how Annabelle came to become a conduit for a demon and how it terrorised a suburban family.

As always, I will keep my plot summary brief as I don’t like to give away too much: Ed and Lorraine Warren are newlyweds expecting their first child. Lorraine is a collector of china dolls and Ed has gone to great expense to find one of a set she is missing, which takes centre place in the collection.

"I refuse to believe that anyone would actually collect these in real life."

“I refuse to believe that anyone would actually collect these outside of a horror movie.”

There is some stuff about cults, a ritual, conjuring a demon, possession, all which result in the devil’s doll. Then there is the usual running around, seeing things through the corner of your eye, fast cuts and people deliberately turning around really slowly… look, if you’ve seen any number of horror movies in the last 40 years (man, is The Exorcist really that old?), there’s nothing new here. It’s slow paced, so as to build tension and atmosphere and has its fair share of ‘jump scares’… you know the drill.

Say what you will about the ‘found footage phenomenon’, at least Paranormal Activity injected some creativity into the horror genre (which of course was aped and then suffered ‘sequelitis’ to the point where it was no longer creative).

There are a few things which make this film stand out from its peers (and notably more interesting than its parent film). For starters, Annabelle herself. Now, I don’t like china dolls. I think they are inherently creepy. Presumably I am not alone in this and therefore that’s why they made a china doll an evil doll of evil. The pre-demon version of Annabelle is pretty terrifying and the post-demon version is a nightmare come to life. So in that sense, good show prop department!

"A demented verison of Joanna Lumley as a doll."

“A demented verison of Joanna Lumley as a doll.”

Also, there are a couple of genuinely creepy scenes: the whole basement sequence for instance (which is only ruined by the director by breaking the cardinal rule of ‘never reveal the face of the monster, because it can never be worse than the imagination’) and any time the doll is just on screen, being creepy (there was only one moment I called ‘bullshit’ and that was very late in the movie, they otherwise restrain themselves from the doll doing anything other than looking really wrong).

"At no time does any of these people attempt to burn the creepy demon doll. I call bullshit."

“At no time do any of these people attempt to burn the creepy demon doll. I call foul.”

The ending, to be blunt, is so overwhelming telegraphed I am sure people who have never even seen a horror movie could figure it out.

I’m not a fan of the horror genre because I find it creatively moribund. Very much like it’s cousin, the slasher movie, it is tired and worn with little new to offer.

And, like comedy, it is a very subjective experience, so what one person finds scary, another finds laughable. For instance, I think that The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Paranormal Activity are great films, both very creepy. Friends of mine found the Mothman Prophecy to be terrifying but I only thought it was a good film, not particularly scary at all.

To me, The Conjuring was fairly representative of modern horror and didn’t really offer anything new. The prequel, Annabelle, is much the same, only I find china dolls to be freaky and so I was a bit creeped out at times, possibly more than I should have.

I can’t say I particularly recommend this film. Like its peers, it isn’t particularly original or scary but it is competently made and the direction is very good. The performances are good and really, there’s nothing wrong with this movie, if you haven’t watched any of the major horror movies of the last 40 years.

Annabelle 03

That said, if you find china dolls to be creepy and fancy a bit of a scare, you could do a lot worse than this.

TL:DR “Competently made, not particularly original horror movie about a possessed china doll. The china doll really is the scariest thing about it.”

Ski School 2 (1994)

ss2iu

This is the story of a man who, spiralling into depression following the end of his relationship, lives in squalor for a year before making a last-ditch attempt to win his ex-girlfriend back during the weekend of her wedding. His antics become more and more psychopathic before he finally ruins the wedding ceremony itself and is arrested, spending the rest of his life in an asylum (while having a dream, over and over, where the woman leaves her husband-to-be at the altar and they live happily ever after).

That is, honestly, the most sensible reading of this movie. Four years after the rotten, sexist, homophobic “Ski School”, someone was presumably contractually obliged to make a sequel. Dean Cameron looks like the last four years had been very very hard on him, and the wacky hijinks that seemed at least tolerable when a young-ish guy was doing them seem kinda sad when performed by someone like Cameron in 1994 (despite him only being 32 at the time, he looks a good decade older).

Dave Marshak (Cameron) gets an invitation to his ex-girlfriend Beth’s wedding, and decides to try and win her back. To this end, he enlists his best friend Alex, a man who is literally irresistible to women; Toddorbert, the resident semi-dangerous lunatic (£10 says you can guess the story behind his name before the film tells you); and Tomcat (Will Sasso, in a very early role), the perpetual beginner on the slopes. The four of them discover that the guy is only marrying Beth because she owns the ski resort and there’s a clause in her father’s will that if he marries her, he gets control of it; rather than just explain it to her calmly, they do weird stunts and throw snarky insults at the guy, including at one point calling him a paedophile.

skis1994_08

Making the fiancee an idiot is the easiest cop-out imaginable. Beth split up with Dave because he refused to commit, and during the course of the movie he makes zero growth as a character and only wins out at the end (spoiler, I don’t want anyone watching this) because the competition is even worse. The idea of Beth not wanting either of them, with very good reason, is never even hinted at.

It’s just so lazy! Because they need an easy joke or two, the ski resort town can support a very busy heavy metal lesbian bar; when Dave decides to crank this party up a notch and starts serving drinks, they run through the lame list of cocktails with rude names, a gag which must have been showing its age even then. For no reason other than to be cruel to the guy, our heroes divert a male stripper from Beth’s bachelorette party to that bar so he gets his ass kicked. The hot mysterious new skiier tells Dave she’s a nude painter – but she doesn’t paint nude people, she paints in the nude! On a snowy mountain! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Luckily, there’s still plenty of boobs in this movie. Alex, for no reason, turns women into senseless sex monsters just by being somewhere near them – I mean, he’s a good looking guy, but the effect is supernatural. Still, it’s slightly less offensively sexist than the last one, which indicates progress had been made in the intervening years, I suppose. But they try! Beth wins a skiing tournament and the course commentator spends most of the time talking about her fiancee.

vW5BiPdMiDUN8c133jlLSmQrUJ2

There’s an occasional ray of light, though, even in a movie as bad as this. Will Sasso was clearly given no direction in some scenes, so you can see him in the background, pulling an insane series of faces while talking to no-one. I get the feeling he was trying to warn us.

It’s such a pointless movie. Made for no reason, enjoyed by no-one, not funny, not titilating, and quite deeply sad a lot of the time. Also, as I’m a bored movie reviewer and count these things, there are 10 different skiing montages in the movie that do nothing other than take up space. I feel bad for everyone involved.

Rating: thumbs down

The Slashening (2014)

download

Upright Citizens Brigade is comedy heaven. If I lived anywhere near any of their theatres, I’d have the gold season pass, and their actual performers would occasionally whisper “there’s that weirdo who comes to all our shows. He must be terribly sad” when I walked past. If you love modern sketch or improv comedy, chances are some or more of the actors or writers you love spent time at UCB.

Writer / director Brandon Bassham, as well as occasionally contributing to “Saturday Night Live”, teaches sketch writing at UCB and has already made one movie, “Fear Town, USA”, which we’ll be covering soon. “The Slashening” is a tribute to / parody of the old school of slasher movies – there’s a couple of close lifts of scenes from “Halloween”, plus, apparently, inspiration from “When A Stranger Calls” and “Slumber Party Massacre” (not seen either of those two).

Five women decide to spend the weekend at the house of one of their parents, and after meeting the super-creepy local cop and the way-noise-sensitive neighbours, a killer starts picking them (and the pizza delivery guys) off. It’s set almost entirely in the one house, which is really the venue for a series of riffs on horror movie scenes and typical conversations.

There’s a great scene where the women all decide to get changed, and are stood around in their underwear, having a conversation. We see them, and a figure outside watching them, but it takes a few really clever turns and – hey, there’s a continuity error on the bra strap as the camera cuts between them and their spy! Where’s their bra placement intern? DAMMIT The scene features some absolutely killer dialogue too.

IMG_8950

Talking of dialogue, it’s brilliant, as you’d expect from a group of veteran comedy performers. It reminds me of how people are at their grossest and most private moments, but here’s it’s for us all to see, and manages to be sort of disgusting, funny and weirdly honest all at the same time. Expectations are subverted, dick pics are shown to be the force for good we all know they are, and we see that riffs on classic horror movies can be cleverer than “hey, remember this scene? What if it had Charlie Sheen in it?”  The combination of over-the-top characters and subtler plays on horror cast tropes works a treat.

My favourite cast member was Margot (Samantha Schechter or Sam Reece, depending on where you read) as the best friend of “Final Girl” Lucy (Anna Callegari), but there’s really no weak links. Dana Clinkman, Elyse Brandau, Lily Du, Billy Bob Thompson, and Pat Foy, all UCB alums, make this film feel a great deal “bigger” than it actually is, and prevent it from going over the line into being a pure cartoon. I mean, not every joke lands, and there are some odd bits (does the guy not notice the woman being murdered outside the patio doors or just not care?), but the quality is so strong normally that complaining about the few duds seems like nit-picking. Plus, there’s great music too!

Untitled

This film cost $6,000 to make. Now, you or I could not walk out of our house tomorrow with $6,000 in our pockets and make a film this great – it’s a lot easier when you’ve got access to one of the world’s best sources of new comedy talent. But, just as a comparison, you could make 35,000 of these for one “Transformers: Age of Extinction”. 35,000! Long time ISCFC readers may remember me complaining about why the people who continue to fund awful low-budget horror movies don’t just give the cash to an improv comedy troupe and tell them to make whatever they want – the results will almost certainly be more interesting, and the bar to profitability is low. Well, “The Slashening” is the perfect example of this – it’s funny, it’s got great performances, an interesting look and is really pretty clever too.

It’s available on demand (check it out HERE) and follow the filmmakers at @theslashening for more information.

Rating: thumbs up

Outcast (2014)

A4BD7AE7-38C1-4DC1-8E91-E85E1E57919E copy‘Almighty God, in my hour of need be with me.’

Hayden Christensen speaks for most viewers in the opening line of Nic Cage’s Crusades epic. Christensen’s Jacob and Cage’s Gallain are cutting a bloody swathe through 12th century China – this much damage hasn’t been done to East West relations since Dave Whelan and Malky Mackay went for a night out to Wigan’s Imperial Pagoda restaurant and engaged in some friendly ‘banter’ with the staff. They bloody love it.

Looking like a League 2 footballer who’s gone to Supercuts requesting an Olivier Giroud that’s gone slightly awry, Jacob is happily slashing, stabbing and decapitating his way through extras. Gallain on the other hand sports the world-weary expression of somebody who’s just clocking in and doing the bare minimum – he really isn’t getting any job satisfaction ‘spilling blood for hypocrite priests’ anymore.

Flash forward three years and the wizened emperor has succession on his mind. His two sons are like yin and yang (aren’t they always?) Tired of years of war and bloodshed he gives the emperor’s seal to his younger peace loving son, much to the disgruntlement of his more bloodthirsty, proactive older son Shing – despite counsel to the contrary he isn’t too sure that Shings can only get better. Sensing his brother will be pretty pissed off by this, the emperor elect swiftly does one before Shing kills his dad and hotfoots it in pursuit with the Black Guard in tow.

Meanwhile in a particularly rustic Brewdog somewhere, Christensen is ruminating on the horrors he committed in the past. And when he’s not thinking about the Star Wars prequels he remembers some of them bad murders he done too. He’s now addicted to opium – ‘mmm, so Moorish!’ (hang on, that was Spain not China, wasn’t it) and spends his time getting into bar brawls that inevitably end in Spartacus-style piss humiliation.

Anyway. His and the boy emperor’s paths cross and Poochie asks him to help navigate safe passage back to the capital on the basis that ‘our lives and the future of our kingdom depend on your wits.’ They both agree they’re probably fucked then, but Jacob agrees anyway in return for coin and spiritual redemption of some kind as a cross country pursuit ensues. But they’re covering nowhere near as many miles as Christensen’s accent, veering as it does between English and Oirish with alarming regularity – wrong kind of paddy, Hayds, this is China not Dublin.

With the guards still after him they eventually take refuge in a brothel:
‘I’m thirsty’
‘Sake?’
‘No, I meant it, I really want a drink’
*Silence*

Hold on, Nic Cage is hardly in this! This is bullshit.

Fear not though. As it becomes clear those pesky sex workers weren’t after his lucky charms but have betrayed him, and with guards surrounding the place, the mysterious White Ghost rides to the rescue. Now with only one eye, and carrying a rental snake he uses to groom his beard, Cage acts the bloody doors off as he plays a bizarre hybrid of SuperHans and Withnail.

This performance is incredible.

Bellowing ‘where’s my wine!?’ and bandying about nonsense similes such as ‘guards are as much use as flies on a farting goats arse’, it’s lucky that his swordplay is better than his wordplay as he busts heads and punctuates his own jokes with incongruous booming laughter. But Nic isn’t an Oscar winner for nothing as he displays a few more contemplative moments too:
‘Guards took out my eye, but I still have my hair. Which is all that matters’
*sniggering off camera*

outcast-superproduccion-china-nicolas-cage-po-L-kz7Nop

So is this film any good then? Objectively, no. Of course it isn’t. But Cage films exist in a strange netherworld between Hollywood blockbusters and budget B-movies, and judged on those terms it was more watchable than some of the bilge he’s pumped out recently. This is mostly due to Nic’s uproarious cameo. Its most obvious cinematic relative is Johnny ‘Interesting’ Depp in the neverending Pirates franchise. But whereas Depp’s weirdness feels some somewhat studied and contrived, Nic is clearly totally demented and he’s having a ball here.

When he isn’t onscreen the film desperately drags, but maybe it does point towards what he should do from hereon in. Even during his mid 90s heyday when he redefined the action movie, he was always an unconventional leading man. And bar an unlikely Neeson-esque renaissance, his name alone is probably never going to open a film again. But like his hair-a-like Andy Carroll, if sparingly used as an impact substitute in extended cameos – as here or his role in Kick-Ass – there’s no reason why he couldn’t have a productive and enjoyable later career.

If he’s going to do that he needs better service though – the plotting is at least competent, but the story is hackneyed and the direction poor. Nick Powell’s previous work includes choreographing and shooting the fight scenes in the Bourne Identity, but the leaden, repetitive slugfests here have none of that invention or kinetic energy. Apparently he was also the stunt co-ordinator on Doc Martin, so maybe he should have included a scene where Nic gets chased down a country lane by a randy goose. Opportunity missed.

The Eternal Return of Antonis

 

BRINKVISION RELEASES THE DARK COMEDY FILM ‘THE ETERNAL RETURN OF ANTONIS ON VOD AND DVD FEBRUARY 17th

‘THE ETERNAL RETURN OF ANTONIS’

atonis

 

“5 STARS! SUPERB… PHENOMENAL PERFORMANCE” – Indiewire

 

“DARK AND ARTFUL SATIRE… STRIKING AND HEARTBREAKING” – Cinevue

 

“CHARMING, FUNNY AND DRAMATIC” – Flix

 

BrinkVision releases the critically acclamied dark comedy film, ‘The Eternal Return of Antonis’ starring Christos Stergioglou (Father from Oscar nominated ‘Dogtooth’) who stages his own kidnapping to gain sympathy and attention from a world that is slowly forgetting him. ‘The Eternal Return of Antonis’ is a thought provoking, humorous masterpiece that has screened at Toronto, Berlinale, Milano, and many more festivals worldwide. The Eternal Return of Antonis on VOD and DVD February 17th!

 

Synopsis:

Antonis Paraskevas is a man incapable of life away from the media spotlight. A famous television personality whose star is waning, Antonis decides to stage his own kidnapping to gain sympathy and attention from a world that is slowly forgetting him. He hides out in an abandoned seaside hotel to wallow in self-pity, awaiting just the right moment to spring back to life and into the public eye. At first, he fights off the boredom with unsuccessful molecular cooking and karaoke singing, but eventually the walls close in, and Antonis starts going off the rails. The harsh realities of the current Greek economic situation and contemporary societal alienation serve as the backdrop to this dark and artful satire on fame in the modern world.

 

Trailer:

CLICK HERE TO BUY THE MOVIE

 

Auteur (2014)

auteur

Directed by: G. Cameron Romero

‘Auteur’ is by George Romero’s son. This is an important fact during the closing scene of the movie, as the camera pans around a video store; it zooms past a section devoted to George Romero. It’s as if George’s son Cameron is acknowledging his position, like Stephen King’s son, John Lennon’s son and any other son who’s had to follow a successful Father, he’s had a difficult act to follow. But good on him for trying to step out of those giant foot prints.

Cameron Romero first came to our attention with 2009’s ‘Staunton Hill’, which was a patchy cliché ridden horror. The film had a notoriously weak plot. With ‘Auteur’ Romero has at least rectified this problem, and the story is actually pretty strong. What lets the movie down is the string shot budget, if the film had any money behind it then most of which was probably given to Tom Sizemore. More on him later.

‘Auteur’ explores the myth behind reclusive director Charlie Buckwall and a fictional unreleased horror movie titled Demonic. A number of legendary horror movies have spooky behind-the-scenes stories and talk of curses, for example ‘The Omen’ and ‘The Exorcist’, and ‘Auteur’ plays upon this, but it can’t quite get the balance right between whether it wants to be a found footage film or a mockumentary.

‘Auteur’ is about an aspiring documentary maker called Jack Humphreys, whose Father works in the film industry. Jack is keen to make a name for himself in the biz. He is obsessed by the story behind Demonic and interviews a number of people who were involved in the project. There a few talking heads, but this approach is used more to set the story. Most of the action follows the eager Jack as he runs around Hollywood trying to get the big interview with Charlie Buckwall that will be the centre piece of his documentary.

What exactly is Tom Sizemore’s role here? He plays himself, one of the talking heads, an actor talking about Demonic, but Sizemore does so in such a half-arsed way which gives the impression that he probably granted Romero and co half an hour of his time for a ridiculous appearance fee. Sizemore seems to be talking about a different film and different actors to the film he is supposed to be talking about, and towards the end decides to give up, and just talk about himself for a couple of minutes.

The film builds up to what is referred to by all the talking heads as its “ground zero” moment, which is the exorcism scene. The exorcism scene is pitiful, and plays out like it was directed by Ed Wood. This really counteracts the movies’ insistence that Charlie Buckwall was a misunderstood genius. Ian Hutton, who plays Buckwall, actually isn’t that bad as the wayward director, but Christ when it comes to this pivotal scene, we have dubious levitation, polystyrene concrete blocks, and all the usual guttural devilish growls and latin gibberish sound tracked by the most generic of spooky sound track music.

‘Auteur’ is a baffling B Movie, which in a weird way is quite gripping, but whenever something scary happens in the film we are left with a wet fart moment. I suppose a better way of explaining this is to imagine yourself being held hostage by a gun man. After an hour and fifteen minutes the gun man decides to shoot you. When he fires the gun a little flag pops out with the word ‘bang’ written on it. He decides to shoot you with the gun half a dozen times.

– RJW

5/10

Auteur on IMDB