Archive for the 'Exploitation' Category

Oct

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Maniac
1980 – Unrated – Blue Underground

If there is one thing that the 80’s did for us (besides give us cocaine and Alf), it was install a paranoia in us through movies. Horror movies were evolving, becoming more horrifying and grotesquely more realistic. We were looking over our shoulders constantly and assuming any sound in the middle of the night was a murderer that broke into our homes. These movies also outraged sensitive cinema goers, claiming this type of movie breeds wackos. One such film would be simply be called Maniac and with a title like that, you should know what you’re walking into. Yet for audiences back then, they were disturbed by what they saw. Could it have really been that sadistic?

When the special effects are done by Tom Savini, the man who did Dawn of the Dead and was fresh off the gruesomely reviewed Friday the 13th, combine that with William Lustig, a guy whose earlier works were porn, you should know what you are walking in to. Actor Joe Spinell brought such a twisted and yet realistic spin on the psychotic main character Frank Zito, that you would think with this flick, the premise was so alarming and the effects were disturbingly visceral, that anybody watching the film didn’t think a murder could be depicted with such ferocity and carnage and shame on them for being so naive. The combination of these three men bring this film to deranged new levels and showcase a level of mayhem to be unmatched. It angered feminists, critics hated it, so let’s degrade ourselves and plunge into the filthy world of a psychopath!

maniac_2As a couple snuggles up on the beach, a prowler watches from one of those… binocular things… I forget what they are called, but you use to find them in large cities and you put a quarter in them and you can see the city. Anyway, after rolling around on each other like pale leather bags in a mildewy blanket, the man leaves to gather firewood… on the beach. It doesn’t take long for him to be garroted by the prowler, who then sneaks up on the sleeping girlfriend and slices her neck. Her screams fade into overweight, sweaty killer known as Frank, as he shoots up out of bed in a cold sweat, screaming like a lunatic and crying and judging how the interior of this small apartment is decorated, I’d wake up screaming and crying every day too.

Later that evening, two prostitutes (one of which is very eager for that one last trick to pay rent, son) see Frank, who is probably the shadiest looking person in an already shady area, takes one of the streetwalkers upstairs where he has her model like in them fancy magazines. Within moments, he charms the lady of the night by showing the size of his… money clip and starts making out with her pretty intensely, rolling on top of her and for that, believe me, I think she earned that cash. Have you ever put a warm, doughy dinner roll on top of a green bean? Well anyway, Frank starts to become frustrated and chokes this hooker to death and crying immediately afterwards. I’ve heard of crymaxing, but killmaxing? Is that a thing? As he mutters to her, “Why did you make me do it?” he scalps her using a box cutter, which I have to say, watching this will make you flinch in pain. That’s your grotesque Savini special effects at work for you there.

So what exactly is Frank doing with these scalps? If he were Apache, they would be trophies of some sort, but we actually aren’t too far off. Frank nails the scalps to the heads of mannequins that he’s dressed in the clothes of his recent victim, thus in his mind, honoring the person and allowing them to live on forever. It seems Frank feels what seems to be a motherly attachment to them, talking to them and scolding them, which makes sense seeing as it’s often hinted throughout the film that he had mother issues.

maniac_4Leaving his apartment once again with a disassembled 12 gauge shotgun in a trumpet case, he follows a couple out of a disco (yeah, those existed at one point) to what kids would call ‘make-out point.’ The stud in this scene, by the way, is played by Tom Savini, who is desperately trying to get ‘some’. The floozy is resistant at first, but who can resist a mustache as powerful as that? Tom Savini’s mustache has rivaled other great ‘staches in history, like Tom Selleck’s. After some serious necking in the backseat, the woman sees Frank peeping through the window like a little kid at the zoo and talks Savini into leaving. Flicking on the headlights, they see Frank standing in the night. He pounces on the windshield, armed with his shotgun and blows Tom Savini’s head off. And I meant right the freak off, spraying gallons of blood and whatever foods happened to be on the Kraft services table that evening. This scene is so graphic, it could give the head explosion scene from Scanners a run for its money.

After proving to those two that disco is dead, Frank cries himself to sleep after a healthy internal monologue about “stopping the fancy women” and handcuffing himself to a mannequin. He wakes up for a midday stroll through the park, where a photographer, Anna (played by ex-Bond girl Caroline Munroe), snaps a shot of him. Frank notices and casually strolls up to her belongings, snagging her address and goes about his day (cue non-conspicuous whistling).

Since they had to bore you with that scene of exposition, they throw you a bone and kill another woman. This time, a young nurse decides to reject a ride home from a friend and tread home solo in the middle of the night, while reading a newspaper with the headline, “MANIAC KILLS TWO MORE!” She soon notices she is being stalked and tries running through the subway station, hiding in a bathroom. This scene is heavily borrowed in other movies, including Alexander Aja’s High Tension (he would later go on to produce the remake of Maniac!) and it’s probably due to not only its pacing, but the idea of a stranger tracking you through a vacant space and having to hide with no escape. After a few moments, she believes the killer has fled, losing interest and as she washes her face in the sink, Frank stabs her through the back with a bayonet.

maniac_5Eventually the filmmakers realize that even a movie called Maniac can’t be composed completely of scenes that depict brutal murders of women, so Frank pays a visit to Anna, but in a very friendly and possibly romantic manner. Dressed nicely, he invites her to dinner to which she accepts and believe it or not, but the two seem to be hitting it off and it comes across as very authentic. Wanting to see him again, Anna invites Frank to one of her photo shoots, where Frank humbly arrives and everything seems innocent enough, until he meets Rita. Frank steals a necklace of hers and leaves the set, only to pay a visit to Rita’s home late a night with the necklace, posing as just a friend returning it. But would a friend kidnap you and tie you up? Maybe, but certainly not in a hostile, psychotic manner. With Rita kidnapped, Frank paces and spouts off about being abused and being left all alone, which implies he is most likely talking about his mother. Frank tells her that she will never leave him again, as he plunges a switchblade right into her chest and adding her scalp to a growing collection of mannequins.

Well this is becoming downright depressing! Maybe a visit from Anna will perk him right up. Frank picks her up to take her to a show, but a quick detour at his mother’s grave in the cemetery before hand. No sign of this night going sour, especially as the sky turns black and the fog rolls in. At the grave, Frank begins to blubber like a baby and as Anna tries to console him, he tries to choke her. I’m sure he likes to think of it as ‘hugging her neck’, but Anna fights him off and even slices his arm open with a shovel. Wounded, Frank chases after Anna, but slows down and seems to become lost… especially mentally as he hears his mother’s voice calling out for him, bringing him to his knees. And then like true Savini fashion, the rotten corpse of his mother bursts from the ground and terrorizes him! If he hasn’t lost his mind already, he certainly is now. Back at his home after fleeing the cemetery, he cries to himself as he notices that the mannequins are slowly becoming alive and they are very unhappy.

Maniac is a film that makes you feel filthy and unclean for watching it, but that’s what I love about it. It’s a character study of a truly, deeply disturbed human being. You’re audience to his personal torment and are forced to watch his violent actions. But there is a sympathetic side, as he weeps and talks nonsense to himself, you can feel the misguidance he had growing up and can’t help but feel sorry for him. It’s at the moment you begin to question why you are on his side. He’s done such vile things, are you supposed to feel that way? But that’s another thing that makes this movie great; you root for the bad guy without even knowing it.

Maniac
With an anathema you love to hate or hate to love, a dark and seedy look into his sick, perplexed world, overflowing with gore and other gross stuff, it’s enough to make you question your own sanity. At the dawn of the slasher flick era, Maniac stood above them as the indisputable champ of shocking horror, visually and methodically. It is perhaps the darkest serial killer pic since Psycho and would pave way for others, such as Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. If there is anything positive to take away from the film, it’s that Frank was able to score a babe like Anna. So that means maybe there is hope for some of us.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Sleeping and peeping.
  • Nightmare apartment.
  • Is Frank Zito gonna have to choke a broad?
  • Scalping sicko.
  • Sweaty and crying… or hungry?
  • Buck shot cranium massage!
  • Bond babe!
  • Zombie mom issues.
  • Torn to pieces!
totals

9

blood

BLOOD

The scalping looked good for the time, but the shotgun scene will make your head explode…

7

blood

BREASTS

Bubble bath included.

10

beast

BEASTS

Joe Spinell doesn’t play Frank Zito… he seemingly IS Frank Zito and it’s downright terrifying.

8.6 OVERALL
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News report on the controversy it caused.

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Oct

Comments Off on Maniac (2012)

Maniac
2012 – Not Rated – IFC Midnight

Remakes are a very fickle subject. Films that are often being remade, are those that are regarded as high ‘cult’ status and have a large and not to mention intense fan base. So, it goes without saying that when rumors were rumbling that William Lustig’s serial killer masterpiece Maniac was being fitted for a remake, it would be critically disapproved before it was even made. This disapproval seemed to settle into gentle curiosity when High Tension director Alexander Aja was attached and shortly after the casting of Elijah Wood in the role of Frank Zito, not only were we curious, but they had our attention as well. Sure enough, we were watching the production of this film under a microscope and growing more interested with every shred of news.

It’s also tricky reviewing a remake. It will, of course, be compared to the original, which in most cases, is far superior (if not only for nostalgic reasons). But you have to remember to look at it as its own entity and judge it based on its own merit. After all, do you really want to see the same thing rehashed exactly the same way (remember the Psycho remake)? Like I said, it’s very challenging to remake and modernize a horror film, so how does Franck Khalfoun’s rendition of the classic hold up?

It starts off similar enough, with Frank stalking his prey. Only this time a young woman decides to walk home from a night club all by herself, unaware that Frank is watching her (as we watch from his POV) from his truck. After one of the best opening music soundtracks in this generation, Frank meets her at her apartment, unbeknownst to her though. He cuts the power, darkening the corridor and walks behind her, breathing heavily until she is about to enter her apartment. Hesitant to turn around, he tells her, “Please don’t scream,” and before she can, he plunges a giant Bowie knife under her chin. Gently he caresses her face and removes the knife to scalp her and then in big, bold, confident and alarming red letters as big as the screen, the title MANIAC appears before fading to black. Right out of the gates, the movie doesn’t hold back any punches and doesn’t shy away from disturbing you.

maniac_2As Frank wakes up and goes about his daily routine, makes coffee, hallucinates that a girl is in his bed (you know, the usual stuff), you may be noticing that it hasn’t switched out of his POV and that is what not only separates this remake from the original, but from pretty much every other film out there. Keeping in theme with the original, Frank staples the scalp to a mannequin while talking with it. So just in case you weren’t sure he was a few cans short of a six pack, this should tip you off. Continuing, we get a look into how this movie is ‘modernized’ as Frank stalks and sets up potential kills via dating websites. It actually makes good sense and clearly illustrates every single person’s worst fear, but now it’s going to make it harder for me to score a date… especially when we watch this!

A quick online dating success later, he meets up with a cute little trollop named Lucy. It’s during this dinner that we get a look into Frank’s psyche, as the radial blur filters the screen, he sees everyone in the restaurant staring at him and blood trickles down Lucy’s face. It’s never explained exactly what this condition is, though he calls them migraines. They seem to quickly reside after he pops a few pills. Unfortunately, they effects don’t last long. Lucy invites him over for a drink and he insists that he needs to leave, but nervous guys that she can domineer are her thing. She dances around her apartment to ‘Goodbye Horses’, made popular in Silence of the Lambs and forever stapling it to all things creepy. Overcome with homicidal tendencies, he strangles her and scalps her, thus acquiring a new girlfriend (in his mind), after he staples the scalp on a mannequin, of course.

It’s interesting to note that this kill is somewhat different from the others in the film, in that he is hesitant to kill her and almost seemingly resists. He even throws up afterwards and weeps, possibly indicating that he was beginning to like Lucy and did not want to kill her. It adds a whole new dimension to the character and not just a showing the typical ‘kill the women mindlessly’ slasher trend. But now I’m getting off track.

maniac_3This is when we are introduced to the lovely Anna, who will become the love interest of sorts to Frank. She wakes him the next morning by taking photos of his mannequins outside his shop window. Feeling a desirable, artistic connection, he invites her inside to look at his work. When he isn’t doing the Apache scalp to women, Frank restores antique mannequins out of a shop he inherited from his mother, who recently died. The two bond and create a friendship, perhaps with an unspoken romance and you can really see it in their eyes. More specifically her eyes, as the actress, Nora Arnezeder, has to stare into the camera as if she is looking deeply and affectionately into Frank’s eyes and she does this convincingly well. You’ll fall in love with her as she looks past the camera and into your eyes, piercing your soul. But how long can Frank subdue his murderous impulses?

As the two spend more time together, it’s noticeable (to the audience) that Frank is falling for Anna. It’s actually quite charming to see him become smitten by her. Maybe it’s the way she looks at us, the audience, that we are falling in love with her! The very mention that she has a boyfriend gives him a “migraine” like before with Lucy. He goes out of his way to take non prescription pharmaceuticals to control these sinister urges, but unfortunately like all classic monster movies, the beast has to come out. He follows a girl home from a dance studio, chases her through a subway and into a parking lot where perhaps the most daunting and brutal murder of the film takes place, as hides under a car, slicing her Achilles tendon as she walks by and stabbing her repeatedly in the back until finally scalping her and posing by a car, so that his reflection resembles the original movie poster. It’s actually a clever nod, seeing as how we don’t get the infamous bathroom or shotgun scenes.

Having borrowed some of Frank’s mannequins for an art show, Anna invites him to said show where everyone seems to be judgmental of the two, but they are lost in each other’s creativity, as Frank and Anna speak, you really get a sense of the tragedy that they most likely will not end up together. At this point, it’s really debatable if this is a love story or not. You want nothing more than for her to save him from all his troubles. You want Frank to tell Anna that he loves her and maybe that’s the true horror of this film and not the murders; that Frank and Anna will never be together. And as if seeing Anna with her beau wasn’t enough to crush his spirits, he’s ridiculed by him for potentially being a closet homosexual (jocks at an art show… this IS fiction) and then by Anna’s manager. Frank follows her home and in a rather disturbing scene, Frank watches her bathe for a moment, just before dunking her head underwater. He then begins yelling at her as if he were yelling at his mother for the terrible things she did and then scalping her. It’s in this scene where you think maybe Frank doesn’t believe that he is killing anyone, but helping them to live on forever.

maniac_4After receiving the news that her manager is dead, Anna calls up Frank who is more than happy to console her. However, Frank lets a few things slip as you watch Anna’s facial expressions change from sad, to quizzical, to horrified as she realizes Frank is a killer. Realizing she is in terrible danger, she now fights off the psychotic Frank, who tells her he wants nothing more than to help her and take her away, all leading to a very dark, but unfortunately for Frank, fitting end.

In a word, Maniac is intense. Although it contains the same elements and ideas of the original, it feels like a completely different beast. But that’s how a remake should feel. For starters, the entire movie is shot from Frank’s POV, with a few exceptions where the camera will come out from his eyes and we see him committing horrendous acts of violence, which is incredibly effective as you see the murder through the killer’s eyes, then transition to be an audience to it. Frank himself is quite different, being an unassuming, charming young man rather than the chubby, greasy (no offense) counterpart and Elijah Wood plays this role eerily convincing. It’s seriously my favorite portrayal of a character in a long time. Elijah Wood ‘kills’ it! We also go into his childhood quite a bit and examine his mother issues, which there aren’t that many. So it feels like the film could do without these scenes and still work, but the way they are shown is pretty traumatizing. Especially when you see little Frank’s mother getting gang banged as he watches from the closet… and she knows he’s in there. Ah, brings back memories.

As I said before, the entire cinematography is from the point of view of Frank. We are looking through his eyes, which you would think could get nauseating or even be distracting, but the shots are smooth and don’t bob around so much like it would with a free hand found footage type of movie. This also makes viewing it ghastly, like you are a part of this macabre destruction and gore. Speaking of gore, Maniac may not contain the famous head explosion like the original, but it has more than enough repulsive violence and bloodshed to go around! A majority of the effects are practical (or a combination of composite shots) and seeing Frank use his buck knife or straight razor to remove his victims scalps, then slowly pull them off may require you to prepare barf bags before viewing. And to further shake your core, the score by Rob is a simple one, reminiscent of John Carpenter, with an easy synth beat and heavy stings, but always fitting the mood of the movie.

Maniac
While it does take the idea of the original and stays true to the classic, it does take its own path while it tells its own story. I guess you could call it an ‘updated version’ (and by that I don’t mean they use computers and cell phones… although they do). Maniac is most definitely a modern day horror film that will eventually become a classic on its own merit, rather than lurking in the shadow of William Lustig’s original 1980 shocker. In fact, this may very well spawn clones of POV serial killer movies, which will soon become annoying, just like all found footage and possession movies. Check out Maniac, alone or on a date… but not with anyone you met on a dating website.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Frank the Apache.
  • Mannequin makeover.
  • Goodbye horses… goodbye, Lucy!
  • Strangers on a subway.
  • Maniac Migraine.
  • If you have a mommy issue, reach for a tissue.
  • Grand Theft Anna.
  • Frank spills his guts.
totals

9

blood

BLOOD

Blood and guts galore with plenty of scalping.

8

blood

BREASTS

All kinds and all sizes for the kiddies!

10

beast

BEASTS

Although a bit more sympathetic, Elijah Wood ‘kills’ it as Frank. He pulls off totally unassuming and totally bonkers.

9 OVERALL
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Oct

Comments Off on Phoenix the Warrior

Tagline: Sexploitation Sinema Has Never Been So Fun!

Year: 1988 Runtime: 89 min

Director: Robert Hayes

Writer: Robert Hayes, Dan Rotblatt

Starring: Persis Khambatta, Kathleen Kinmont, Peggy McIntaggart

Phoenix the Warrior is also known as She-Wolves of the Wasteland. I mention this partially for thoroughness’s sake, but mostly because it sets expectations exactly where they need to be. This is a very simple movie: put scantily clad, or preferably topless, women in front of the camera for roughly 90 minutes. And that’s exactly what the film delivers.

The story, such as it is, goes like this: a bacteriological war killed most of the world’s men and left only a handful of women.The Reverend Mother (think female Emperor Palpatine) rose into power, both in government and in magic. Don’t know how, it’s just vomited out in the opening exposition. Somehow—I’m going with Science Magick™—she creates all the post-war people, which are all women. Thing is, she is powered by draining the life from others, and women don’t have as much juice as men. Problem is, she’s killed all the men “working” them in the sperm banks. So…

The final seed is stolen by The Breeders, a group of women who want to breed more humans, and used to impregnate Keela, some woman. And by the grace of the Goddess it’s a boy.

(And there was much rejoicing. Yay.)

Phoenix comes along just in time to save Keela from the Reverend Mother and her goonettes. Then the passage of time goes all quantum retarded. The day after they escape Skyler, the boy child, is born. I assume that this streamlined procreation process is due to the lack of men. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. There’s lots of topless women in the tribe that takes Phoenix and Keela in.

The Reverend Mother has the power of Baby Birth Detection with Slight Baby GPS, which gives her the location to send the goonettes, led by Cobalt (Persis “Ilia” Khambatta). Unfortunately only the Topless Ones are killed in the raid. Phoenix, Keela, and newborn Skyler escape.

The next day Skyler is about 5 years old. Nah, just kidding. He’s five because it is five years later. Robert Hayes is terrible about conveying the passage of time. Just when the audience is completely confused, he falls back on exposition in order to set things straight. Keela: “No one has seen us in 5 years.”

Oh. Ok. Thanks. That cleared that up. Not much has changed in 5 years. Everyone looks the same. Clothes are the same. Hair’s the same. What the hell? Maybe it’s that good dessert air. Show some breast and all is forgotten.

While on the run Phoenix, Keela, and Skyler find a ramshackle shack. They bed down for the night only to wake to a gas masked interloper standing over them. Phoenix kicks her in the va-jay-jay and Keela busts her in the head with a rock. Down she goes. Under the gas mask is…

A MAN! Named, conveniently, Guy.

Realization sets in. Oh, noes! He’s broke! “There’s nothing more useless than a man that doesn’t work.” Preach on, Phoenix. (She’s talking about his pee-pee.)

Meanwhile, a drifter brings a toy to Cobalt who takes it to the Reverend Mother. Using her powers as an object empath, she determines it is the boy child’s toy. And again she uses her power of Slight Baby GPS to locate the boy child.

In their lust to satisfy the Reverend Mother, the goonettes rush in all half-vaginaed. Their plan? Crash their truck through the shanty where he’s hiding. Nothing could possibly go wrong, amirite? Luckily Guy has an escape pipe which he, Keela, and Skyler manage to get through. Unluckily Phoenix gets captured.

Here there’s the obligatory “gladiator fighting pits” scene. Phoenix makes a friend of Neon, one of the gladiatoresses. Phoenix then kicks some butt. Keela and Guy come to her rescue. Weeeeee!

Back together and with some sweet post-apocolypse wheels, they make a run for the Badlands in order to find some place safe to live.

This is an even better idea than the goonettes running their truck into the shanty. The Badlands are the home of the Rezule, TV worshiping mutants. Honestly they don’t seem very tough or frightening. Considering they don’t have guns, and Phoenix and crew do, I can’t understand why they were worried. It’s like being worried by Romero zombies or 70’s Daleks. You can walk by them, but it was in the script so the Rezule are fearsome.

To insult our intelligence Phoenix says, “End of the road,” when they make it to the Badlands. The end of the road is a slight hill with dead bushes. There’s no way they can drive a car though that, so they set off on foot. Hayes couldn’t think of something more realistic like running out of gas? Sigh.

The Doofus Crew promptly gets captured. Magically, out of the dead bushes, comes Cobalt and the goonettes. They take Guy and Skyler. The Rezule get to deal with Phoenix and Keela.

Now is the Reverend Mother’s moment of glory. She has Guy to refill the bank. She has Skyler to refill herself. Perfect, right? She starts off by telling Skyler to prepare himself. Really? Prepare himself? What is the boy going to do? Ask for a blind fold and a cigarette? Pray to his God? Eat his final meal? He’s five. He just stands there looking at her.

Guy, whose chained nearby, tells the Reverend Mother to take him instead. Naturally he won’t do, plus he’s got a bank to fill. Being a nice lady, the Reverend Mother gives Guy the option to watch.

At this point you’d think the Reverend Mother would dig in, right? Everything she’s been waiting years for is right there. She’s told Skyler to prepare himself. Guy’s watching. Well, not so much. What she does is sit there. She waits, giving Phoenix and Keela time escape (with the miraculously timed arrival of Neon, remember her?) to make it to her, set up a pointless diversion, kill her goonettes, and ultimately kill her. Too bad intelligence wasn’t one of the Reverend Mother’s powers.

The movie closes with the same inexplicable scene that opens the film: Phoenix, horseback, on the beach.

roadside attractions

  • Witness the Topless Dance of Birth! Goddess be praised!
  • Thrill at the vicious fight choreography!
  • Boobs! ‘Nuff said.
  • Marvel at the Rezule, TV people in the badlands who read from the scriptures of TV Guide!
  • Fill your eyes with Bikini Babes with machine guns!
totals

5

blood

BLOOD

There are a few good shots, but for all the burlets spent there’s not much blood spilled.

10

blood

BREASTS

The one thing this film got right: lots of breasts to keep the audience’s attention.

5

beast

BEASTS

In a dystopian world you’d think there would be more mutants. Sadly there’s only the Reverend Mother and the Rezule.

6.66 OVERALL
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Oct

Comments Off on Pieces

Pieces
1983 – Unrated – Grindhouse Releasing

Grindhouse Releasing is responsible for distributing the most sadistic, trashiest, violent and perverted films known to man and that’s why we love them. There’s something about films filled with unnecessary gore and nudity that really captivate you. It’s like it fills an arcane void, satisfying your darkest needs so you won’t lash out at the public. Take the film Pieces, for example. It’s permeate with buckets of gore, murder, nudity and hokiness any everyday Samaritan who is about to detonate with rage could need.

It’s 1942 in Boston and although the Patriots pennant on the wall won’t exist until the 60’s, a young lad sits deliberating, solving where the next piece to his nudie puzzle should go. His mother enters and instantly starts slapping him like she’s Chris Brown and grabs a garbage bag (from the future apparently, since those weren’t invented until the 50’s) and tosses the puzzle in there. Like any rational young boy, he axes her to death, out of nowhere, severs the body with a saw, grinning away the whole time. This is just in time for the cleaning lady and the police to show up and find him, and his mother’s head, and call his aunt with a push button phone from the 70’s. Wow, you could call this a period piece… Period Pieces… ahem.

pieces_2Forty years later, a pair of black rubber gloved hands, presumably the young boy all grown up, starts to piece the puzzle back together. After a moment of that, the movie decides to show you a college girl on a skateboard crash into a giant mirror being carried across the sidewalk by two movers, which I thought they only did in cartoons. This scene is irrelevant to the movie, but it’s warming you up for what’s in store. Next, we see another young college girl studying on the grass, played by the same actress oddly enough (and no, I don’t know if it’s supposed to be the same girl) as someone covered head to toe in a long coat, scarf and fedora is doing some light gardening with a chainsaw. What other attire would be proper to garden in? Rather than cut down some branches, he decapitates her, spewing gallons of blood! Hope you aren’t squeamish, because it only gets better from here.

Have no fear, Lt. Bracken (played by the favorable Christopher George) is on the case, usually chewing on what looks like a Slim Jim. On campus, he meets with the dean, played by Edmund Perdom, who seems to be overly pointing the finger at the groundskeeper, Willard, a large oafish man, reminding you of Bluto from Popeye. He seems innocent enough, even if he is chuckling to himself while passionately cleaning a chainsaw. Overcompensating for something, Willard?

pieces_3This is when we are introduced to campus stud (the movie’s words, not mine), Kendall. He’s like if you crossed Steve Guttenberg with Richie Cunningham. The babes are on him so thick, he has to peel them off like wet bologna stuck to aluminum siding on a hot summer day. He’s about to secure himself a dip in the pool with some hot bitty, but someone dressed like The Shadow hacks her up. But as fate would have it, Kendall’s paths cross with Lt. Bracken, who recruits Kendall to be his “inside guy,” because it’s not like he has a whole station of cops who are paid to investigate and track down the murder suspect. Endangering the welfare of a college student for free is a better suited idea.

After much Slim Jim chewing, Lt. Bracken decides maybe he does actually need some type of law enforcement personal working undercover. He pairs Kendall up with Mary Riggs, played by his real life wife (say that five times fast), Lynda Day. Her resume boasts, Pro Tennis star/Cop, which I’m sure are two skills that are often used simultaneously.

On a side note, that would make an awesome show, Pro Tennis star turned Detective. It could be called Justice Served!

Anyway, it feels like several minutes since a woman has been brutally butchered, so while doing some solo aerobics one evening, random girl #3 gets the feeling she is being watched and dashes for the elevator. She hops on, along with a man shrouded completely in black clothes and hat, thinking nothing about that could be suspicious, until her arm is lopped off by his chainsaw. First a head, then a torso and now arms… what could the killer possibly be doing with body parts in a movie called Pieces?

The next night, or that same night, or it really doesn’t matter, Kendall, just having finished bumping uglies with some random skank, hangs one out for the ladies and spots Mary walking in the dark from his window. Mary can’t help but hear someone is creeping up on her. Just then, the assailant jumps out of the bushes and does Karate kicks at her! Terrified, she slowly backs up, just as the intruder doubles over with indigestion. This is when Kendall rolls up on his hog (wimpy dirt bike) and introduces Mary to his “Kung-Fu Professor.” He apologizes for his random lashing out of sporadic martial arts, blames it on some bad chop suey and goes about his night. Kendall gives Mary a ride home, hoping to get lucky. Nobody speaks of this scene again.

pieces_4By now, you may have caught yourself asking, “What the hell does that scene have to do with anything?” The answer is nothing. It doesn’t have anything to do with anything, but that’s a part of Pieces‘ charm. This scene was thrown in because apparently producer Dick Randall was working on a martial arts film with Bruce Lee imitator, Bruce Le and added that scene because… he couldn’t wait to show you his movie? There are a few other scenes that feel out of place, like the girl crashing through the mirror, but you already know you’re in for a wild ride.

To be fair that last scene did serve as a transition to another scene, as a reporter from earlier is knifed to death on a waterbed. I could have mentioned her earlier, but she goes by so fast, you barely notice. This is leading into the final piece of the puzzle, so to speak, as the chainsaw wielding maniac carves a young girl in half after a tennis match… which leads to one of the greatest reactions from Lynda Day, as she shrieks into the air and curses the villain with a clenched fist, like she’s auditioning for Super Friends. Interesting little tidbit, they actually used a pig carcass for the grisly scene! Well, that’s enough victims and this film’s been going on long enough.

Kendall works at digging through personal files with the police as Mary heads to the dean’s house. Everyone seems to be zeroing in on the killer, who has all the body parts he needs, but what for? Just wait until you see, as they reveal the killer to be… exactly who you think it is! Especially if you know your film history, this seems to be a bit of typecasting. Oh and I’m sure the ending will still surprise you.

Pieces
To reiterate what I said earlier, Pieces is the crowning example of what people generally think of when they think of Grindhouse or Drive-In Classic. The premise is basic, yet with its twists and filled with oddball characters making daffy choices, packing enough macabre imagery soaked in blood and exhibiting some fine 80’s T & A. You’ll chuckle at the dialogue and line delivery, as characters seem to be taking it perhaps a bit too seriously or not enough. And let’s not forget scenes that seem to come completely out of left field. It may leave you scratching your head at parts, but for the most part, you’ll be jumping back in your seat with disgust or laughter. In every definition of the word, it’s a riot. It’s exactly what an exploitation film is defined as. It’s worth every penny to see.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Extreme gardening!
  • Piecing the puzzle together.
  • Skinny dip massacre.
  • Give her a hand… or arm!
  • Half-off tennis players.
  • Campus Stumped.
  • Franken-woman.
totals

10

blood

BLOOD

Color this campus red!

8

blood

BREASTS

Topless option college. And a little something for the ladies.

7

beast

BEASTS

As if The Shadow with a chainsaw isn’t bad enough, you have to look our for Kung-Fu Professors and Willard.

8.3 OVERALL
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Sep

Comments Off on V/H/S/2

V/H/S/2
2013 – Unrated/R – Magnet

You either loved it or you hated it, but there’s no denying that last year’s V/H/S gave a fresh spin on the quickly tiring found footage genre. It gave it a primo, and mostly perverse, look and took the idea of the anthology and made it seem newfangled, like it was in the 80’s. It was a very pleasing mix of perversion, violence and short storytelling. So it would make sense that they would decide to do a sequel the following year, with bigger filmmakers names attached to the project. Now the burning question is, does it surpass its predecessor?

It opens up familiar enough, in POV, of a man (played Simon Barrett, baring his dong… ladies) cheating on his wife. This leads nowhere, mind you, but sets up our two leads who are private investigators, Larry and Ayesha in the bookend segment, Tape 49. We soon learn they have been hired by some woman to find her missing son, break into his apartment and root around for clues. The two person Mystery Inc. wastes no time as they reach their destination. They immediately hear a loud bang and pry open a window, shortly discovering a room littered with televisions and VHS tapes, a welcoming site to those who enjoyed the first film, no doubt. Larry decides to “Go and check” out the rest of the place, rummaging through notebooks (and oddly reminding me of the PS1 classic Resident Evil), leaving Ayesha to watch the tapes. And what could be one those tapes? Well, it’s not Veggie Tales.

vhs2_2The first segment, entitled Phase I Clinical Trials, stars You’re Next director Adam Wingard. He also directed this segment, a clever way of keeping the budget low. His character was in a car accident and receives an experimental robotic eye of sorts that would make the Six Million Dollar Man weep. The eye can record what it sees, so the company that built it can analyze the data (imagine the poor sap that has to sit through hours of footage of him playing video games or pooping). Soon, he begins seeing dead people around his house. A girl from the hospital tracks him down and reveals that she had a cochlear implant from the same company and could hear dead people. Between the two of them, Haley Joel Osment is a punk. The more they interact with the spirits, the more the spirits can appear and harm them… clearly, not heading toward a happy ending.

vhs2_3Next up is A Ride in the Park, which sounds innocent enough, but boy would you be wrong. A man named Mike is all set for a joyous bike ride in the park, hence the title, with his GoPro camera, when he comes across a woman who has been bitten by a pack of zombies. Mike is bitten on the neck and bleeds to death after fleeing. Shortly, another couple finds him and wouldn’t you know it, Mike turns and bites them. Soon, zombies are tearing through a youngster’s birthday party. Still beats having your dad drunkenly tell you how disappointed he is in you. Now, most of you know my stance on the current zombie pop culture trend: Their boring, uninspiring and just clones of the previous popular zombie flick, but The Blair Witch director Eduardo Sanchez along with Jamie Nash give it a spin that hasn’t been seen since possibly Day of the Dead. Their zombies retain some knowledge of a previous life, as Mike demonstrates throughout the segment and the ending is rather bittersweet after he gets a call from his wife.

Safe Haven, from the director of The Raid, is most likely the most disturbing of the bunch. Using the angle of a documentary crew, they are invited to interview the leader of a cult and learn more about their faith. It just so happens to be at the time when the cult commits a mass suicide and sacrificing one of the documentary’s crew member’s unborn child to spawn their God, which is more like Satan. I don’t know what that says, but this is the one that really brings the punch. The imagery is savage and with the leader of the cult dancing and singing wearing nothing but tighty whities, self mutilated, you’ll think twice about entering a place far from civilization. The ending is hiliarious, but also will give you willies.

vhs2_4 Last, but not least, we have Hobo With a Shotgun director Jason Eisener’s Slumber Party Alien Abduction. Of all the segments, this one is by far my favorite. It’s a group of teenagers building cardboard box robot costumes, something I’m sure we all did. No? Just me? They play cruel pranks on one their sisters and each other, all being filmed by a GoPro strapped to their dog. Just when things are getting tense between the two groups of adolescents, a thunderous boom and bright lights shock them. The power goes out and aliens are trying to get into the house, brilliantly lit with a strobe light and this is when you start getting scared… real fast. The aliens drag them outside and throw them into the lake and only a few make it out, fleeing for the remainder of the segment as they hide from the intruders, nearly being caught at every turn. This one will have you clutching your chest and calling for Elizabeth.

Finally, the movie closes on Tape 49 once our lead watches on a tape what exactly that loud bang was on a tape. After seeing what he saw, he’ll probably wish he had been watching hours of Kathy Griffin stand up.

Something you may have noticed about V/H/S/2 is it seems to be more constructed like a movie, using multiple cameras and different angles, but still using different forms of consumer style cameras to give that found footage feel. For the most part, the acting is a lot more solid, but it makes it feel less like home movies and more like… ahem, a movie. But it’s the way that the stories are constructed that makes it a solid anthology. Regardless of having a slightly more cinematic feel to it, V/H/S/2 is strong and relentless from start to finish. Unlike the previous entry, there isn’t a dull ho hum tale of the group.

V/H/S/2

V/H/S/2 is certainly on par, if not superior to V/H/S and a worthy successor. Here’s to looking forward to the third entry! Pick up your copy at Magnet’s website and for god’s sake, don’t break into a stranger’s house and start watching stacks of tapes! One of them could be a Bill Rebane film.

Check out this review and plenty others at Goon Reviews.

roadside attractions

  • Start your movie with a little bit o’ donger.
  • Eye see dead people.
  • Happy ‘Death’day!
  • Singing in undies.
  • Papa of a demon.
  • Alien disco party.
  • Explosive migraine.
totals

10

blood

BLOOD

Every segment is covered in all kinds of guts, organs and plasma!

7

blood

BREASTS

It’s a requirement of each segment to bare some ta-ta’s.

10

beast

BEASTS

Ghosts, ghouls, zombies, devil and aliens. The only thing it’s missing is Santa.

9 OVERALL
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About the Highway

Lost Highway is your satirical detour down the twisted back roads of b-movies and cult films reviews. learn more >>