Friday, 29 May 2020

Mo Movies 33


CULT MOVIES PART I - A SPACE DEBRIS RAMBLE
If you're an old school cult movie fan, you know into  El Topo (1970), Pink Flamingos (1972), Rocky Horror (1975), Eraserhead (1977)Night Of The Living Dead (1968) etc. and haven't refreshed over the last ten or twenty years you might not know of the rising cult film Runaway Nightmare (1982) reviewed below.


A whole new set of cult-y movies are lining up to take over from the old tired midnight movie cannon. Things like Office Space (1999), Audition (1999), Battle Royale (2000), American Psycho (2000), Ichi The Killer (2001), Donnie Darko (2001), Oldboy (2003), The Room (2003), Shaun Of The Dead (2004), Jennifer's Body (2009), Mother (2009), District 9 (2009), Birdemic (2010), Attack The Block (2011), Spring Breakers (2012), It Follows (2014), Inherent Vice (2014) et al. are the more recently made films entering into this zone. Whether or not their cult status will hold is another question.

When Donnie Darko first appeared on cinema screens it was an instant cult movie a bit like Panos Cosmatos' 2018 gem Mandy. Over the years I've noticed interest wane a bit in Donnie Darko but in the last couple of years the cult has come back strong. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004) and Napolean Dynamite (2004) seemed destined for cult movie immortality but they have both faded from view. Were they too successful at the time or even trying to be cult movies? I really do think in Jared Hess's case with Napolean Dynamite he was just trying way too hard to invent a cult movie. Directors don't make cult films the public do. There are certain characteristics that come in handy for a movie to become cult-y especially if it was a flop either at the box office or critically and even better if it was both. Something being just a bit off or askew about the film that makes it imperfect for audiences at the time of release is also a good trait for your future cult movie to have. Sometimes you need your film to become cherished after people, maybe even the next generation, rediscover then re-watch it once a particular amount of time has gone by. Re-watchability is the key ingredient for a movie to become cult. Time will tell if inept films like The Room and Birdemic will remain revered items or just fleeting curiosities. Movies such as Attack The Block, Battle Royale, American Psycho, Audition and Ichi The Killer only seem to be gaining in cult-y momentum. It will be interesting to see if the public's attention will stay on South Korean movies or shift away due to a backlash after commercial success or if something else comes along to usurp the collective imagination. Mike Judge, Paul Thomas Anderson, Karyn Kusama and Edgar Wright seem to be the directors de-jour of the last twenty years for young cult audiences as they not only have a film mentioned in the above list but others waiting in the cult-movie wings ie. Idiocracy (2006), The Master (2012), The Invitation (2015) and Scott Pilgrm (2010). Watch this space. 


Cruising (1980), Maniac (1980), Possession (1981), Evil Dead (1981), Basket Case (1982), Going Down (1983), Sleepaway Camp (1983), Repo Man (1984), This Is Spinal Tap (1984), Razorback (1984), Re-Animator (1985), Dogs In Space (1986), Withnail & I (1987), Bad Taste (1987), Ghosts Of The Civil Dead (1988), Akira (1988), Spoorloos (1988), The Killer (1989) etc. remain the 80s cult movie staples along with pretty much anything made in the 80s by John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, David Lynch, Joe Dante and even apparently now ugh John Hughes. Actually you rarely hear the mention of John Woo or Spinal Tap these days so those pictures may be drifting away from cult zones like other old 80s cult favourites The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980), Forbidden Zone (1980), Eating Raoul (1982), The Outsiders (1983), Peter Greenaway, Wim Wenders, Brazil (1985), Subway (1985) and Mona Lisa (1986) have. These films will remain near and dear to Gen Xers but they don't seem to be translating to younger tastes. I mean I doubt my 22 year old niece has even heard of Peter Greenaway or The Gods Must Be Crazy but she has seen The Room, Donnie Darko, Shaun Of The Dead and It Follows.

John Carpenter
's The Thing (1982) has become the 80s Vertigo (1958). It was considered a disaster critically and at the box office at the time of release, has built up a rabid cult following over the years, has been re-assessed and is now considered one of the best films ever made.


People are still digging up the weird and wild from the 80s for your viewing pleasure though. The cult builders like Drafthouse, Vinegar Syndrome, Film Twitter, Shout Factory, Twilight Time, general movie-goers, film-makers and self-appointed guru tastemakers are staking a claim for some less well known 80s movies to take over. Night Of The Comet (1984) seems to have rapidly risen up the cult movie charts in the last ten years along with a few others like Night Of The Juggler (1980), Mystics In Bali (1981), New York Ripper (1982), Liquid Sky (1982), Grease 2 (1982), Vice Squad (1982), Siege (1983), 10 To Midnight (1983), Walking The Edge (1983/5), After Hours (1985), My Chauffeur (1986), White Of The Eye (1986), Near Dark (1987) Lady Terminator (1988), How To Get Ahead In Advertising (1989) and Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989). Hmm perhaps I'll discuss what's going on with shot on video classics, 80s kids/teen movies plus cult films from the 90s next time.

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Runaway Nightmare (1982) 
Mike Cartel is the one & done director behind this cult movie. A couple of worm farming dudes Ralph (Mike Cartel) & Jason (Al Valetta) discover a lady who has been buried alive. The worm wrangling duo are then kidnapped by a criminal desert dwelling cult of women. The worm farmers are initiated into the cult for use of their muscle but then find themselves embroiled in a heist against the mob, violence, sex, time-bombs, witchy goings on and more. Vinegar Syndrome, the Blu-ray company, restored and issued a Blu-ray of this recently so that might give you some idea of what kind of flick this is. Runaway Nightmare will have your jaw dropping several times. Whether that's a good thing or not probably depends upon you. If you're up for a WTF? plot with strange acting and odd dialogue that feels like it was directed by John Waters' long lost cousin from Death Valley you are going to love it otherwise move along nothing to see here. I think this was one of the first ever movies to be released straight to video ensuring it inevitable cult status. Runaway Nightmare feels like an exploitation movie that doesn't know what exactly it's exploiting. Perhaps I'll call it Worm Farming-sploitation. Late Night Movie of The Week.


Battles Without Honour and Humanity aka Tarnished Code of Yakuza (1973)
A Yakuza film that apparently changed the face of the Yakuza genre although five years earlier there was Outlaw: Gangster VIP (1968) followed by several sequels so perhaps this is an overstatement created by retro marketing spin doctoring. Even this film's director Kinj Fukasaku made the masterpiece Street Mobster, a modern tale of yakuza life, the previous year. If you don't know, the yakuza is the Japanese mafia. So this film right here is considered to be The Japanese Godfather. It certainly has many parallels with that film but this isn't some kind of copycat deal. These stories are based upon Kōzō Minō's (an imprisoned member of the Yakuza at the time) manuscript that were novelised by journalist Kōichi Iiboshi. The tales here are of real life events in Japan's mob underworld post WW2. Battles Without... is a stellar gangster picture with all the accoutrements prison, corruption, parole, brutal violence, initiation into the mob, cop murder, yakuza codes gone awry, utter chaos, drugs, murder, hierarchy, betrayal, nihilism, the bleakness of futility and more murder. I am very excited as there are another four films in this series.


The Street Fighter (1974)
More 70s action from Japan via the legendary Toei Studio. Sonny Chiba as Terry Tsurugi karate kicks and karate chops his way through a whole lot of corrupt business people and Yakuza to try and protect oil fortune heiress Sarai (Doris Nakajima). This is quite possibly the first Japanese martial arts flick I've ever seen and I think it was exactly the right place to start as this is karate gold. Look out for spectacular scenes where Terry castrates a rapist with his bare hands and rips out the vocal chords of assassin Junjo Shickenbaru (Milton Ishibashi). This is a whole lotta bloody bare knuckled gory fun. Late Night Movie Of The Week.


Dead & Buried (1981)
This is a nifty lil' horror gem. Halfway through you might think "Oh I've seen it all before" but hold your horses as it's well worth waiting until the very end for the pay off. I recommend you go into this flick with as little knowledge as possible about the plot. It's weird, spooky and set by the seaside. Can you go wrong with that combo? Nope, Gary Sherman of Death Line (1972) and Vice Squad (1982) fame directs.


Come Drink with Me (1966)
More top chop socky from the Shaw Bros Studio. Set during the Ming Dynasty this wuxia movie stars Cheng Pei Pei as Golden Swallow and Yueh Hua as Drunken Cat. This duo have to battle their way through an evil monastery where Golden Swallow's brother is being kept hostage. Will this duo survive the violent antics of Liao Kung (Yeung Chi-hing) and the brilliantly named Jade Faced Tiger (Chan Hung-lit)? Or will evil prevail? Things get complicated when it emerges that Drunken Cat has mixed feeling about fighting Liao Kung. There are grey areas in classic good versus evil tales. Late Night Movie Of The Week.  




Alleycat Rock: Female Boss aka Stray Cat Rock: Delinquent Girl Boss (1970)
Top lil el cheapo lady biker exploitation flick from Japan's Nikkatsu Studio. The Japanese (mis)understand pop culture and pop art on a whole other level to anybody else. This movie beats Roger Corman at his own game! This stars my new favourite actor Meiko Kaji plus pop star Akiko Wada. We get the works in this pop art pile up. There's girl gangs, right wing nationalists, rebel motorbike clubs, fake delinquents getting wasted, villains in a dune buggy, a fixed boxing match, implied lesbianism, bloody knife violence, gangsters, a psychedelic rock nightclub, general disillusion, a crazy car chase through the streets of Tokyo, eye catching fashion, guns, love and more. The car chase which is two dudes in a dune buggy chasing the bad arse Ako (Akiko Wada) on her motorbike throughout the Shinjuku district of Tokyo is worth the price of admission alone. The cinematography from Muneo Ueda is gloriously berserk. You've never seen some of these angles before. Yasuharu Hasebe's direction is wild with surprising splashes of colour. If that all sounds good to you then you need to see Alleycat Rock: Female Boss. Late Night Movie Of The Week.


Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
I missed this blockbuster at the time, just never got around to it. A Maori foster child Ricky (Julian Dennison) gets one last chance with a strange rural couple otherwise he's off to Juvey. Events unfold unexpectedly so Ricky and Uncle Hector (Sam Neil) end up on the run from the law. As the cops close in on the unlikely pair of outlaws they end up deep in the bush. All sorts of comic antics and misunderstandings take place in this charming adventure-drama. Kids love it because it's got kids doing bad things and it's essentially a kids' film. Hunt For The Wilderpeople became the highest grossing film in New Zealand's history. Director, writer, producer Taika Waititi is on a hell of a winning streak even winning an Oscar this year for 2019's JoJo Rabbit. Oh and it's got New Zealand's funniest man Murray from Flight Of The Conchords in a small role.


Stray Cat Rock: Wild Jumbo aka Alleycat Rock: Wild Jumbo (1970)
This is the second film in the Alley/Stray Cat Rock series. This one isn't about bikers or violent urban girl gangs but it's nihilistic as fuck despite its mostly bucolic setting. This is not in any way a continuation of Female Boss although many of the same actors appear here but they are totally different characters, other people. Wild Jumbo is a mix up of an existential road movie, a beach flick and a heist film with a bit of revenge chucked in. A directionless delinquent gang are tipped off as to the whereabouts of a load of cash by Asako (Bunjaku Han). Asako is an independently wealthy mistress of a cult leader but she wants revenge upon the new religion. The gang, which includes C-ko (Meiko Kaji) and a bunch of dudes, arm themselves with some old rusty WWII weaponry and map out a foolproof plan to earn 30 million Yen. This is a weird movie with the heist really only coming into play in the last twenty minutes. Wild Jumbo is directed by Toshiya Fujita (Lady Snowblood) so it doesn't quite have the insane audacity of the director/cinematographer combo of Hasebe/Ueda but there are occasionally some pretty cool stylistic flourishes especially the underwater work, freeze frames, sped up footage, negative film and most bizarrely the usage of a speech bubble.


Return Of The Street Fighter aka Blood Of The Dragon (1974) 
Sensational action packed sequel martial arts/revenge/yakuza mega mix with more ocular violence than a Giallo film. Sonny Chiba is back as Terry Tsurugi and he's in fine bare knuckled karate form. This must be seen for several great scenes including Terry's jailbreak, the eye-popping karate headkick and a WTF? moment you will not believe so long as you've seen the original Street Fighter (1974). This is pure pop culture entertainment!



Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter aka Alleycat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970)
A title that seems to have got lost in translation but would have suited the international exploitation market so what the heck I suppose. There is attempted sex trafficking and there is human hunting but there's not really sex hunting anyway... Hasebe is back in the director's chair for the third film in The Alley Cat/Stray Cat Rock series. This is the most perplexing of The Alleycat Rock series so far with its social issues and narratively it's the least cohesive. The girl gang The Alleycats hang out with the boy gang The Eagles but there is a rift and they soon become rivals. The Eagles have gone full fascistic and racist. Mako (Meiko Kaji) meets and becomes fond of Kazuma (Rikiya Yasuoka) who is a half breed Afro-Japanese. This is not going to be cool with Baron (Tatsuya Fuji) the leader of The Eagles who has previously been in a chaste relationship with Mako. However that's not all. He is angry as his sister was supposedly raped by a half breed Afro-Japanese man. A purge of mixed race men from their town is ordered by the Eagles. What will become of all this turmoil?


Cheap Thrills (2014)
This should have been called Demented Cheap Thrills. A dude Craig (Pat Healy) is in a bar, he's down on his luck and his downward spiral continues when he meets a wealthy psychopathic couple. These coked up arseholes dare him to play silly little drinking games but eventually their dares escalate to acts far too extreme for normal humans to even contemplate. Whether or not this film is supposed to make you think about what lengths you would go to for money or just an excuse to make a brutally violent movie is a bit of a moot point as it's all pretty unconvincing. That might just be me though because I just couldn't help thinking that's Pat Healy the nice chap I heard talking on a podcast once but here he is doing actoring. Well worth a look if you like extremely despicable people doing intensely horrible things. I know that sounds great and it's actually a really good premise. I wanted to like it more but...



Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009)
Not a bad little primer on American horror movies. But if you've seen things like Eli Roth's 7 part season History Of Horror (2018) or the 3 part A History of Horror With Mark Gatiss (2010) you really don't need to see this. Nightmares... however was made previous to those two documentaries. We get a lot of male (not one woman) talking heads as they go through a hundred years of American and some Canadian horror movies. I guess the Canadian flag is red and white so they can technically get away with this. Joe Dante is always eloquent and interesting while Mick Garris is just eloquent. This documentary is narrated by the man with a golden voice Lance Henriksen. It also includes interviews with legends Roger Corman, George A Romero, Larry Cohen, John Carpenter and a bunch of less noteworthy movie people.

The best bit was a great piece of editing which contained a bunch of sex and slashings from the Friday The 13th films. That 3 minute sequence on its own would be a visual essay masterpiece.

Anyway an hour and a half is not enough time to cover everything so many great horror films get overlooked ie. Let's Scare Jessica To Death (1971), Messiah Of Evil (1973), Black Christmas (1974), I Spit On Your Grave (1978),  Maniac (1980), The Changeling (1980), The Hitcher (1986), Night Of The Creeps (1986) etc.

There was definitely no room for horrific pictures that are in other genres like The Wizard Of Oz (1939), The Honeymoon Killers (1970),  Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971), Deliverance (1972), The Silent Partner (1978), The Temple Of Doom (1984), Return To Oz (1985) Labyrinth (1986), Requiem For A Dream (2000), Passion Of The Christ (2004), anything concerning The Holocaust or nuclear war etc. This, I've just realised is the perfect topic to make to a documentary about. Actually it's two different topics. The first doc would be called Non horror Movies That Scared The Shit Out Of You When You Were a Kid or just Horrifying Kids Movies. It would be fascinating and so crowd pleasing. I recall Snow White and Sleeping Beauty being scary when I was really small as well as being haunted by TV shows Doctor Who and Catweazle. Actually I can't believe about ten documentaries haven't already been made on this topic, its such an obvious and winning formula. The other doc would be Non Horror Movies That Are Actually Horror Movies. This is a good topic too if not quite as delicious or psychologically charged as the first.


Jesus Camp (2007)
I think this was supposed to upset me, freak me out and make me become an extreme regressive lefty but I got caught up in the whole Jesus juice vibe. The trance-y hysteria these evangelical Pentecostal Christians whip up amongst middle America's kids here is electrifying and palpable. I think I got a little hypnotised. I can equate it to when I was looking into the darkish web and 4chan type of stuff that I was going to write a book about (Angela Nagle beat me to the punch with the excellent Kill All Normies). I spent so long engaging in that dark underbelly it began to rub off on me somewhat. I mean I understand the sick sense of humour of the seediest liberal baiters on the planet as it's infectious. It made me feel sick though that I knew of the song Remove Kebab which was played on the car stereo of the killer responsible for the NZ Mosque massacre. When I was younger the same thing happened when I delved into extreme left politics for a skeptical investigative look. I couldn't help but get some of it on me. I always know deep down I'm a moderate and issue by issue based politically because that's what being a critical thinker is about. In Jesus Camp I'm well aware of the nefariousness of America's moral majority and how it's fucking with everybody's (left of the far right) head.

In this film intellectually you can see the horrible anxiety inducing brainwashing of young minds that is quite possibly child abuse. These fanatics want their children to be vehemently against abortion and to believe that their so called Christian (theologically they are way more old testament rather than gospel based) way is the only right way. At one stage one of the evangelical adults lets it be known that she wants these children to be as intense as children brought up under extreme Islam ie. be willing to die/commit suicide in the name of God at a young age.

This film makes you understand why musical artists like Swans and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds integrate performative aspects and language from evangelical fire & brimstone sermons into their acts because it has such power and passion. It's deliciously intoxicating. I mean Bad Seeds concerts have now actually become spiritual events and I fucking love it.

The film-makers here I think accidentally caught on celluloid the exhilarating momentum these charlatans for Jesus can summon. If they didn't intercut it with snippets of Mike Papantonio's moderate Christian and politically secular radio show this may well have been seen as a very dangerous film that easily could have been misconstrued as an evangelical propaganda film. I'm guessing the film-makers didn't want to inflame Christians into becoming soldiers for God. I reckon they probably wanted the opposite of this scenario to occur.   





Sister Street Fighter (1974)
Five star entertainment! More Japanese karate on film. This is fuckin ace. I know next to nothing about Japanese martial arts movies, except for the two previously mentioned in this post, but I feel like I just might have watched the best one. This is ladies night and the charismatic Sue Shiomi stars as the bad-arse Tina Long. We get blood spurting action fun as Tina fights her way through an army of enemies who have an array of martial art disciplines. Sister Street Fighter includes poison darts, karate fights on dangerous bridges, dungeons, a strip club, a bed of spikes, Sonny Chiba, phoney heroin addiction, broken necks and much more. Late Night Movie Of The Week.       


Theory Of Obscurity: A Film About The Residents (2015)
If you're a fan of The Residents you probably don't need to be told how fabulous they are and you've probably seen most of this footage before. If you are new to them this probably isn't a great place to start either as it's not like a chronological recount of their career. It kinda goes through the very early pre-history and history of the band then a lot of recent tour stuff. It fails to mention that this incredible group had one of the best winning streaks in the history of (un) rock LPs. Between 1974 and 1980 they released these LPs respectively: Meet The Residents, Third Reich 'N' Roll, Fingerprince, Duck Stab, Not Available, Eskimo & Commercial Album. That's seven absolute classics in a row. Some people include the next two records  Mark Of The Mole (81) & The Tune Of Two Cities (82) in that run as well. So that is a rarified position to be in. I can't name many bands with an undeniable run of records like that

During the following 40 years they've had peaks and valleys and an extreme nadir in the 90s. They have been more known for their cutting edge multi-media concert extravaganzas than their albums. In the new millennium they have come back strong ever since 2005's Animal Lover LP however. The Bunny Boy, Lonely Teenager, Mushroom, Talking Light, The Wonder Of Weird, Shadowland, Ghost Of Hope etc. have been some of their late career highs. Apart from all that they've had some wonderful singles, EPs, films, concerts, videos and collaborations. Of course that might all might mean nothing to you as they are most definitely an acquired taste. If you don't know who they are you might have seen their pictures as they gained notoriety in the 70s & 80s for being the anonymous band with giant eyeball heads with a penchant for tuxedos. This was all before Kiss, TISM, Slipknot & Insane Clown Posse. Check out their Third Reich 'N' Roll or Commercial Album LPs and the Satisfaction 7" single then you'll know where you stand with The Residents.

Back to the documentary it's more about the myth making and concept art side of the band which is a bit gimmicky and tired now plus I feel like it has all been covered before in other films, dvds, articles, books and videos. Luckily The Residents have the music to back it up. As they have been anonymous throughout their career it's hard to track how many original members are still left. I think a couple of integral members have recently passed away... but who knows?   


The Visitor (1979)
One of those video shop movies. I must have seen the cover a hundred times but never thought to watch it. Ten years ago I discovered the terrific soundtrack by Franco Micalizzi but I still never thought to watch the film. The Visitor is ubiquitous across pop culture media but still I never bothered with this cult movie. Finally scrolling through tubi I came across it one night while I was severely affected by pain killers. The Visitor finally arrived in my life at the perfect time. For a start check out this for a cast John Huston, Mel Ferrer, Shelley Winters, Glenn Ford, Lance Henriksen, Sam Peckinpah, Franco Nero and even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. What the fuck is going on here then? This must be one of the original sci-fi horror mega-mix pastiche movies before the more recent James Wan and Leigh Whannell type of mega-mix things. This movie mega-mix extravaganza chucks everything in including The Bad Seed, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, The Birds, The Omen, The Exorcist, The Kitchen Sink and a whole lot more to make one of the most enjoyable and batshit crazy movies ever. Funnily enough with all its influences right there in front of you it makes for a one hell of a unique experience. Directed by Michael J. Paradise who I believe was Fellini's sidekick. Late Night Movie Of The Week.

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