Banned by the Soviet authorities, Vecher nakanune Ivana Kupala (The Eve of Ivan Kupalo) is widely held to be one of the masterpieces of Ukrainian Poetic Cinema. Adapted from a short story of Gogol, which had its roots in Ukrainian folklore, the film depicts an almost Faustian pact, in which Piotr makes an unholy deal with Bassaruv in order that he may win the hand of Pidorka from her father. The director Yuri Ilyenko brings the same rich, vivid imagery that he lent to Parajanov’s Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors where he worked as the cinematographer. The film often makes difficult first viewing for unaccustomed viewers due to its hallucinatory nature, but its lucid tapestry renders it a mandatory experience. Continue reading
Reviewed by Tim Merrill
To say that fans of modern genre cinema are a discerning lot is like saying Platinum Dunes puts out sub-par films. There’s no doubt that cinephiles in North America have been forced to look abroad to new directors and movies that provide that ever-elusive boot to the throat.
You’d have to be hard pressed to ignore the transgressive wave of cinema that has come out of France in the last six years. With films like Marina De Van’s In My Skin, Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible, and last year’s gut punch Inside, the French have unapologetically set out to carve new boundaries in entertainment that will hold the timid at bay and scar those willing to bear witness. While many considered Inside to set new standards in extremities in French cinema, the release of Pascal Laugier’s Martyrs has just wiped the slate clean.
Although Martyrs will undoubtedly be compared to Inside in terms of its intensity, the film is a bastard unto itself that manages to surpass its comparisons on all levels. Director Laugier has presented an experience that is both cinematically stunning, yet emotionally devastating, and with all the subtleties of a barbed wire enema. Continue reading
A landmark in fantasy cinema, this lyrical ghost story is set in medieval Japan amid a bloody conflict between rival fiefdoms. While the warrior Kichi’s impoverished wife (Jitsuko Yoshimura) and mother (Nobuko Otowa) wait for his return from battle, they maintain a humble existence by luring lost soldiers into the surrounding fields of tall grass and murdering them in order to sell their armor and weapons for food; the bodies are then disposed of in a deep cavern. After learning that her son has been killed in battle, Otowa begins to concoct a scheme to frighten her daughter-in-law into staying at home with her indefinitely. After killing a soldier clad in a hideous demon mask — which hides his grotesque, scarred face — the mother dons the mask and succeeds in frightening Yoshimura away from her new lover’s house. To her own horror, the mother quickly discovers that the mask is now securely stuck to her face, and her attempts to remove it culminate in the greatest horror of all. Fraught with sexual tension, nefarious schemes, and Freudian symbolism, this compelling masterpiece, by turns hypnotically beautiful and shockingly brutal, represents the finest in horror filmmaking, driven by powerful imagery and aided by sumptuous black-and-white photography.
(Cavett Binion on All Movie Guide)
Plot: Owen Augustus Urban III, a creator of designer drugs, is hired by Dr John Alcore, the founder of Life Research foundation, who wants his help in obtaining a cure for AIDS. But Owen discovers that unorthodox experiments are being conducted at Life Research. He befriends one volunteer Paula Bukowsky. But then she is bitten by a crazed test subject and Owen finds that she is starting to transform into a vampire.
Richard Scheib wrote:
Red Blooded American Girl conducts the conceptually intriguing idea of a scientific exploration of vampirism. Scientific vampirism has been used in vampire literature before and on screen in the interesting Thirst (1979) and since in fine works like Ultraviolet (1998) and Blood (2000). This is the first full-blooded treatment of the theme and offers up some intriguing ideas – with requisite AIDS metaphors and the idea of salvation via blood transfusion – even if they are somewhat unfulfilled. Continue reading
How to describe Nobuhiko Obayashi’s indescribable 1977 movie House (Hausu)? As a psychedelic ghost tale? A stream-of-consciousness bedtime story? An episode of Scooby-Doo as directed by Mario Bava? Any of the above will do for this hallucinatory head trip about a schoolgirl who travels with six classmates to her ailing aunt’s creaky country home and comes face-to-face with evil spirits, a demonic house cat, a bloodthirsty piano, and other ghoulish visions, all realized by Obayashi via mattes, animation, and collage effects. Equally absurd and nightmarish, House might have been beamed to Earth from some other planet. Never before available on home video in the United States, it’s one of the most exciting cult discoveries in years. Continue reading
Noted indie director Jim Jarmusch directs the vampire story Only Lovers Left Alive. Tom Hiddleston stars as Adam, a bloodsucker who makes a living as a reclusive musician. He reunites with the love of his life, Eve (Tilda Swinton) a fellow vampire who leaves her home overseas to be with him in the downtrodden Motor City. They eventually get a visit from Eve’s irresponsible sister (Mia Wasikowska) who irritates Adam and eventually causes trouble with the one human – the vampires refer to the living as zombies — with whom the depressed music hero gets along.
A mysterious man is sent deep into the forest to investigate the bizarre behavior of the notorious Dr. Tarr. What he stumbles upon is the doctor’s torture dungeon, a hellish asylum completely cut off from civilization and presided over by the ultimate madman. Innocent people have been savagely chained, tortured and stuck in glass cages, then forced to take part in gruesome games of ritual slaughter.