Jun 30, 2013

HEY, KNOW WHAT'S A REAL MOVIE?


Jun 29, 2013

MY BEHAVIOR CAN BE...ERRATIC

"My name is Patrick Bateman. I'm 27 years old. I believe in taking care of myself, and a balanced diet and rigorous exercise routine. In the morning, if my face is a little puffy, I'll put on an ice pack while doing stomach crunches. I can do a thousand now. After I remove the ice pack, I use a deep pore cleanser lotion. In the shower, I use a water activated gel cleanser, then a honey-almond body scrub; and on the face an exfoliating gel scrub. Then I apply an herb-mint facial mask, which I leave on for ten minutes while I prepare the rest of my routine. I always use an after-shave lotion with little or no alcohol, because alcohol dries your face out and makes you look older. Then moisturizer, then an anti-aging eye balm, followed by a final moisturizing protective lotion..."
If we don't, remember me.

Jun 27, 2013

UNSUNG HORRORS: INSOMNIA

Every once in a while, a genuinely great horror movie—one that would rightfully be considered a classic, had it gotten more exposure and love at the box office—makes an appearance. It comes, no one notices, and it goes. But movies like this are important. They need to be treasured and remembered. If intelligent, original horror is supported, then that's what we'll begin to receive, in droves. We need to make these movies a part of the legendary genre we hold so dear. Because these are the unsung horrors. These are the movies that should have been successful, but were instead ignored. They should be rightfully praised for the freshness and intelligence and craft that they have contributed to our genre. 

 So, better late than never, we’re going to celebrate them now… one at a time.

Dir. Christopher Nolan
2002
Warner Bros.
United States

"A good cop can't sleep because a piece of the puzzle is missing. A bad cop can't sleep because his guilty conscience won't let him."

Even to those who don't speak in film, Christopher Nolan, by now, must be a household name. His reformation of the Batman series, mixed with the storm-taking Inception, has proven he is a powerhouse. He is a man who has somehow mastered wowing both critics and audiences, reveling in their kind praise and their hard-earned dollars. His films are gorgeous, brooding, and filled with the kind of thought and reverence for genuine human emotion that many other filmmakers take for granted. If I were to tell you that his most unheralded film (perhaps even lesser known than his debut feature Following), was his best, you would not believe me. You may even argue with me. But there's no arguing when I tell you that this sleepy remake of the 1997 Swedish film of the same name is, by far, my favorite of his films. And that's saying lot, considering the man is also responsible for The Prestige and Memento, along with the before-mentioned Dark Knight trilogy (third chapter notwithstanding).

After busting onto the scene with his second film, the mind-busting, non-linear Memento, Warner Bros. wanted to be in the Christopher Nolan business. With so many filmmakers of varying pedigree being assigned remakes of notable genre offerings during this time, Nolan signed on to direct (and perform an uncredited pass on the screenplay) of what would become Insomnia, a story of an unsolved murder in Nightmute, Alaska, a Los Angeles robbery and homicide detective (Al Pacino) brought onto the case in order to keep him away from the internal affairs investigation currently looking into his department, that same detective's honorable partner (Martin Donovan), and a small-town investigator in awe of the famed detective's career (Hilary Swank). Causing all this bloody ruckus is a small-time novelist and all-around murderer (Robin Williams), whose shy and quiet manner hides something far worse. The case seems routine until the investigation begins, and layer after layer is peeled back, revealing that nearly every single one of our characters has a secret they are keeping from everyone else. While these secrets pertain to careers, loyalty, or their very freedoms, it all soon comes tumbling down, bringing everyone down with it.


With respect to an admittedly living legend, Insomnia is Al Pacino's last great performance. His Will Dormer exists in a period of his career, following 1992's Scent of a Woman where he won the Oscar for shouting all the time, in which he...still shouted all the time. "Hey, they must like it!" he must have thought at that time. After a while, however, the very dynamic and hand-gesture loving Pacino starts to disintegrate as his lack of sleep begins to creep up on him. He starts to loose his mind, hallucinate, throw furniture against the window to block out that awful impenetrable Alaskan light. Everyday mundane things like a oscillating desk fan or windshield wipers have the power to unsettle him. (We've all pulled all-nighters at some point - it's a wonder what a lack of sleep will do to the human mind.) His voice grows weary and weak. He becomes exhausted - to the point it sounds as if he's using his voice for the first time. (Count how many times a character asks him if he's getting any sleep.) It's one of the best examples of a character's methodical destruction, and we witness it steadily. Aiding this is the lack of clear timeline. We know for how long Will spends in Alaska (six days - without sleep), but we never get a clear sense of what time of day it is. This is established in the beginning when Dormer requests to pull the murder victim's boyfriend out of class to question him, and he's told it's actually ten o'clock...at night. Something as simple as not knowing what time it is - if it's day or night, early morning or nearing midnight - is enough to set the audience on edge and fuck with their equilibrium. So imagine what poor Dormer must be going through with no sleep, a guilty mind, and a murderer on the loose.

A purposeful choice made early on, though at what point I couldn't say, effort is made to imagine Will Dormer as a less confrontational character with whom to sympathize. For those who have seen the original Swedish film, you'll remember that Stellan Skarsgård's iteration of the character was certainly darker. Granted, Pacino isn't exactly the most noble of investigators - especially during his interrogation scenes - but Skarsgård nearly dared you to root for him. (Quick example: Al Pacino shoots a dead dog to catch a sample bullet from his gun; Stellan Skarsgård shoots a live one.) Pacino plays it right down the middle: bad enough to not entirely trust, but good enough to know he's the one you want to see come out on top. In the final act, where he bares his soul to a nearly perfect stranger, he is no longer his larger-than life persona. He is a small man, withered from guilt and lack of sleep, with his biggest task still in front of him.


Between this and One Hour Photo, one thing is clear: Robin Williams is fucking amazing at playing a psycho. He was never a person for whom I much cared or had much respect. As a comedian, for which he was most famous, I found him painfully unfunny, so why should I have cared? But here, he is super duper creepy. With Walter Finch, Williams finds a way to offer a wide-eyed stare, hands folded, looking entirely innocent but out-of-his-mind guilty simultaneously. His performance is somewhat reminiscent of Kevin Spacey's John Doe from Seven, but certainly not as operatic or over the top. Even as he explains, in bits and pieces, what really happened, you can see him working it around in his mind, as if he's also trying to figure out how the fuck it all led to this. Things had started off so promising for him and for the girl whom he thought liked him - how could she be like that? How could she treat him in such a way after he had consoled her, showered her with gifts, and loved her?
I only wanted to comfort her, hold her. I kissed her and... got a little exited. And then she started laughing at me. She didn't stop laughing. Did you ever have someone laugh at you, Will? When you're really vulnerable, laughing their ass off at you? Someone you thought respected you? Ever have that happen, Will? I just wanted to stop her laughing, that's all. I hit her. A couple of times, just to stop her. Let her know - a little respect... She's terrified, she's screaming her head off. I put my hand over her mouth. And then I get really scared, I mean, I'm scared shitless - more scared than I've ever been. And I'm more scared than her, and then... everything's clear. There's no turning back. After that, I was calm. Real calm. 
Williams plays insane with sadness, yet not regret, and with an evil genius' mastermind. His late-night phone calls ("Can't sleep, Will?") honest-to-gosh sound like one old friend calling another. His voice is calm and without confrontation - at times he sounds damn near sympathetic. For a performer who reveled (and revels) in over-the-top antics and cartoonery, Walter Finch is the anti-Williams. He is calm, reserved, and calculating. And he's fucking dangerous.

The supporting cast are mostly great, the only side-step being Hilary Swank as Ellie Burr. Swank is normally a great actress, but she's a bit too Family-Von Trapp-ish here, filled with gee-gosh-gollies and doe-eyed infatuation. Though she's the one who eventually ties everything together, and obviously you're supposed to mentally steer her away from uncovering Dormer's indiscretions as an investigator, eventually you want her to just stfu. Each probing question can become maddening after a while; whether it's the performance or the character, I can't honestly say, but the effect is all the same.

Really, each minor character is refreshingly allowed to have actual personality.

Nicky Katt's Fred Duggar obviously fancies himself as the big fish investigator of his small town, and doesn't much care for guys from L.A. coming in to augment his investigation. A slight against his intelligence and capabilities as an officer, he takes it personally and acts (understandably) a little bull-headed...although his two-thumbs joke is aces. Genre favorite Katharine Isabelle (Freddy vs. Jason, the Gingersnaps trilogy) plays the requisite hot bitch - and a reminder that desensitized youth can be found anywhere...even in the smallest town. Maura Tierney, a relatively unknown and uncelebrated actress, does fine work against Pacino, delivering perhaps the most fitting line in the entire film: "There are two kinds of people in Alaska: Those who were born here and those who come here to escape something else. I wasn't born here." Such subtle dialogue provides a previously unseen layer to her character, all the while providing nothing at all.


Every film in Nolan's career has contained an unrelenting darkness. The filmmaker has a natural interest in the darkness of human beings. From Following to The Dark Knight Rises, even when he's having fun, he likes to snap us back to reality and tell us point blank, "People may be ultimately good, but they are selfish and dangerous pricks leading up to it." And Insomnia is, by far, his darkest film - not even as far as the plot goes, but how he imagines it for us, and how he and DP Wally Pfister designed its look. How could Alaska, in the midst of days-straight sunlight, feel so fucking dank and dark? How could a genuinely beautiful place feel so depressing, morbid, and lonely?

A small dose of dark comedy helps break up the mounting dread, even with the surrounding dark circumstances. My favorite: Dormer breaks into Finch's apartment soaking wet, and Finch, over his own answering machine, tells Dormer there are clean towels in the bathroom. Dormer looks at the towel already clenched in his hand and offers this look of, "Are you fucking kidding?" It's just one example out of several where comedy comes out of nowhere and we find it surprisingly welcome.

The script is well constructed and multi-layered; its beauty is most obvious as we witness Dormer and Finch play cat and mouse games with each other. They each have a secret about which the other knows, and they, in person, pretend to come to an agreement on how to push forward that would benefit them both. But then one pulls a "wild card," as Finch calls it, surprising the other and watching him squirm with the newest turn in their twisted relationship. On more than one occasion Finch sends Dormer grasping at the nugget of information he has allowed him to have, even if it was a purposeful misdirection.

It goes without saying that Insomnia looks gorgeous, but having already mentioned Pfister, that should be no surprise. This film, the second of what would be many more collaborations between director and DP, is actually their most expressive. Beautiful though they may be, the look of The Prestige and the Dark Knight trilogy can sometimes get lost behind their London streets or tall cityscapes. But in Alaska, there's nowhere to hide. It becomes as much a character in Insomnia as Gotham did in The Dark Knight.

Being a fan of film music (but not quite in the adept ways as some of my musically-inclined colleagues), I imagine more people would recognize the pounding and stirring score Hans Zimmer brought to life in Nolan's Dark Night trilogy if they had already been familiar with Insomnia. Because composer David Julyan was already kinda doing it. Though he is a composer more comfortable using long, uninterrupted tones rather than full-on melodies, there is no denying the influence his music had on Zimmer's take on Batman. I have no idea if Nolan shepherded this desire for Batman's theme, or if Zimmer took it upon himself to study Nolan's previous films, but I defy you to listen to both films' scores during the sweeping, helicopter shots of Insomnia's landscape and Batman Begins' Iceland mountains and attempt tell them apart. You might falter.


Nolan just might be one of the first filmmakers to be featured here in Unsung who is arguably at the beginning of his career. With half-a-dozen films behind him already, he's a young and vibrant guy who shows no signs of slowing down. His name is a celebrated one in the film community and with your everyday movie-goer, and announcements of his new projects are met with immediate speculation. "What will it be about? Where will it be set? Will it star Michael Caine?" (Yes, it will.) His newest project, still in the casting process, is Interstellar - and appropriate for Nolan, no one knows shit about it (though it does star Michael Caine). As his career surely progresses, Nolan will become further removed from Insomnia. Though it feels somewhat like this already, eventually Insomnia will become nothing more than a bit of trivia one movie geek tells to another. "Did you know he once made a movie with Al Pacino?" It's sad in a way, but also kind of nice. Insomnia will always be one of my favorite secrets.   

Jun 26, 2013

THE RUSSIAN SLEEP EXPERIMENT

Kudos to whomever wrote this one. It creeps me out.
Russian researchers in the late 1940s kept five people awake for fifteen days using an experimental gas based stimulant. They were kept in a sealed environment to carefully monitor their oxygen intake so the gas didn't kill them, since it was toxic in high concentrations. This was before closed circuit cameras so they had only microphones and 5 inch thick glass porthole sized windows into the chamber to monitor them. The chamber was stocked with books, cots to sleep on but no bedding, running water and toilet, and enough dried food to last all five for over a month.

The test subjects were political prisoners deemed enemies of the state during World War II. 
Everything was fine for the first five days; the subjects hardly complained having been promised (falsely) that they would be freed if they submitted to the test and did not sleep for 30 days. Their conversations and activities were monitored and it was noted that they continued to talk about increasingly traumatic incidents in their past, and the general tone of their conversations took on a darker aspect after the 4 day mark.

After five days they started to complain about the circumstances and events that lead them to where they were and started to demonstrate severe paranoia. They stopped talking to each other and began alternately whispering to the microphones and one way mirrored portholes. Oddly they all seemed to think they could win the trust of the experimenters by turning over their comrades, the other subjects in captivity with them. At first the researchers suspected this was an effect of the gas itself...

After nine days the first of them started screaming. He ran the length of the chamber repeatedly yelling at the top of his lungs for 3 hours straight, he continued attempting to scream but was only able to produce occasional squeaks. The researchers postulated that he had physically torn his vocal cords. The most surprising thing about this behavior is how the other captives reacted to it... or rather didn't react to it. They continued whispering to the microphones until the second of the captives started to scream. The 2 non-screaming captives took the books apart, smeared page after page with their own feces and pasted them calmly over the glass portholes. The screaming promptly stopped.

So did the whispering to the microphones.

After 3 more days passed, the researchers checked the microphones hourly to make sure they were working, since they thought it impossible that no sound could be coming with 5 people inside. The oxygen consumption in the chamber indicated that all 5 must still be alive. In fact it was the amount of oxygen 5 people would consume at a very heavy level of strenuous exercise. On the morning of the 14th day the researchers did something they said they would not do to get a reaction from the captives: they used the intercom inside the chamber, hoping to provoke any response from the captives they were afraid were either dead or vegetables.

They announced: "We are opening the chamber to test the microphones step away from the door and lie flat on the floor or you will be shot. Compliance will earn one of you your immediate freedom."

To their surprise they heard a single phrase in a calm voice response: "We no longer want to be freed."

Debate broke out among the researchers and the military forces funding the research. Unable to provoke any more response using the intercom it was finally decided to open the chamber at midnight on the fifteenth day.

The chamber was flushed of the stimulant gas and filled with fresh air and immediately voices from the microphones began to object. 3 different voices began begging, as if pleading for the life of loved ones to turn the gas back on. The chamber was opened and soldiers sent in to retrieve the test subjects. They began to scream louder than ever, and so did the soldiers when they saw what was inside. Four of the five subjects were still alive, although no one could rightly call the state that any of them in 'life.'

The food rations past day 5 had not been so much as touched. There were chunks of meat from the dead test subject's thighs and chest stuffed into the drain in the center of the chamber, blocking the drain and allowing 4 inches of water to accumulate on the floor. Precisely how much of the water on the floor was actually blood was never determined. All four 'surviving' test subjects also had large portions of muscle and skin torn away from their bodies. The destruction of flesh and exposed bone on their finger tips indicated that the wounds were inflicted by hand, not with teeth as the researchers initially thought. Closer examination of the position and angles of the wounds indicated that most if not all of them were self-inflicted.

The abdominal organs below the ribcage of all four test subjects had been removed. While the heart, lungs and diaphragm remained in place, the skin and most of the muscles attached to the ribs had been ripped off, exposing the lungs through the ribcage. All the blood vessels and organs remained intact, they had just been taken out and laid on the floor, fanning out around the eviscerated but still living bodies of the subjects. The digestive tract of all four could be seen to be working, digesting food. It quickly became apparent that what they were digesting was their own flesh that they had ripped off and eaten over the course of days.

Most of the soldiers were Russian special operatives at the facility, but still many refused to return to the chamber to remove the test subjects. They continued to scream to be left in the chamber and alternately begged and demanded that the gas be turned back on, lest they fall asleep...

To everyone's surprise the test subjects put up a fierce fight in the process of being removed from the chamber. One of the Russian soldiers died from having his throat ripped out, another was gravely injured by having his testicles ripped off and an artery in his leg severed by one of the subject's teeth. Another 5 of the soldiers lost their lives if you count ones that committed suicide in the weeks following the incident.

In the struggle one of the four living subjects had his spleen ruptured and he bled out almost immediately. The medical researchers attempted to sedate him but this proved impossible. He was injected with more than ten times the human dose of a morphine derivative and still fought like a cornered animal, breaking the ribs and arm of one doctor. When heart was seen to beat for a full two minutes after he had bled out to the point there was more air in his vascular system than blood. Even after it stopped he continued to scream and flail for another 3 minutes, struggling to attack anyone in reach and just repeating the word "MORE" over and over, weaker and weaker, until he finally fell silent.

The surviving three test subjects were heavily restrained and moved to a medical facility, the two with intact vocal cords continuously begging for the gas demanding to be kept awake...

The most injured of the three was taken to the only surgical operating room that the facility had. In the process of preparing the subject to have his organs placed back within his body it was found that he was effectively immune to the sedative they had given him to prepare him for the surgery. He fought furiously against his restraints when the anesthetic gas was brought out to put him under. He managed to tear most of the way through a 4 inch wide leather strap on one wrist, even through the weight of a 200 pound soldier holding that wrist as well. It took only a little more anesthetic than normal to put him under, and the instant his eyelids fluttered and closed, his heart stopped. In the autopsy of the test subject that died on the operating table it was found that his blood had triple the normal level of oxygen. His muscles that were still attached to his skeleton were badly torn and he had broken 9 bones in his struggle to not be subdued. Most of them were from the force his own muscles had exerted on them.

The second survivor had been the first of the group of five to start screaming. His vocal cords destroyed he was unable to beg or object to surgery, and he only reacted by shaking his head violently in disapproval when the anesthetic gas was brought near him. He shook his head yes when someone suggested, reluctantly, they try the surgery without anesthetic, and did not react for the entire 6 hour procedure of replacing his abdominal organs and attempting to cover them with what remained of his skin. The surgeon presiding stated repeatedly that it should be medically possible for the patient to still be alive. One terrified nurse assisting the surgery stated that she had seen the patients mouth curl into a smile several times, whenever his eyes met hers.

When the surgery ended the subject looked at the surgeon and began to wheeze loudly, attempting to talk while struggling. Assuming this must be something of drastic importance the surgeon had a pen and pad fetched so the patient could write his message. It was simple. "Keep cutting."

The other two test subjects were given the same surgery, both without anesthetic as well. Although they had to be injected with a paralytic for the duration of the operation. The surgeon found it impossible to perform the operation while the patients laughed continuously. Once paralyzed the subjects could only follow the attending researchers with their eyes. The paralytic cleared their system in an abnormally short period of time and they were soon trying to escape their bonds. The moment they could speak they were again asking for the stimulant gas. The researchers tried asking why they had injured themselves, why they had ripped out their own guts and why they wanted to be given the gas again.

Only one response was given: "I must remain awake."

All three subject's restraints were reinforced and they were placed back into the chamber awaiting determination as to what should be done with them. The researchers, facing the wrath of their military 'benefactors' for having failed the stated goals of their project considered euthanizing the surviving subjects. The commanding officer, an ex-KGB instead saw potential, and wanted to see what would happen if they were put back on the gas. The researchers strongly objected, but were overruled.

In preparation for being sealed in the chamber again the subjects were connected to an EEG monitor and had their restraints padded for long term confinement. To everyone's surprise all three stopped struggling the moment it was let slip that they were going back on the gas. It was obvious that at this point all three were putting up a great struggle to stay awake. One of subjects that could speak was humming loudly and continuously; the mute subject was straining his legs against the leather bonds with all his might, first left, then right, then left again for something to focus on. The remaining subject was holding his head off his pillow and blinking rapidly. Having been the first to be wired for EEG most of the researchers were monitoring his brain waves in surprise. They were normal most of the time but sometimes flat lined inexplicably. It looked as if he were repeatedly suffering brain death, before returning to normal. As they focused on paper scrolling out of the brainwave monitor only one nurse saw his eyes slip shut at the same moment his head hit the pillow. His brainwaves immediately changed to that of deep sleep, then flatlined for the last time as his heart simultaneously stopped.

The only remaining subject that could speak started screaming to be sealed in now. His brainwaves showed the same flatlines as one who had just died from falling asleep. The commander gave the order to seal the chamber with both subjects inside, as well as 3 researchers. One of the named three immediately drew his gun and shot the commander point blank between the eyes, then turned the gun on the mute subject and blew his brains out as well.

He pointed his gun at the remaining subject, still restrained to a bed as the remaining members of the medical and research team fled the room. "I won't be locked in here with these things! Not with you!" he screamed at the man strapped to the table. "WHAT ARE YOU?" he demanded. "I must know!"

The subject smiled.

"Have you forgotten so easily?" The subject asked. "We are you. We are the madness that lurks within you all, begging to be free at every moment in your deepest animal mind. We are what you hide from in your beds every night. We are what you sedate into silence and paralysis when you go to the nocturnal haven where we cannot tread."

The researcher paused. Then aimed at the subject's heart and fired. The EEG flatlined as the subject weakly choked out, "So... nearly... free..."

Story source.

Image source.

Jun 23, 2013

IT AIN'T THAT BAD: LAND OF THE DEAD

In this column, movies with less-than-stellar reputations are fairly and objectively defended. Full disclaimer establishes that said movies aren’t perfect, and aren’t close to being such, but contain an undeniable amount of worth that begs you for a second chance. Films chosen are based on their general reception by both critics and audiences, more often than not falling into the negative. Every film, no matter how dismal, has at least one good quality. As they say, it ain’t that bad. 

Spoilers abound. 


The name of George A. Romero will always carry weight with horror fans. That's just the way it is. Colleagues of mine have suggested that he often gets a pass from reviewers who glow about his new films, even if we're talking dreck like Survival of the Dead. The theory is, because he's given the world two bonafide classics with Night of the Living and Dawn of the Dead (and a minor one with Day), his less-than-desireable output will always be celebrated because he's earned it.

I can't really say I agree. While his name will always carry weight, no one gets a pass. We're dealing with the human race, after all - the only species to have both learned and mastered cynicism. 

Perhaps the only other name in the genre with George's amount of clout is John Carpenter, and that man hardly ever gets a pass anymore. His last few efforts (outside of the very good "Masters of Horror" entry Cigarette Burns) have been eviscerated - as far back as 2001 with Ghosts of Mars. People, almost joyfully, lambasted his newest release, The Ward (defended here), as if their harsh criticisms were tantamount to orgasm.

That said (and yes, in a typical IMDB message board disclaimer), I recognize that film is a subjective medium. It's art, after all, and everyone will have their own opinion and approach it in their own way. But I cannot stand idly by and read positive reviews for Diary and Survival of the Dead. Those are not good films, plain and simple. Diary gets by for being at least exciting and never boring, but Survival is so terrible that I'd rather sit through that awful Day of the Dead remake again. 

Positive reviews for Land of the Dead, though? That I can get. What I can't get is the hate. Because it's out there, and who knows why.


Exactly twenty years after 1985's Day of the Dead, Romero's fourth zombie opus stormed its way into theaters in the wake of Resident Evil, Shaun of the Dead, and a remake of Romero's own Day of the Dead, to reclaim its title as King of the Zombies. Romero had done his press, fine-tuned his script for a post-9/11 world, and sucked it up to work with a major studio. He even used Universal's original opening logo as opposed to the current one, in a statement I like to think equated to: "Motherfucker, I've been making this shit since before your father was big." He is the big cheese who created the modern zombie, after all, so I'll allow him the proclamation. 

The excitement in the horror community was palpable. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz's Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright eagerly provided cameos as chained-up zombies. KNB FX worked for a fraction of their usual prices just to be working with Romero again and to help support his project. Someone high-profile, perhaps Eli Roth, equated the new sequel as being a new addition to the Star Wars series for horror fans. And he was right. After twenty years, Romero was doing another zombie film, and this was a big deal.

But the movie was released...and nobody came.

Not realizing horror films don't do big business in the middle of the summer, squished in between all the hundred-million-dollar-budget releases, Universal sadly chose to release Land of the Dead at the end of June, and it simply got lost. (Not by me - I saw it three times.) While I knew Romero had been a revered figure in the horror world, I was shocked to pick up USA Today or the local paper and read positive reviews for this, his newest Dead film. A horror film getting good reviews? About zombies, no less? Isn't that impossible? (Let's not forget one crucial thing: Both Night and Day opened to critical drubbings, and it wouldn't be for years until they were duly appreciated.)

But I had my focus on the wrong place. It wasn't the film critic I had to worry about - it was the film fan. And oftentimes, that's so much worse. So-called fans hated it. "We waited twenty years for this?", etc. It even has the dreaded "WORST MOVIE EVER!" message board post. (Not hyperbole, this chick means it!)

And the fake complaints came rapid-fire, chief among them being "The acting was terrible!" (Sorry, have you not seen Night of the Living Dead?)

Romero's earlier zombie films have always relied on the power of the ensemble (Dawn proved this), and while that's still somewhat applicable to Land, this time the focus really seems to be on Riley Denbo (Simon Baker). Riley is a sort of messenger boy for Kaufman (Dennis Hopper), ruler and ultimate landlord of Fiddler's Green, a posh utopia allegedly free from zombie tyranny, but also divided into social class systems.

Despite Land being part four of an ongoing zombie saga (and though, mercifully, Land would end this particular series), each entry never really carried on anything beyond the zombie problem. No characters returned from one film to another and no events are mentioned - not even in passing. The only thing that was consistent was the worsening of the zombie problem. But in Land, Romero does choose to carry on one particular development established as far back as Dawn: the "walkers" are capable of learning, using tools for simple tasks, and communicating. What was solidified with Bub from Day has been passed onto Big Daddy (Eugene Clark), Romero's requisite strong minority character. (In Night, it was Ben, in Dawn, it was Peter, and in Day, he switched sexes for Sarah.) His trend continues, only now he's not just switching sexes again - he's switching to "the other half." Romero decided it was time to take the idea of this zombie race revolution seriously, and with no better way than his usage of a strong black male lead. 

Romero, working with a big studio again (a rarity), has all sorts of toys to utilize: better actors, better production design, and an abundance of CGI married into KNB's normal wonderment of red stuff. It's not just the producer or the producer's wife talking about cannibalism, but Dennis Hopper, lord of the acid era and all-around cinema legend. Fucking guy who made Easy Rider, people - he's kind of a big deal. Simon Baker as Riley does a fine job keeping a straight face amongst the sea of ghouls surrounding him, but he knows when to have fun, too. For some reason his performance comes off more Sam Spade than John McClane (maybe that's just me), but it works all the same.

By his side is Robert Joy, who also worked with Romero back on his ill-fated adaptation of Stephen King's The Dark Half. He's saddled with uncomfortable looking burn make-up, but in turn receives all the best lines. ("I normally don't need that many.") He provides most of the film's much-needed comic relief and seems to have the biggest heart of anyone, but he also bears the brunt of society's cruelest treatment. As far as realism goes, that sounds about right.


John Leguizamo as Cholo (an actor for whom I don't normally care), likewise, cheeses it up all over the map. He knows what kind of film he's in and he enjoys going off the deep end in his normal John Leguizamo way. I'm actually a little surprised at how enthusiastic he was about being involved in such a project; I often wonder how A-list Hollywood regards not just the horror genre, but the fiercely independent side with which I sometimes think only hardcore horror nutballs are familiar. Speaking of horror nutballs, Asia Argento (daughter of the famed director Dario) shares the majority of the screen time with Riley as Slack, a former soldier and now prostitute forced to work the streets for Kaufman. She does pretty okay, as she was never the strongest actor, but she looks more at home than anyone else swinging weapons into zomb faces and delivering some pretty questionable dialogue. Also, her short skirt and body fishnets aren't the worst thing on Planet Earth.

(Lastly, check out the 0:47 minute mark for a cameo by a three-foot high version of Catherine Keener. Wah-wah!)

The political subtext, without which Romero's films would be admittedly less interesting, is ever present; it was pretty relevant in 2005, but has never been more relevant than right now. The super rich live high and mighty and safe in their golden towers, shielded from the outside threat, while the poor live with barbed-wire-thin security from that same threat. Are they safe? Perhaps. But there's not much between them and total bloody chaos. Romero takes it one step further and says when shit really hits the fan, it doesn't matter how many zeroes are in your bank account: your ass gone get et.

Strictly on a technical level, Land looks great. Romero, who has been making zombie films for nearly FIFTY YEARS, lacks nowhere in enthusiasm. "I love these guys!" he once said about his zombies, and it shows. He's definitely not conservative with the gore gags, even within the stifling confines of a major studio's restrictions. The scope of the film can sometimes feel stunted, as we never get a real feel for the scope of Fiddler's Green, but it looks gorgeous - even the night shoots, which are hard to pull off. And the scene where Big Daddy's zombies slowly emerge from the foggy river waters is the stuff of goosebumps.

Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil, whose most recent and amazing score for Cloud Atlas captivated audiences, provide a very percussion-driven anthem for Romero's tapestry of destruction. Gone are the days of Goblin, John Harrison, and library music; Land's music is big and jarring. The stand-out track (called "To Canada" on the official soundtrack release) is so fucking good that it appears three times.

And another thing: Earlier, when I said Romero never carried over older characters from one sequel to another? I lied:

From Monroeville Mall to Fiddler's Green...

Additionally, Romero's ability for black comedy is ever in place: listen during the zombie invasion for the automated voice of Fiddler's Green reassuring its occupants that Kaufman will always be there for them in times of danger...as he flees with his chauffeur to his car, his bags stuffed to the gills with all the cash he could carry.

In the Romero zombie pantheon, he hit the ground running with Night, peaked with Dawn, continued with the less-impressive-by-comparison Day, and went out somewhat unceremoniously but still nicely with Land. Even among those fans who consider Land to be quite strong, methinks they would still rank it last, and that's okay. Being the last in the race doesn't necessarily mean you suck; it just means you're the least good.

If I were to have an issue with Land of the Dead, it's this: from Night through Day, the zombies were always the main threat, and under it played out the mini and man-made conflicts to make the story socially relevant. But in Land, for the first time, the zombies are the back drop. Don't get me wrong, rotting ghoul faces fill the majority of the frames, and their absence is never more than brief. But Cholo's theft of the Dead Reckoning and Riley's vow to get it back in exchange for a one-way ticket out of the city is the main conflict, relegating the zombies to supporting players - as things to be simply dealt with while the fight over Dead Reckoning continues. Because of this, and for the first time, I sometimes wonder to myself as the closing credits play, "What was the point of this film?" I know, I know: Such a confession kinda makes all of the above and below null and void, right? "Except for the film not having a point, I really liked it!" And that's...kind of a problem. That's the last thing you want your audience to wonder as they file out of the theater.

But then again, Romero wanted to make a point about rich vs. poor, and he certainly did. In the process, people were ripped apart, decapitated, blown to crispy critters - all done with a wink and a smile. In the climax, when the zombs storm the Green and eviscerate the high-falootin rich - people, mind you, to whom we have not been introduced - we enjoy seeing them get ripped apart. And not in the "I'm watching a zombie film!" kind of way, but in the way that secretly satisfies the blood lust in us, and scratches that itch we have in terms of the hate we have for the top "1%". In this country, the rich belong to the most exclusive social club in the world, and, like Cholo, we'll try our whole lives trying to get in, only to be denied. They consume most of the country's wealth, so let Romero's army of the undead consume them in kind.

Romero may not be on top of his game anymore, and if Land were to be his last..at least debated-over film (as to its quality), I say fine with me. Twenty years later, his successful trilogy became a successful quadrilogy, and that's pretty fucking cool.

Oh, and one more thing:

One, please.

Jun 22, 2013

GROSS ANATOMY


Atlas of Topographic Anatomy, 1911
Eugène-Louis Doyen with J.-P. Bouchon and R. Doyen
heliotypes by E. Le Deley

Jun 20, 2013

CREEP

When I was 13, my mother and I stopped at her friend's house to pick up something. I sat in the living room while she talked to her friend in the kitchen. While sitting there on the couch, a lady walked into the room and sat in a chair across the room. She said hello and asked my name. I smiled and spoke back. She asked me how old I was and, well, we chatted for about 5 minutes. 
She told me that Marcy (the lady we were visiting) always lost her jewelry around the house when she was a little girl. Up until the age of 14. She said that she found all of it and put it in a box that was under the back right leg of the chair she was sitting in. She said I should tell Marcy where it was because she forgot to do it and it would make her happy. She then got up and walked towards the kitchen. She stopped and asked me if I wanted some cookies and I said yes. A few minutes later I heard her say, "Come and get your cookies, dear." I got up and went into the kitchen and saw my mother and Marcy there. I didn't see any cookies, but I saw a door that lead down stairs to the basement, so I looked down the stairs.  
My mother asked me what was wrong and I said I was looking for the cookies. Marcy then said, "Oh, I'll get you some cookies." I told her that the lady already got them and they gave me a weird look. I told them about the lady and my mother said I must have went to sleep and dreamed about it. They gave me my cookies and some milk and sent me away. 
Marcy walked through the room and took my empty glass and plate from me. I asked her if she knew where her lost jewelry was.  
She smiled and said, "What jewelry?"  
I told her what the lady told me and she looked scared. She got upset and told my mother, and my mother got upset with me. Marcy said that there was no one else in the house. They were standing over me telling me to stop making stuff up, so I got up and checked the floor board under the chair. I pulled out a box and opened it. I said, "See, this is what you lost." I handed Marcy the box. She was still crying when we left. 
Later she called my mother and asked that she never bring me to her house again. She also told my mother that there were another plate of cookies on the kitchen table and she knows that she gave me the only plate she put out.

Story source.

Image source. 

Jun 18, 2013

THE DEAD LOVERS


Matthias Grünewald (1434-1494)
The Dead Lovers, c. 1470
Strasbourg, Musee de l'Oeuvre de Notre Dame, France

Jun 17, 2013

HELL'S BRIDGE

In the mid 1800s, when towns began to emerge in a wooded area of Michigan, children went missing. It left the improvised towns in shambles; all work and expansion stopped. The townsfolk turned to their church to find comfort and answers. In attendance was the enigmatic Elias Friske. He seemed to be a kind, older man with a fondness for children. He asked to preach that day.

Elias preached of hellfire and brimstone, and of demons that surrounded the town. He demanded the congregation's prayers, or else the demons would return and take more children into the dark abyss. With renewed purpose after hearing Elias preach, the town organized a search party to find the children, and to hunt the dark souls that took them. The townsfolk believed that Elias was too old and frail to join the search. They asked him to watch the town's remaining children. Elias agreed and told the search party he would take the children on a picnic, near the Rogue River. Elias explained that if the search party came back with bodies in tow, the children would be spared the horror.

Elias tied rope around each child's waist, creating a human chain that Elias led. “We don't want to loose any more,” Elias jokingly said. The children waved their tiny hands as they watched their parents head off in the opposite direction. Elias began their march into the woods.

The walk to the river was long, and the children soon tired. They asked Elias to take a break, but Elias harshly tugged on the rope leading them further into the woods. The children became frightened and begged Elias to stop, but he continued to drag them along. Soon, the children noticed a strange and horrible odor. Elias deeply inhaled the stench.

Elias pushed the children up against a tree and tethered them to it with the rope. He shambled over to a pile of leaves and uncovered the source of the smell. It was the missing children, skinned and beginning to rot. The children began to scream and cry, but the search party was miles away, far out of hearing distance.

One by one, Elias destroyed their young lives, forcing the living to watch each cut, to hear each bone break. After Elias finished his murdering rampage, he awoke from his bloodlust and realized the impact of what he had done. He could not return to town. He had to escape.

Elias threw the bodies of the children into the Rogue River and he fled further into the woods.

It was dark when the townspeople returned to town. Elias and the children had not returned. It took only moments for the townspeople to realize the ruse devised by Elias Friske. Fearing what darkness may be unleashed onto the children, the search party rushed into the woods where Elias had marched.

They arrived at the recently built bridge to cross the unpredictable Rogue River. There, gathered underneath the bridge in the icy waters, were the mutilated bodies of their children. Among the screams and wails, one young man noticed a pair of muddy footprints leading further into the woods. He sprinted in their direction and he eventually found Elias Friske, stained with blood.

The young man dragged Elias back to the bridge. Elias screamed about how demons had taken control of him and that he deserved pity. The magistrate simply responded, "Hang that son of a bitch."

The rope with which Elias had bound the children was recovered and tied around his neck. The townspeople, without ceremony, hung him off of the bridge. After Elias' body stopped twitching, it's said that the waters underneath him swelled, and snapped the rope from which Elias hung. His body was swept away down-river never to be recovered.

Today, the Rogue River is a popular place for young people to spend a leisurely afternoon riding an inner tube down its waters. Often they are frightened out of the river by what they have described as hands grabbing their feet from underneath the water. The hands seem to tug, attempting to pull the victim beneath. Expecting to see a pranking friend emerge from the waters, they soon realize that they are alone. Many have made their way back to the mouth of the river in tears after experiencing this frightening event.

The bridge from which Elias was hung is now known as “Hell's Bridge.” People have reported hearing the sound of children, at times laughing, at other times screaming. Disembodied footsteps are often heard in the area of the bridge. Many people have said that they have felt like they were followed through the woods.

Most activity seems to happen around midnight – around the time that Elias would have been hung. Hell's Bridge has acquired its name because many people have reported the sounds of demonic laughter erupting from all directions around this hour. The laughing is often accompanied by a dark apparition standing on the bridge, its eyes glowing red.

Jun 13, 2013

GRYLA

In Icelandic mythology Grýla is a terrible mountain-dwelling monster and giantess who ventures down from her lair at Christmas time in search of naughty children to cook in a stew and eat, with the vain hope of remedying her insatiable appetite.

According to the legend Grýla has been married three times and her current husband, Leppalúði, lives with her and her their sons, the Yule Lads - mischievous and criminal Santa-type figures who also torment the Icelandic people by harassing sheep, stealing food, and window-peeping - in their cave in the Dimmuborgir lava fields, along with the black Yule Cat.

The legend dates back to the 13th century, though it didn’t become associated with Christmas until the 17th. In 1746 a decree was issued banning the use of Grýla and the Yule Lads to scare children.


Stolen with love from The Oddment Emporium.

Jun 11, 2013

REVIEW: THE UNBROKEN


"Are you okay? You look like you've seen a ghost."

If a character in your ghost film says that within the first five minutes, yooooou might've made a clichéd ghost film. You might argue that, by now, everything has been done - especially in the ghost sub-genre - so it becomes hard to avoid one cliché after another. Fortunately, there are some films out there, like Ti West's The Innkeepers or Scott Derrickson's Sinister, that can overcome those obstacles and present something familiar yet fresh at the same time.

But then you've got films like The Unbroken that play out as if its filmmakers were told one single ghost story in their youth and then thought, "We should make that into a movie or something. No one's done that before, right?"

And the requisite beats are all here: the recently displaced character with a new home after an unfortunate event, the creepy totem of the deceased (in this case, a laughing clown doll), and a roster of shady characters whom you'll think are the killers responsible for the death of the person now haunting said character. Oh, and twist ending the end.

Add Warwick Davis and you've got The Unbroken, which we've seen a hundred times already. The script contains groundbreaking new character tropes like Bitter Old Woman, Horny Young Adult Jokester, and, of course, Creepy Kid Ghost. 


Sarah Campbell (Aurelia Rose) is the recently displaced (and divorced) main character finding herself in a new environment that happens to be douched with ghost. At first she accuses one of her neighbors of all the ghostly goings-on...that is until the ghost boy appears directly in front of her, wearing a ghost red turtleneck and overalls. This sends her into the comforting presence of Tommy (Patrick Flanagan), the previously mentioned character who tries with every line of dialogue to provide comic relief, but instead becomes nails on a chalk board. "Most ghost movies suck, except...Ghostbusters," he even has the audacity to say. 

Further, Tommy tells Sarah what usually happens in ghost movies after someone sees a ghost: go to a psychic. So, Sarah does just that. Warwick Davis, the last person you would expect to play a psychic, psychics the hell out of his part, saying things like "sage" and "negative energy." Just like REAL movie psychics!

The Unbroken is supposed to be ironic, but it comes across as lazy. It's also supposed to be scary, but instead induces eye rolls and chuckles. The script can be aggravating at times, to the point where you fight the urge to shout at the characters on screen. For instance: the manager of the complex where Sarah is staying tells her she will send up her nephew to help Sarah move her stuff in. Not minutes later, a teen boy shows up and says, "My aunt told me to help you move in," to which Sarah responds: "Who is your aunt??"

Seriously? Do you not remember the conversation from 37 seconds ago?

There's also no respect for either physical or psychological continuity. In one scene, for instance, the glass shower door shatters and sends broken shards ripping across Sarah's flesh, leaving nasty cuts across her arm and back. Later that night at an art opening, Sarah's sleeveless dress reveals her soft, tanned, and untainted flesh. And it's at this art gallery where her ex is (nearly?) killed and she barely reacts, looking more embarrassed than alarmed. It's noticeable, distracting, and rather bush league.

"Sorry, Warwick - we've already cast the boy ghost."

Aurelia Rose as our protag does a serviceable job, and she's awful purty, but the film surrounding her is dull and uninspired. The remaining cast looks exhausted, especially Daniel Baldwin, who visualizes in his mind finally paying off the rest of his new van by having agreed to appear in this; his complete disinterest in the material comes across in nearly every word of his performance.

I honestly don't know to whom I would recommend The Unbroken. Have you never seen a ghost film, ever? Do you not know anything at all about ghosts you couldn't have learned from Casper? Is someone jumping out of a closet and shouting boo enough to send you into a frenzy of fear? Then hey, check out The Unbroken, if only to work your way up to something more deserving.

I, for one, did learn something from having watched, and it's something I can reiterate here:

Most ghost movies suck.

Jun 10, 2013

WHOOPS

One evening, a mother and father were invited to a party. They couldn’t get in contact with their usual babysitter, so they decided to ask their next door neighbor, an old lady, to take care of their six-month old baby son. The old woman said she would be delighted to help them out.

They told her they needed to leave by 8pm, but when the time came, the old woman had still not shown up. The husband gave her a phone call and asked her what was taking her so long.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the old woman. “I forgot all about it. I’ll come over right now.”

When the old woman came to the door, the mother and father were already making their way to the car. They gave the old woman instructions to put the baby to bed at 9pm and put a chicken in the oven so it would be cooked for the next day’s dinner.

While the couple were at the party, the mother decided to phone home and check on the babysitter. When the old woman answered the phone, the mother asked if she had put the baby to bed yet.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the old woman. “I forgot all about it. I’ll do it right now.”

“And have you put the chicken in the oven?” asked the mother.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” said the old woman again. “I forgot all about that, too. I’ll do it right now.”

The mother just rolled her eyes and hung up the phone. She couldn’t really complain because the old lady was babysitting for free.

After the party, the mother and father drove home and when they opened the front door, the old lady was there to greet them. They thanked the old lady for taking care of their baby and she went home. The mother decided to go upstairs to check on the baby, but when she walked into the child’s bedroom, she was shocked to see an uncooked chicken lying in the crib.

Downstairs, the husband smelled smoke coming from the kitchen. He opened the oven and shouted upstairs to his wife “You won’t believe this, Honey! That forgetful old lady has gone and burned our chicken dinner!”

Image source.

Jun 8, 2013

TRICK

One night, a young girl was lying in bed, just on the verge of falling asleep, when she heard her mother calling her name from the kitchen. She went downstairs to see what her mother wanted, but as she was passing by the cupboard under the stairs, the door opened and a hand reached out and dragged her in. It was her mother, hiding in the cupboard. 

“Don't go into the kitchen,” whispered her mother. “I heard it calling my name too.”

Jun 6, 2013

A CLEVER IDEA

Martin Sheets was a wealthy businessman who lived in Terra Haute, Indiana in the early 1900's. One of his greatest fears was that of a premature burial. He often dreamed of being awake, but unable to move, at the moment the doctor pronounced him dead and then regaining consciousness while trapped in a coffin below the ground. Sheets decided to fight his fears by investing some of his resources in the prevention of his being buried alive.

First of all, he had a casket custom-designed with latches fitted on the inside. In this way, should he be placed inside prematurely, he would be able to open the coffin and escape. He also began construction on a mausoleum so that when he died, or was thought to have died, he would not be imprisoned under six feet of dirt. The mausoleum was well built and attractive but Sheets realized that even if he did manage to escape from his casket, he would still be trapped inside of a stone prison.

He came up with another clever idea. He installed a telephone inside of the tomb with a direct line to the main office of the cemetery. In this way, he could summon help by simply lifting the receiver. The line was fitted with an automatic indicator light so that even if no words were spoken, the light would come on in the office and help would soon be on the way.

Death came for Martin Sheets in 1910 and he was entombed in the mausoleum. I would imagine that for several days afterward, cemetery staff workers kept a close eye on the telephone indicator light in the office. After more time passed though, it was probably forgotten. Years went by and the telephone system in the area changed. Eventually, the direct line to the cemetery office was removed but thanks to very specific instructions in Sheets will, and the money to pay for it, the telephone in the mausoleum remained connected and active.

A number of years later, Sheets widow also passed away. She was discovered one day lying on her bed with the telephone clutched in her hand. In fact, she held the receiver so tightly that it had to be pried from her fingers. It was soon learned that she had experienced a severe stroke and family members assumed that she had been trying to call an ambulance when she finally died. A service was held and after a quiet memorial service, she was taken to the family mausoleum, where she would be interred next to her husband.

When cemetery workers entered the mausoleum, they received the shock of their lives. Nothing there was disturbed, they saw, except for one, very chilling item. Martin Sheets telephone, locked away for all of these years, was hanging from the wall...its receiver inexplicably off the hook.

Jun 5, 2013

LAST ONE

In Berlin, after World War II, money was short, supplies were tight, and it seemed like everyone was hungry. At that time, people were telling the tale of a young woman who saw a blind man picking his way through a crowd. The two started to talk. The man asked her for a favor: Could she deliver a letter to the address on its envelope? Well, it was on her way home, so she agreed.

She started out to deliver the message, when she turned around to see if there was anything else the blind man needed, she spotted him hurrying through the crowd without his smoked glasses or white cane. She was suspicious, so she went to the police.

When the police paid a visit to the address on the envelope, they made a gruesome discovery: Three butchers had been harvesting human flesh and selling it to the starving people.

In the envelope the man had given to the woman, there was a note, saying simply:
 
"This is the last one I am sending you today."



Not real. Or is it??? (It's not.)

Jun 4, 2013

LA PASCULITA



In Chihuahua, Mexico, local rumor has it that this mannequin, known as “Pascualita,” is actually an embalmed body. According to legend, a lady named Pascuala Esparza owned a wedding boutique in the city, making dresses for soon-to-be brides. Her own daughter, Pascualita, was engaged to be married, so Pascuala set about to make her a special dress. Everything was planned when, on the day of the wedding, tragedy struck. Supposedly, Pascualita was bitten by a poisonous insect and later died. Distressed by the death of her daughter, Pascuala set out to immortalize her. She embalmed the body, dressed it in her wedding gown, and propped it up in the window of her boutique, for all to see.

Today, Pascualita remains standing in the window of “La Popular” in downtown Chihuahua. Although commonly regarded to as a myth, the details in the mannequin (especially in the hands) keep onlookers wondering.

 

Jun 3, 2013

SHITTY FLICKS: TINTORERA

Shitty Flicks is an ongoing column that celebrates the most hilariously incompetent, amusingly pedestrian, and mind-bogglingly stupid movies ever made by people with a bit of money, some prior porn-directing experience, and no clue whatsoever. It is here you will find unrestrained joy in movies meant to terrify and thrill, but instead poke at your funny bone with their weird, mutant camp-girl penis. 

WARNING: I tend to give away major plot points and twist endings in my reviews because, whatever. Shut up.


Tintorera
is a Spanish "horror" film about two men who look and act like they are fucking each other when no one is looking. Watch them bed beach bunnies, walk around naked, hunt sharks, and lay too close to each other. When dead bodies - victims of shark attacks - begin washing up on the shore, these two men opt to hunt the killer shark themselves. But the movie is less about sharks and more about two hairy men who fuck a lot and are completely deplorable characters. Also, it's one of the most boring movies I’ve ever sat through.

Tintorera, which means tiger shark in Spanish, is a bad, bad film. Not only is the movie utterly devoid of anything remotely interesting, but it also goes so far as to feature completely pointless footage of actual sharks being killed for the sole purpose of making this atrocity. Granted, that may not be a big deal to you, but that’s because you’re a cocker.

The DVD menu offers up either an English or Spanish audio track. I choose English and the movie begins.

The movie opens strongly enough, with stock footage of a shark slowly creeping along the bottom of a dark ocean, complemented by an ominous discordant theme by the always amazing Basil Poledouris, but then the established mood is almost immediately ruined with an awkward cut to a brightly sun-lit Mexican resort, with plain '70s women in their plain '70s bikinis. Lazy, generic Spanish-sounding music plays as people walk around and eat chimichangas (probably).

(Even though I chose the English audio track, the waiter and Mr. Banana Hammock blather on in Spanish for several minutes as I wait for my Rosetta Stone to load. Further, I also chose English subtitles...which appear in Spanish. Thanks for nothing, Desert Mountain Media.)

We meet Steven, who lies forlornly in a hospital bed. Turns out this poor man has suffered a nervous breakdown, so obviously being forced to spend time in a hospital is just what he needs.

We meet Miguel, who apparently has affairs with anyone who looks at him. He uses his circus training to do really unnecessarily showy flips up a balcony in order to get to his affair room.

Sure, vaginas were a hobby, but acrobatics were his life.

Then we meet two American college girls. They hitch a ride from two Spanish men, toting a large truck full of oranges. Then, the following happens:

1.) The truck pulls over.

2.) The girls spill out of the truck and climb on top of the oranges.

3.) The men begin to rape the girls.

4.) The girls attempt to fight off their rapers, but then relent and say, “It will only be worse if we fight.”

5.) One girl says to her friend, before they are raped, “Well Kelly, you wanted to see the world.”

6.) Kelly says to her rapists: “It’s OK. I am going to take off my pants.”

For a movie that already feels like an eternity, we certainly move along at breakneck speed, because we’re already meeting Francisco, a red-headed native whose boat is filled to the brim with a pile of massacred tiger sharks.

Francisco ends up chartering one of his boats to Steven, who plans to use the boat to relax and nurse his stupid brain back to health. Francisco, who is called Redhead by one of his associates, stacks boxes of food on the counter as he chats with Steven, who he calls Blondie, even though the man’s hair is clearly brown.

Two men calling each other Redhead and Blondie. Let that sink in.

Francisco tows up a line - shark traps that he set - and gasps in joy at the dead tiger shark attached to one of the hooks. "I am going to beat it in the head, just in case it’s not dead,” says Francisco. And boy does he. (We get to watch.)

Steven studied and observed Carlos for years,
but he could never figure out a way to grow such a
delightful push-broom mustache.

A nearby shark dive-bombs the dead shark on the line and takes a huge bite, annoying Francisco and pleasing me.

“I’d rather sit in the sun and watch the sharks in the bikinis,” says Steven. The men smile, and then we literally cut to Steven on the deck of his boat with a pair of binoculars looking at the naughty bits of the nearby girls.

Steven picks up a random girl, Patricia, offering her a tray of different drinks, and then uses his unsmiling charm to lure Patricia to his boat for some lobster and some hot hairy cock.

Then they have this meaningful conversation:

Steven: I am very happy because I think I am falling in love with you.

Patricia: Are you sure it is love, or just physical attraction?

Steven: I don’t know.

Thanks for even bringing it up, then, Steven. With crackling dialogue like that, who needs killer sharks?

I do. Please God, gimme gimme.

It seems Patricia didn’t like Steven’s “I don’t know,” because he catches her on the beach with Miguel, the affair man. The two men almost immediately begin fighting, and Steven clocks Miguel a good one across his Spanish face.

“Did you have to use your fists you stupid jerk?” Patricia cries.

I take a moment to ponder how else these two men could have furiously fought on the beach over a woman. Perhaps spirited debate.

Steven gets back on his rubber and farts away as Miguel taunts him from the beach, even though he was the one who got his ass punched to the ground.

Steven goes back to his boat and takes his frustration out on Francisco, who responds with, “Shit. This would even piss off a hermit crab.”

Thirty-four minutes in, and no shark attacks.

"Well, I just had a fuck with Miguel, but if you want,
you can come with me to mass."

Patricia decides to shack up with Miguel, and after a bout of sex, she leaves him lying on the bed, his pale, untanned ass sticking up in the air, and she decides to take a naked swim.

Then we cut to a shark.

Then we cut back to naked Patricia.

Then back to the shark.

Fucking finally.

The shark chews on a wigged-ball of bloody meat; though it’s terribly unimaginative and lazy, I’ll take it.

Steven pulls up to a dock/bar and climbs on. Miguel sits at a table, entertaining some fine-looking “gringas,” but when he sees Steve, he decides to be really funny.

“Get back, it is a wild animal!” he bellows, holding a chair up at Steven like a lion tamer would his beast.

“I hate it when people use me for their jokes,” Steven unemotionally retorts, as I laugh.

The two men inexplicably become friends. Steven sits down with the two college girls who turn out to be the ones who got raped. Seems they’re still enjoying their vacation despite the rape, and they welcome Miguel to bluntly discuss how their asses and boobs are incredible.

The four of them end up on Steven’s boat later, naked as the day they were last fucked, and they just kind of hang out. There’s no sex to be found. Steven swings in the hammock as the girls dance with Miguel.

And it’s not awkward or uncomfortable. Not at all.

Then, a shark swims.

Then it’s back to the naked boat.

Jesus Christ, I hate this movie.

The next morning, the college girls switch sex partners and everyone grinds mere feet from each other. And I don’t care what college you attended, from the School of Hard Knockers to Lost Highway University, that shit is creepy.

Debbie always ended her saying grace with: "And thanks again
for the two cocks to wake me up in the morning."

Later, at a party, everyone jams to some disco, as Francisco grinds with a gringa and ignores his master. Steven gets pissed off at the unauthorized use of his boat and throws everyone off.

It has been 24 minutes since the first and only shark attack, and at 54 minutes into the film, we still have more than an hour left to go.

Let’s pause for an amusing out-of-context excerpt of dialogue.

“What’s this rod for?”

“That’s the surprise I said I had for you.”

Continuing on, the men agree to “rock ‘n roll” and dive in an area known as “the caves,” where the plan seems to be to hunt some fish with a harpoon gun. Right around the time the fifth fish is harpooned, I fast forward until a shark shows up...a shark that is almost instantly shot. The real shark convulses, spewing blood from its wounds and gills, until it eventually succumbs to Miguel, the Speedo-wearing free diver.

Thanks, filmmakers. It sure was worth it, for this is irreplaceable art through which I am currently suffering.

Later, Steven and Miguel sit at a table, staring at a lonesome girl having a drink by herself.

“I bet you I take that girl to bed before you do,” Miguel challenges.

“That’s a bet I wouldn’t want to lose,” says Steven.

Boy, between shooting sharks in the face and making bets to fuck strangers, I can’t help but hope everything works out in the end for these two men.

After seeing the girl off to her hotel room, the men discuss the night’s events.

“The girl could not decide with whom to go to bed. This girl is a professional,” Miguel deduces, being careful not to end a sentence with a preposition.

“Do you think she is a whore?” Steven seriously inquires.

“This girl doesn’t open her legs for money,” Miguel answers. “She might even think we’re gay."

The two men then laugh, after a split second of subconsciously considering the possibility.

The next morning, Steve, Miguel, and their bet go fishing, where she gets to watch a shark be killed close up. They are almost attacked by a tiger shark, but unfortunately, they get away.

Last known photograph.

Then you know what I do? I skip to each chapter of this fucking atrocious movie until I get to the end, because I want to be finished sitting in front of this spewing mess.

The first few seconds of each chapter are as follows:

Chapter 16: Girl holds up a bottle of booze and then casts a hesitant glance behind her.

Chapter 17: Francisco lifts a large squid from a boiling pot and says, “This squid will be delicious.”

Chapter 18: Girl walks across the boat and says to Steven and Miguel, “I would like to have a child. It would be the first child to be conceived by two fathers.”

Chapter 19: Girl kissing her own hand as she looks upset.

Chapter 20: Uncomfortable '70s dancing.

Chapter 21: Steven and a large group of anonymous people walk across the beach. A girl shouts, “I have an idea: Why doesn’t everyone take off their clothes and we’ll go swimming?” All 30 people who are there agree this is a good idea. I am about to skip to the next chapter when a shark makes a rare appearance. He steals the girl from Steven like Winona Ryder steals from anywhere at all and disappears into the darkness.

I am pleased.

Chapter 22: Steven relives his shark encounter to Francisco. “It was horrible, Redhead.”

Chapter 23: A sea plane lands and Steven shows a Marlon Brando-in-The Godfather-looking fellow, Mr. Madison, where the accident took place.

Having reached the last chapter, I figure I can endure a few more minutes of trash.

Francisco and Steven prepare an arsenal of weapons in which to hunt the shark.

Say, where’s Miguel? Was he eaten? Written out of the script? Did he have a falling out with Steven?

I’ll never know, because I’m never sitting through this movie again.

Steven attracts the shark by shooting a skate, and he waits in apprehension for the shark to make its arrival.

Now, as we wait, let me just say this: If the director of this sleaze really wanted to make a point with this movie, he would have Steven, a man who has coldly bedded women and shot sharks in the face for no reason, be eaten by the shark that he was hunting. One shark devouring another, one might even argue.

Well, the music is mounting. Something is about to happen.

And…

Steven shoots the shark, which sinks to the bottom of the ocean, splooging blood from the wound. The assholes win, and we know this for sure, because the movie ends with a shot of Steven, Miguel, and the bet girl smiling and looking into the ocean.

So, to sum up, Tintorera is primarily about two men who fuck women all the time and hang out and discuss fucking women. Sometimes they dance, or have swim races. Sometimes they eat food. Every once in a while, a shark does something.

Tintorera does not attempt, at any time, to be thrilling, poignant, or entertaining. Its struggle for coherence is the only aspect of the film worth mentioning.

That’s pretty bad when that’s the only good thing I can say about your film: It didn’t not make sense.

This movie can eat my balls.