Thursday, September 6, 2007

At least there's cool jazz in Hell

It must have been the hot, humid, sweltery weather yesterday that put me in the mood to watch Jigoku. I bought this movie at least two years ago and have never gotten around to watching it; a bad record, even by my lax standards. The edition I have, by the way, is not the swanky Criterion, but a one-disc Asian import. Most of the DVD menu was in Japanese, but the selections were organized in the obvious way, so no problemo. It is, however, the original 1960 version, and not the '99 remake that proved other countries are willy-nilly redoing their classics, and pissing off the fans. (Screams of "sacrilege!" and "crap!" on the Interweb).

Worth the wait? Oh, yeah. I think I put it off because I knew it was a little more on the serious side; not for when I'm in the mood for Something Weird. But it was one of the stranger horror films I've ever seen, actually. The first half follows an earnest student, just engaged to his professor's beautiful daughter, who seems to have everyhing going for him. Then he accepts a ride home from a sinister buddy, and a drunk walks in front of the car. Suddenly it's a hit-and-run, and before you can say "I know what you did at your engagement party," his life goes to, well, hell, and the deaths start piling up at an improbable level.

They all end up at a nursing home in a country village, where hero Shiro's mother lies sick, and his father is already shacking up with a new babe. Almost exactly at the hour mark, every single surviving character in the movie gets killed off, some individually by other characters, some by poisoned sake, and the rest by tainted fish.

And THEN...the whole cast moves to a Buddhist Hell, which looks as nasty as the Christian one, and the hapless Shiro becomes a hero after death by ignoring his own plight, asking forgiveness from the other characters, and striving to rescue the soul of the unborn baby he didn't even know about when he was alive. The imagery is artistically done, even frequently beautiful, and the torment-effects are quite disturbing. With minimal special effects! This was 1960, after all. But CGI couldn't possibly improve the scenes of the screaming heads on the flayed, skeletal bodies.

Probably not for everybody, but art-film fans need some grotesquerie, too.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

If I wasn't so hopeless in the kitchen, I'd consider it an omen

Weird dreams last night. I was traveling to a small town, I think one that I've dreamed about before, but I don't think it actually exists. My impression is that it's a composite town. There's kind of a little river running through it and a small park, near the edge of town, but closer to a "downtown" that's always a little bit too bustling with activity. That's one of the tip-offs that it's a dream.

So I was in that general area and a little girl was standing in the doorway of a shop, wearing a black cat Halloween costume. She seemed to recognize me, and beckoned me across the street. I went across to her store, and it was an enormous (but Wonka-less) chocolate shop. Another of those ways I knew it was a dream: it was about ten at night, and the store was full of people.

Anyway, I went around tasting and sampling things, each one more melt-in-the-mouthy than the last, and I thought to myself, this is what I should do with my life. I should learn to make chocolates, or work in a candy shop. Because everybody likes candy. People would come in, eat sweet, yummy things, and they'd always be happy to see you.

If I see a "help wanted" sign in the window of the fancy pastry shop on my way to work today, I won't be held accountable for the consequences.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Grindhouse VHS

Seriously, I could write a book about Mardi Gras Massacre. I'm only sixteen minutes into the tape and had to stop to record my impressions. That's quality! Or something. So, a guy walks into a bar and asks the hookers which woman there is the most evil. They immediately send him over to Shirley, who continually strokes the plunging neckline on her blouse in a manner that I think is supposed to be sexy, but looks like a nervous tic. She tells him, "Listen, honey, I could probably take first prize in any evil contest."

That could totally drive Miss America off the air!

This movie, directed by the genius behind the oiled-interdimensional-swamp-witch epic Crypt of Dark Secrets, has a release date of 1978, but its packaging is such classic early 80s/birth of home video kitsch that it's worth the price alone. The movie is just gravy.

There's an ad, framed in cartoon theatre marquee lights, for blank videotapes ("The VCX difference!"), that could be right out of Videodrome, and the cheesiest early computer graphics trying to make flying video boxes look exciting. It also has a trailer for a film version of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler...with Mardi Gras Massacre!

Low budget filmmaking makes for strange bedfellows...

Update at 42 minutes: the murder scenes are a little Blood Feast for my taste (which I guessed might happen when I read the phrase "Aztec priest" on the box), but the soundtrack is pretty great. Breathing, moaning, rattling electronica interspersed with porno music and some disco that's downright parodic.

And some of the dialogue hits the spot. When the so-called Aztec priest is tying up his second prostitute in the sacrificial chamber, she gets some fabulous lines, like "I don't know what kind of scene you've got cooked up here with all your dewdads on the wall," and my favorite so far, "This reminds me of back in Baltimore." Ha ha ha!

For the record, I can't possibly recommend this movie, except for those specialized tastes that just won't be dissuaded. I can't resist mentioning a few other quick points of interest, however: the cop/hooker falling-in-love-montage, after which the cop's partner (the deadpan victim/faux beefcake in Crypt of Dark Secrets) tells him that a former vice detective and a hooker would be a marriage made in heaven -- and he's serious! He thinks the girl is getting the worse part of the deal, since he knows what a dick his partner is. That was unexpected, especially since the most popular one-word description of this movie on the IMDB is "misogynistic," and it made me chuckle.

Then the Aztec priest picks up a prostitute he seems to like, and hesistates to sacrifice her. He tries to throw her out, but, offended, she insists he get his money's worth, so he sort of grudgingly puts on his hood and ties her up. Before that, though, he gets Chinese food delivered for her when she mentions it's her favorite. This may be the best scene in the movie, because when he calls in his order, he does it with the same intensity he has when talking about evil: "Aaaaaaannnnnddddd........a fortune cookie."

I promise this will be out of my system by tomorrow. Or maybe I'll be entrenched in a Talk Like a Pirate Day kind of thing: Talk Like a Low Budget Dracula. "Greeeetings, my friends..." That could really annoy people at my work place. Which would be really fun up until the point where I got fired.