Wednesday, September 17, 2008

revenge of the dumb & mean...

Jesus christ, every time I stop to think about what's going on in the world, or even just in the United States, right now, my chest tightens and I start to feel dizzy. I'm not sure what's worse, the seeming collapse of the economy, which isn't really be treated with the seriousness it seems to deserve, and which isn't being called for what it is- the by-product of about three decades worth of cronyism, deregulation, greed and flat out corruption coming from folks like John McCain (one of the Keating Five back in the late 1980s), Dick Cheney, both Bushes and of course the granddaddy of economic bullshit policy, Ronald Reagan- or the American public's inexplicable fascination and utterly misguided approval of FUCKING IDIOT and vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. This is someone who deserves no form of validation whatsoever. As soon as she was announced as McCain's potential VP, the election should have been over. And yet the spin-masters have gone to work, and turned her into some kind of folksly bullshit fucking whatever. Are people in this country really so easy to fool? Is the power of christian fundamentialism and general redneckery really that strong? We're seeing the fallout of the current administartion right now now, they've totally run the country into the ground (and almost definitely going to get worse before they get better) and people are supporting candidates (I'm talking obviously about McCain and Palin, who are leading in the polls at the moment, despite nearly ever word coming out of either's mouth being a gaffe or boldfaced lie) who seem like they could actually be WORSE than what we have now. Seriously, this election started out as Anybody But Bush, but now we're starting down the barrel of the reality that things can get worse, much worse. Oh shit fuck cunting fuck shit HELP!!! I'm not one for lamenting the stupidity of middle America, I mean I don't think everyone between the coasts or out of the major urban centers is ignorant and backwards or anything like that, but right now they're just fucking acting like it, and if it weren't everybody's problem, I'd say let them elect the fucking corrupt idiots and suffer for it, but once again the willingness of some people to sacrifice their actual needs and interests in favor of bullshit religious issues and right-wing media spin is going to hurt everybody. Again.

So, yeah, that's my fucking introduction to my continuation of the last round of film reviews. I'm having a hard time maintaining any level of articulateness or basic intelligence, I just feel so totally deflated and fucked right now. As a job seeker (for like three months now, yikes!) this economic crisis really scares me, I think the already difficult job market is going to be even tougher now as money gets tighter and tighter. So, yeah, I'm feeling fucked. Fucked, I tells ya. So, anyway, last time we left off at "Nail Gun Massacre," a redneck rape-revenge pic (making it already more politically astute than rape vicitm-hating Sarah Palin) that, at the very least, does feature a nailgun massacre. "The Hollywood Meatcleaver Massacre," on the other hand, delivers no meatcleaver massacre. In fact, this 1977 film by director Evan Lee is at least slightly classier than the lurid title suggests.

Most of the film's budget appears to have been spent on contracting Christopher Lee, which makes it even odder, given they sunk the money into buying an icon of some legitimacy and, even with his horror associations, class, to give the flick such a raunchy title. Lee plays a professorly type who opens and closes the picture (kinda like Bela Lugosi in Glen or Glenda) with some convoluted blah blah blah about the supernatural and whatever. To his credit, he appears in the most wood pannelled of offices, and sports the most plaid of red flared bellbottoms (with wide lapelled sportcoat and butterfly collar shirt, his burgandy ascot and beige turtleneck having been at the cleaners that day, apparently), signifying that this film was indeed made in the 1970s.

After Lee's introduction (which is basically nonsense, but much like his namsake Sarah, nobody doesn't like Christopher Lee), we settle into the story proper, which has a (community?) college professor (that college looks an awful lot like a high school), giving another lecture on supernatural hoodoo, with a bit of a pagan-cum-Lovecraftian (metal fans, take notice!) edge, and being met with some inexplicable hostility from the creepy, moustachioed, denim clad Mason (who looks a bit like a burnout version of John Amplas from George Romero's "Martin"). Mason and his druggie pals proceed to get drunk and stoned (and remain so throughout most of the film, it seems) and then visit the professor's house after hours for an impromptu killing spree. This may have been the massacre of the title, I dunno, I didn't see a meatcleaver...

The professor himself escapes slaughter (his daughter-I think- and t.a. aren't as lucky) but winds up in a coma or something, from which he supernaturally, or maybe telepathically, kills the cadre of attackers. And that's basically the whole rest of the whole movie. In between scenes of Mason's (oh, I get it, Mason=Manason) gang toking up and downing beers, members of the crew are killed off in oddly surrealistic/psychedelic/incomprehensible set pieces. There's some minor gore, but it's not really especially violent or disturbing, just confusing and...kinda cool. I mean, this isn't some kind of post-narrative experimental masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, and I did kind of stop paying attention eventually, because none of it really made any sense, and it wasn't really scary, and I couldn't really tell most of the characters from one another, but it was alright. Y'know, strange, witchy, whatever...

In the end, Mason is spared but winds up going insane, and everybody else dies. Christopher Lee gives another incomprehensible speech on the supernatural and stuff like that, and then we all go home. Director Evan Lee never made another film, neither did co-screenwriters Larry Justin or Keith Burns, though a third co-writer (is seriously took three people to write that movie?) went on to produce some "Faces of Death" type videos, and play a small part in "Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer." According to imdb, none of the cast, or at least the actors playing the professor, Mason, the detective on the case, or Mason's gang, or their girlfriends, or their victims, ever went on to another film. Too bad, not that "Meatcleaver Massacre" was all that good, but it wasn't all that bad, either. Or whatever.
Want a film that is bad, in fact, hilariously so? Check out "Pieces," a US-Spanish co-production directed by Spanish filmmaker JP Simon, and co-written by Italian porno/splatter-meister (and Troll 2 director) Joe D'Amato. And it shows, it really shows. "Pieces" features all of the incoherence, misogyny, interchangeable characters and inexplicable dialogue as your typic giallo (Italian slasher film), with none of the visually masterful setpieces. Early on in the film, one interchangeable coeds muses dreamily," The most beautiful thing in the world is smoking pot and fucking on a waterbed at the same time." That's basically the highlight of the movie, which is actually about a crazed, unseen killer (it's the dean of the college, as if anyone still cared by the end) who cuts women apart with a chainsaw to make pieces for a human jigsaw puzzle.

This plot I think is best when viewed in contrast to a film like "Don't Go in the House." In the early 1980s, when both of these came, it's likely that they were lumped together and viewed as basically the same, criticized on basically the same grounds. But "Don't Go in the House" features a character, who, after years of physical abuse, is driven insane by the death of his mother, who despite her abusiveness, he has become entirely dependent on, and whose actions have entirely shaped his view (and hatred) of women. In other words, it's an exploitation with some kind of brain in its' head, it's about something, its' characters have motivation- it's a real movie, basically. "Pieces" opens with the killer, as a kid, putting together a jigsaw puzzle of a naked lady, getting caught and reprimanded by his mom, then killing her with an axe (and getting away with it, because the cops don't bother to check for, like, fingerprints and stuff).

Aside from some hilarious dialogue and other general ridiculousness (including an inexplicable kung-fu attack that comes out of, and ultimately goes, nowhere), "Pieces" features great weirdo character Paul Smith, as a creepy red herring groundskeeper, who went from this buck and a quarter cheapie to playing Bluto in Robert Altman's "Popeye" and the Beast Rabban in David Lynch's "Dune" (and Sam Raimi's slapstick "Crimewave," Gene Wilder's "Haunted Honeymoon," a movie by that guy who never called me back for a job interview last week [with Erik Estrada and James Hong], and the super bizarre "Sonny Boy," with David Carradine as a transexual). Smith doesn't seem to give a fuck about his role in this movie, and just sort of grins and winks his way through the whole thing, like, yeah, whatever, dude, fuck you and pay me. Taking his role slightly more seriously is Christopher George, a real b-movie kind of dude (and really a pretty good actor), who got his big start on "Rat Patrol" in the 1960s, and went on to work with filmmakers like William Castle, William Girdler and Lucio Fulci. This was George's second to last film, and one of many he co-starred in with his wife, Lynda Day George, who plays a female cop/tennis superstar, or something. Anyway, "Pieces" is pretty silly and it mostly sucked, but it was also gross and entertaining, so I guess I kinda liked it. It was better than a poke in the eye.

Far more engaging, for me anyway, are the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. Lewis basically invented the "gore film" in 1963 with "Blood Feast," a gore film in this case being a movie that exists solely for the purpose of showing gross onscreen violence ("Pieces" qualifies) at the expense of narrative, characterization etc. Still, HG Lewis' films have a real kind of clunky charm, and his excuses for getting the red stuff on the screen are pretty creative. Over the past week, I took a gander at "Color Me Blood Red" (1965) and "the Gruesome Twosome" (1967). These are both goofy teen horror flix in the vein of many similar, tamer films of the 1950s and 1960s, but featuring extreme onscreen violence. Why not?

"Color Me Blood Red" takes some cues from the superior "Bucket of Blood" (by Roger Corman, natch), as it features an artist who discovers he can't paint without the particular shade of red provided by human blood. The basic physiology of human blood- the rate at which it dries and the fact that it changes color as it dries, is beyond Lewis and company, but that's cool, because "Color Me Blood Red" is loaded with a bunch of other fine touches, including the beatnik couple of dresses in identical costumes in every scene, or the female lead's mother, who just doesn't get the kids these days, and recites lines to this effect as awkwardly as possible. Then you've got scenes between the uber-asshole artist/killer and his long suffering girlfriend (who has the pointiest tits you've probably seen in any movie ever), which are kind of funny, until he stabs her to death, which isn't as funny, until he rubs her face against a canvas to paint with her blood, which is pretty funny. This was the third of Lewis' gore films, after "Blood Feast" and "Two Thousand Maniacs," and the tamest, making it also the lightest, since the brutality isn't so heavy as to get in the way to the shenanigans, but it also lacks to insane level of blood spattered goofusness on display in "Blood Feast."

"The Gruesome Twosome" is far more violent, but attempts to maintain a light tone, which makes it kind of a ridiculous mess, which makes it kind of brilliant and hilarious. An elderly woman and her retarded, psychopathic son run a wigshop. They lure young women in with the promise of a room to let, then the son scalps them (onscreen) for wig-hair. Their wigs are quite popular with the young ladies of a nearby sorority, who also comprise the bulk of their victims, which is really just kind of bad business when you think about it. Also it seems kind of weird that they'd be able to kill enough girls to continue to run a fairly successful business without raising any police interest until a Nancy Drew-type coed takes an interest in her missing friends. But what the fuck? If you like lighthearted college (and dotty old lady) comedy mixed with graphic depictions of women being scalped (albeit with admittedly poor special effects), this flick is reasonably good-natured (if wrongheaded) fun. If you really want to check out the best of Lewis' filmography, though, I'd have to recommend his (non-gory) attempts at "teen rebellion" pictures, "Just for the Hell of It" (a bunch of kids wreck shit up for no reason, then learn the error of their ways, or something) and "She-Devils on Wheels" (with the great garage-y theme song "Get off the Road," later covered by the Cramps).

Anyway, that's it. I'm going to go back to worrying about my future, semi-catatonic and quivering, constantly on the edge of a fullscale panic attack, receiving nothing remotely resembling any kind of relief whatsoever, just frustration, setback and failure piled upon shortcoming, defeat and disfunction. Check back soon for more negative pleasure shit...

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