Sunday, 22 January 2012

The Nasties Review: Anthropophagus the Beast

The first offering I have for you is this 1981 Italian nasty called Anthropophagous the beast...or anthropophagous, or grim reaper, or savage island or man eater or one of several other titles. Directed by Joe D'Amato and released in 1981 this unpleasant little tale of cannibalism was banned as part of the 1984 video nasties scare due to a number of outrageous scenes of gore that stand as some of the great examples of low taste in Italian horror. No mean feat by any measure. At a time when even the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was banned despite its singular lack of on screen gore this movie along with its mostly Italian brothers pushed the boundaries of acceptability. The story is simple, in fact its almost non existent. Tisa Farrow plays Julie who is heading towards her holiday home and after a chance meeting with a group of tourists she takes a ride on their boat with them to the island. On arrival however they find the island apparently deserted. One by one they are killed off in a variety of gory ways while they try to work out how to get back to the boat that has been set adrift, in the mean time they try to find out what has been happening on the island. Turns out
that a sailor and his family were shipwrecked and stranded in a dingy, he eventually was forced to eat his dead son and his wife was accidentally killed when she went to stop him, this drove him insane and after being washed up on the island he took to eating the entire island populace with the exception of two people. Now that new meat is on the island, the beast is on the prowl and the visitors are on the menu. As with many films of this genre the action takes place mostly as set pieces of gore and violence preceded by travelogue footage and linked by seemingly long periods of largely inane dialogue and action that serves as exposition and to deliver us to the next scene of carnage. Also, not unusually, there are scenes that echo other films, imitation and plain ripping off was not outside the norm in this area of Italian cinema, but the opening scene is particularly amusing in its almost parody of Jaws. In this scene the girl goes swimming and the is attacked from below the water by the beast in shots and cuts that echo the Spielberg classic. This time however the oblivious boyfriend on the beach also gets it in the neck for his complacency, or rather the head with a cleaver, their dog however in true Hollywood style gets away safely. Characterisation is often an
issue with exploitation movies, often due to poor dubbing and also due to the nature of exploitation films, you really don't want to care too much for the characters as that would make the whole process quite unpleasant. This film is no exception to the rule in most respects although it does spend a fair amount of time getting to know the characters before they they are put in peril. Unfortunately poor overacting in the dubbing sessions as it often does, makes each line of dialogue stilted and awkward. Add to that a clunky and cliché ridden script and you can only sit back and enjoy the ham on display in front of you.
The mad psychic, main stay of exploitation films makes her appearance here and one of my favourite moments from this film after we hear of her lifelong attachment to the Tarot cards she uses, she sees no future for herself in the cards and drops them in the sea, this is a bleak moment as she effectively gives up any hope at this point.
The beast himself (played by George Eastman) is sadly neglected in the narrative. There is a distinct lack of effort to give him character and we learn the bare minimum about how he came to be this way. He is not at all redeemed by the flashback to the shipwreck aftermath and I thought that this was wasted opportunity to garner at least some understanding of who he was and why he became this evil character. Instead he comes across as being nasty and brutish from the beginning and certainly I felt no sympathy for the him. I am sure that we are supposed to feel some sort of sorrow at least for the 'man' behind the monster but sadly this was not how it worked out. There is insufficient background to the character and we don't really know him before the point we see him kill his wife. Its all too sudden and the way its filmed makes it look like this all happened with out much reason. The throwaway back story of the beast takes away from the character and as such a lot is lost about why he would be the way he is, if for a bit of time spent on his character then he would be more interesting than the two dimensional creature he appears to be. In most respects this is a well put together film, although the pacing feels a bit laboured, almost like it gets exhausted when something happens and has it to take a rest. There are fair share of good shocks and one or two that are totally blown and don't seem worth the effort. The old trick of the fake scare real scare is employed quite effectively on a couple of occasions particularly when the blind girl jumps out of a wine barrel and slashes at one of our protagonists. The special effects are of varying quality but mostly are OK to gloriously gory. The head in a bucket however is laughable in the extreme but the finale is suitably tense and amusing in a very bloody way. For certain there is enough here to keep the gore fans happy and its worth the wait for the most part. This film is still not available in its full cut in the UK, despite what the BBFC site may say. The Grim Reaper, as the UK release is now known, is the pre cut version and the full version is not on general release. It would probably get a release now despite one of the most infamous scenes in horror history in which the beast pulls the unborn child out of the mother and eats it. The censorship of such images are related to the obscene publications act which states (and I paraphrase here) that obscenity is when the image or material has such an effect as to deprave or corrupt, this is the test that is applied to questionable film images. While these images are somewhat unpleasant I do struggle to see how it would actually deprave or corrupt someone and I remember seeing the still images in books that were not censored and they went by without so much as a murmur.
Also I have no knowledge of crimes of this nature being inspired by such movies and indeed such crimes (I.e. cannibalism) are extremely rare so how valid the argument is I'm not entirely sure. This said the BBFC have improved in leaps and bounds over the last few years since the departure of James Ferman and more movies are being allowed a second chance now, including some that have never previously stood a chance of release in any form. As most people prefer a rating I shall offer this as five zombie fingers out of ten, in my ratings system the worse a film is the more zombie fingers have been rotted off and the lower the score. So in conclusion this film is not a bad effort, it lacks certain coherence and completeness to warrant a high score but its heart is in the right place and it makes an effort to live up to the exploitation audience expectations and on many counts it does that with gusto, possibly too much for some tastes.....

Saturday, 21 January 2012

2001 : Analysis of the last 10 minutes

2001 a space odyssey, the iconic sci fi movie and incidentally one of the few that I recognise as a true Sci Fi. From way back in 1968 it's probably one of the most written about movies of all time, but also it's one of the most enigmatic to some. Understanding the last 10 minutes is the key to understanding the entire movie. For those who have been perplexed by Kubricks vision I offer my take on the films ending.
The trip through the wormhole takes our protagonist to a particularly ambiguous environment, adorned with luxurious furnishings but maintaining a clinical or rather detached, oddly misunderstood and superficial facsimile of luxury. Here Dave runs through his life, in fast forward until he dies and is reborn in the form of the 'Star Child'.
So what's going on? The images have had many a movie goer going in circles trying to grasp the meaning of what's happing in this two and a bit hour journey.
After Dave is transported through the wormhole to an unknown destination, possibly a laboratory, the clinical aspects of the set certainly suggest it as such, Dave's life is accelerated.
The cuts we see here have Dave observing himself in the third person, then we switch over to the other Dave and follow him. This device is an ingenious way that Kubrick elegantly side steps the use of the montage technique, simultaneously progressing time without resorting to fades, whilst furthering the artificiality of the environment (with) a deliberate manipulation of time.
In order to understand what's brought us to this point it's now necessary to consider the monolith.
It's arrival at the dawn of man spurred the next step in human development, man begins to use tools, and rapidly the balance of power shifts in his favour, even within his species. The famous moment of the bone being thrown into the air and the jump cut to the spaceship is making a parallel between the two tools, the bone and the spaceship, and this illustrates a defining moment on evolution where man begins to use tools, the rudimentary bludgeon to begin with through to the sophisticated space ship.
It's important to keep this in mind as we progress through this clip.

The environment that Dave has arrived in is rather suggestive, we cannot be very sure of exactly what it is but it does carry something of the laboratory to it, or more likely a holding tank from where is prepared to move onto the next stage. The apparent calmness that he achieves, while initially he seems understandably anxious, is helped by the luxurious if somewhat sterile surroundings that have been provided for him.
As the camera pans around the doorway we once again see Dave in the third person, that third person surrealy being Dave himself, through who we see the next step of his rapid ageing. Kubrick makes a seamless and flowing depiction of Dave's lifespan with no crossfades or apparent gaps in time as he's hurtled to his bodily death. This ingenious use of the camera and editing to avoid the use of standard transitions takes the events outside of normality or indeed natural progression, lending them an air of oddness that doesn't require verbal exposition to project its meaning.
This moment fortifies the sensation that the process is unnatural and quite alien at least within the human sphere of experience. As Dave turns to look at his past self observing only to find nothing
we move into his perspective and the progression continues. Dave, despite his passive acceptance of
the situation seems at least in part aware of the process that we see.
Whatever is providing this space for him it seems to be concerned with his well being to a great extent, he's provided with physical comfort, food and a degree of luxury. Stylistically there is a jarring conflict between the old and new. The antique furniture and art clashes with the stark illumination and clinical feel of the containment in which Dave is confined.
An interesting thing to consider is why this is happening, what is the reason for this to be happening now. The point at which the aliens have interacted with humans again coincides with the point that artificial intelligence, in the form of HAL, has arrived. HAL is the tool that becomes a threat to humanity, it's sophistication approaching and reflecting, possibly fully achieving, the emotional capabilities and immaturities of humans, becoming sophisticated to the point where it almost becomes more human than the rather unemotional creators. This is to the point of resorting to murder and becoming defensive and to a great extent paranoid regarding its existence and also to the being fearful at the point of its demise. All very human emotional displays in contrast to the crews almost robotic stoicism in the face of the most extreme circumstances. This ability to create a sentient being may well be the reason for the need, or at least the catalyst for the aliens to progress mankind beyond its current evolutionary stage.
As Dave's journey approaches its end we see him observing the final stage of life as we know it, that of death. Once again the transition is seamless as we move into the dying moments of the current stage of human existence, an existence that must end to make way for the next step.
The Monolith reappears again at the time of Dave's impending death, when he dies the Star Child is born, the transcendent being that exists literally and in every way above humanity. The monolith then returns Dave back to Earth. The cycle of his trip and the cycle of the films arc is completed as we see the beginning of a new phase of humanity again.
The process that Dave has gone through in this sequence is one of evolution, albeit not by natural means. His accelerated lifespan is a journey passing on to the next stage of human existence. The driving force of the major jumps in evolution seems almost god like but is physically tangible in a way that theistic ideas are not. The alien element uses technology that seems magical but is simply ahead of our experience, another thematic echo of the bone to spaceship cut. Once again the difference in the tools is being highlighted only the monolith is as advanced as it is multipurpose as it is elegant.
The starchild has now returned to earth and has a certain godlike aspect to it, an ethereal being that resides above earth, it's comparative sophistication evoking our awe of the unknown, almost making a deity of what is simply an advanced life form, indeed a progression of us. The choice of an image of a child is perfect as it represents a new stage, a new beginning, not an ending or an arrival at the pinnacle of existence, it suggests a humble progression and a continuing journey, the new leg of which has just begun.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Section 3: Night of the living dead

Section 3: Night of the living dead

Welcome to section 3, home to the near nasties, the movies that the police would happily pilfer from your local video store. This episode I have for you a bit of a classic, well okay a lot of a classic. Zombies roam the earth with a taste for human flesh as we take a look at the god father of zombie films, the one that wrote the rules and set the benchmark. Lets have a look at George A Romero's Night of the Living Dead.

When Barbara and her brother go to visit their grandfathers grave they are inexplicably and brutally attacked by a strange looking man. Escaping the scene Barbara manages to make to a farm house that's abandoned with the exception of a brutalised body only to run into Ben, another person on the run and together they barricade the house against the gathering ghouls. Discovering that the house is not as empty as they thought, a struggle for authority quickly becomes a bigger issue than the apocalyptic events outside. It's clear it's not just the zombies that are going to claim lives before this long night is through.

Night of the living dead is of course one of the most well known films I'm likely to critique, it's one of the most clearly genre defining films ever and its influence is still felt today. George Romero and his crew put this film together for the kind of budget that would make any Hollywood studio laugh you out of the office but what resulted was a work that resonated throughout the horror world.

When watching this film these days it's easy to feel a high degree of cliché loaded in to this film. Much of this is down to the fact that this of course this is where most of the clichés came from as Nights influence

The story works in part in because not too much is explained, as so often is the case the atmosphere is generated by what you don't know as much as what you do. Fear of the unknown is almost always so much more potent and there are only snippets of vague information that we learn along with the protagonists. It's the utter sense of claustrophobic paranoia that pervades this film that pushes the focus towards the people and not the monsters that are outside. If ever anything was going to metaphorise the monsters of a movie it's this kind of approach. The zombies are not the defining feature of the film, it's the interactions and responses of the human characters that is the primary focus. The result of this is that we actually have more of a study of society in a crisis, it's a miniature version but all the parallels can be seen with more clarity because we can see the bigger picture in this small situation.

Night of the Living dead is certainly very much indicative of the darker aspects of the era of its creation, with cold war paranoia and the threat of nuclear destruction hanging over the world, information was scarce as to what was going on. It was a rather fearful and in many respects and politically a tumultuous time in the US itself. The brutality of the horror certainly resonates with the events and fears of the time and particularly, if incidentally, the conflict between Harry and Ben has parallels with the politics of race relations at the time. The characters themselves are almost a parody of society in their own right. Barbara, the girl from the beginning of the film is a rather, though understandably, hysterical figure, and while she does appear to be a rather traditional, slightly misogynistic portrayal, straight from a 1950's b movie in many ways, she's also one of the most humane as she is the one who is concerned not with the escalating power struggle within the house but with the welfare of her brother. She is though too helpless to do anything about it, this for me feels like the most real character trait of any of the characters in this film. The most notable characters in this film are really those of Harry and Ben. Ben is a strong, almost robotic man in terms of emotion, though his feelings are betrayed on several significant moments. The fact that he's black it seems was incidental, the actor Duane Jones was simply the best actor for the role according to Romero123 and that was the extent of the reason for his casting originally and this kind of thing is something I think happens more often than Romero would admit however it does add a incredibly significant dimension to the story.
[ text quote ]
"It never occurred to me that I was hired because I was black. But it did occur to me that because I was black it would give a different historic element to the film." (on being cast as Ben in "Night of the Living Dead")

The story, quite aside from the incidental racial dimension, portrays a microcosm of society as the protagonists adopt the familiar Romero formula of creating more problems for themselves than need exist. This is the archetypal slow zombie scenario. The zombies are the threat, but they are of course slow and ineffective should the potential victims keep their eyes on the real problem and work together instead of indulging in petty arguments about who's in charge. [clip] “you're in charge down there, I'm in charge up here”.
It's the tensions between these characters that makes the film. The zombies are very much in the background for the majority of the film but while the bitching and fighting is going on inside, taking the attention of those trapped inside, the fact is they could easily have walked off into the sunset, possibly to safety, if indeed it even exists. Instead the unattended problem of the massing undead outside the house is allowed to go unchecked until it's way too late. The overall feel of the film is one of deep frustration with the protagonists. Not one of them is particularly likeable, even the character regarded as the hero by most, Ben, is frankly as petty in many respects as Harry, his rival. The pig headedness of both these characters is what ultimately brings them down of course, whether this was always meant to mirror the way society was or is supposedly going is not important. It does however present a frustrating and illuminating mirror image of the world around us. Of course the interaction between Ben and Harry takes on a different, if incidental, spin because of Duane Jones's ethnicity and Romero apparently regrets to a degree the unsympathetic approach to the character who is frankly very often as abrasive as anyone in this movie. Given the time this was released it is very easy to read more political subtext into the film than necessarily it warrants, though this doesn't make those observations invalid, it does strike me in some ways as being tribute to the richness of the films narrative and aesthetic as much as intent on the behalf of the director. Romero has often struck me as being the kind of director that has a knack for leaving an open narrative, ambiguous enough in content but consistent enough in structure and writing to allow a lot to be attached to it.

His later works had a more thought out social thread to them in many respects, maybe Romero picked up on that element of the critical response and went with it, Night doesn't feel to me to be that deliberate or rather direct in political intent, at best it feels to me to be more a solidly made film that has enough openings for political readings to seep in and take root. Partly this is down in my opinion to the use of a very familiar theme of taking a bigger picture and compressing it into a small place. The conflict between the characters is a very recognisable thing and can be applied to many aspects of real life, the same can said of the casting of Jones as Ben and the conflict between him and Harry. Where there does seem to be some political leanings it strikes to a large degree to be less of a deliberate act on behalf of Romero than it was the product of the time this was made. Romero did seem, particularly for this, to manage to somehow capture certain elements of the social tensions around him, but oddly much of it seems to have worked its way in on an almost unconscious level and critical responses seem to have built upon that, adding to what in many ways was a straight up, though very effective, horror film.

The story and its implications have been well explored in other writings so I won't dwell any more on this well explored subject. Night of the living dead, apart from being fascinatingly reflective story of its time is a low budget masterpiece of film making, it's a masterclass in how to put a film together. While in many respects it is rather retro even for its time, it certainly has an air of the classic horrors of the 40's and 50's, it builds itself up slowly to heights that were rather unexplored at the time. This really isn't necessarily in terms of on screen gore though. Herchel Gordon Lewis for instance was making much more visually explicit stuff before this, but what Romero brought to the table however was a very dark edge. The violence and horrific acts are portrayed with a complete lack of humour and despite the relative lack of explicitness it's certainly a lot more visceral in tone. It's this marked overtone of utter nihilism that makes Night such an effective film. The violence may be of a lower explicitness but its impact is rather vicious with scenes of zombies eating the bodies of the young couple newly barbecued by the exploding truck, main characters being dragged off to their inevitable and violent deaths and even a child zombie murdering her mother with a trowel. What it lacks in on screen detail it certainly makes up for in the brutality of the event and the tragedy of consequences.

The entirely depressing and shocking ending is something that would have rattled a few people at the time and even to this day is something that mainstream studio works tend to shy away from. I've never really considered Ben to be much more of a hero than Harry is, he's more capable, certainly braver but not really that much more noble. If there are any heroic characters here then Johnny counts as one and Tom is another, both put themselves in danger with mortal consequences for the sake of others. Ben kinda loses points for being a rather pig headed character who makes no effort to keep the peace, in other words he is as much a part of the problem as Harry, and Harry at least had the bonus of being right in his assessment of the situation. Not a noble position by any stretch but the fact remains that they would have all been alive and with a TV for information had Ben not been so ready to fight. His frustrations are understandable and my criticisms of the character and his flaws do not diminish from what a great portrayal of an interesting and textured character he is.
The acting is well known to be a bit patchy in the film though, Judith O'Dea in particular is often criticised for her performance and while it's clearly the performance by a novice it does occasionally hit convincing note. For me she was not the irritant that some found and some of the faults in her performance maybe could have been avoided with some more supportive direction. To some extent the characters faults it seems were partly created by allowing O'Dea to be comfortable with what she was doing, the character was allowed to be more passive and less strong than the original intent. Possibly Romero could have pushed her a little to be more confident in herself as she does display some moments that demonstrate that she can be convincing in her role.
For me though this is a minor fault, Barbara is a old school horror damsel in distress at the end of the day though she does come through at the end for a moment.

The beauty of the script is that it is very simple, it's almost entirely uncluttered and is focused into the world of these people and these people alone. We never travel outside their world other than via the TV, there are no flashbacks and no detours from the situation other than to briefly see the deteriorating situation outside. For the entire movie we are in spitting distance of what's going on. The characters relate their stories and Ben has a rather major arsehole moment when he almost breaks down telling his story, then gets annoyed when Barbara relates her own. Perhaps budgetary constraints prevented the visual depiction of these stories but they work rather well for being related. Interestingly Barbara does alter her story somewhat from the reality, maybe this is a comment in its own right.
Romero's camera work and choice of shot is integral to how this film manages to build tension. He gets right in the middle of the action when there is any, the editing is tight and fast, the use of framing is imaginative and focuses the action right at the audience and virtually makes us a part of the action. In the absence of.3D this movie is surprisingly effective at making the viewer feel involved in what's going on. One of the most celebrated shots really provides both a three dimensional aspect to the flat image demonstrating the threats growing scale, it's a shot that not only gives us an elegant reveal of the terrifying escalation of the problem, it is an example of how Romero uses even the depth of the framing to its best advantage. All this without the need for pointless glasses and poking stuff at the camera. Even the aftermath of the truck explosion has us right in with the living dead as they claw and gnaw at the roasted remains of two characters that by normal standards would have been spared. Here though, Romero has no mercy for the innocent. They are cooked by the only means of escape and duly eaten like BBQ chicken. It's a grim world, there is no comfort, there is no happy ending.

Night of the Living Dead still stands as one of the most influential films of the horror genre, it wrote the book on what a zombie was and delivered a grim, downbeat story along with it. While the following sequels upped the game significantly, Dawn being probably the favourite of the lot for most fans, Night not only rebooted the zombie genre and infused the horror genre in general with a more serious and grown up attitude and reception, it demonstrated that the genre was capable of being smart. It utterly defined what zombies were until the recent batch of fast zombies came along, something which has created a lot of arguments amongst horror fans. Night, and indeed the dead series overall, is the most clear demonstration of the difference between the two, in many ways it has a deeply traditional approach to monsters, that they play most effectively when they are not just mere monsters but a way to mirror our shortcomings, fears and failings. Fast zombies will always be monsters, this is how they function. Howard Ford put it most simply when he said that a fast zombie forces the scene to become an action scene, and action is all very well, all rather fun, but essentially empty and meaningless. The Night of the Living Dead will endure much longer than the likes of 28 days later and resident evil, and spare me the comments of how they are NOT zombies, they're infected, just because the infected are not called zombies doesn't make them any less zombies than Nights zombies which also are not referred to as zombies and the living opposed to dead thing, well just check out the serpent and the rainbow for my response to that. A zombie by any other name is still a zombie. The point is that as a piece of film making it's always the ones that have more content, more going on under the surface, or as with the Nasties, have been immortalised by circumstance or are infamous by association , that will tend to last the distance. Night of the Living Dead will always be the definitive zombie film, even Tom Savini couldn't topple it with his version. It's simply low budget film making at its finest and the breakout of a director that would shape not only the zombie film genre but Horror films overall.

Section 3: Suicide Cult

Section 3: Suicide Cult

Welcome to Section 3, home to the near nasties and hang out for those horrors of the VHS world that teetered on the line of obscenity. This episode we have a particularly obscure film from well known exploitation director James Glikenhaus that explores the cutting edge world of astrological reading as we plummet into the darker side of horoscopes joining the astrologer in a neo biblical race against time to stop the evil Suicide Cult.

Alexei Abarnel runs a secretive agency, interzod, that takes astrology to the next level, computerising the process into a fine art that allows them to predict an individuals zodiacal potential. Certain individuals, notably a man named Kajerste, have remarkable positive or negative zodiacal potentials it seems, and this not only affects their destiny, it drives it to the point where they have no choice but to do what they do. Part of Alexi's work involves finding out when the second coming is due and as it happens the answer is much closer to home than he could hope. As the devils advocate the evil Kajerste homes in on the second coming, government agents try to assassinate him before its too late...

It is very difficult to know where to start with a film like Suicide Cult, it is that bizarre. By bizarre I don't mean in a David Lynch way though, I longed for the obscure coherence of Eraserhead to blow through the fog of this film but no....seriously it tries to go somewhere with what it's doing but just sort up and walks away. This film has so many cataclysmic plot holes and dead ends it all feels like ones dropped off while watching it and missed five minute segments of the film, I am seriously not exaggerating. The film opens up after a scene of ritualistic naughtiness to a bit of essential though crowbarred in exposition....if blatant exposition bothers you then brace yourself, there's so much more to come. We learn from this about the bad guy, Kajerste, and of course about the whole astrology hook on which the story rests. Kajerste is somehow astrologically compelled to be the bad guy. He has no choice and is thus capable of the worst imaginable behaviour, apparently just like Hitler. It's a little tasteless perhaps to imply that Hitler was in some way a victim of astrological circumstance but lets let that slide shall we.
The film delves into the supernatural and theological. It's all a bit predictable in this respect and the second they mention the virgin Mary it's obvious where this is going, the only surprise is that it seems to not know what it wants to do with this. The crux of the problem is that there is very little of that thing called direction here, at least no direction of the narrative, though this particular element may be down to a distinct lack of screen writing coherence this in turn could be down to some of the choppiest editing I've had to sit through in a very long time and this time for once it doesn't seem to be down to censorship.
Suicide Cult had very little reason for the most part to have been on the section 3 list though what parts are potentially offensive are of course pure exploitation and have nothing to do with the story itself. These are often rather gratuitous to say the least including some full frontal nudity by the rather attractive, if unconvincing female lead, and some shots of bloated bodies floating in a river. The later of these is rather unsettling, I suspect it's stock footage. This isn't new to exploitation of course, Cannibal Holocaust amongst others used this kind of footage in the Last Road segment, even Cold Fish debased itself beyond the horror of its awfulness by shoving in some mondo footage but real or not these images are rather disturbing and seem to be used simply as punctuation throughout the bizarrely paced film. It all adds up to make this a rather downbeat film. There's not much to smile about here, it simply tries to take itself just a bit too seriously, something that is difficult to share in as a viewer when the words zodiacal potential are thrown into the mix every few minutes but despite the silliness of what's actually going on the film ploughs on with an impressively straight face. Had Suicide Cult actually managed to be coherent, even in the slightest, then there may have been a rather decent film here despite the silly premise. Unfortunately the narrative meanders around at random throwing out threads that simply have no pay off, indeed the film itself has such a weak ending that the closing credits are as much a shock as anything that came as part of the story. Just as you think its all coming to a climax it stops....dead. Threads like the one concerning the senator abruptly end, the fortune teller seems to have very little to do with anything considering she seems to have so much to say and a not insubstantial amount of screen time, there are half arsed answers dealt out but it all feels either insubstantial, overly convenient or just plain thrown out this character simply amounts to less than you would expect and again is dropped abruptly, , the senator story arc simply shuts down and the whole idea of a race against time seems redundant after about two thirds of the way through with a revelation from a man who suddenly works out who Alexi is by virtue of the stormy night sky.......go figure. The characters are inconsistent and even the hero, Alexei, comes across as a nefarious criminal, certainly morally dubious, more than he does a person who's trying to save the world. He took his wife in the knowledge that she apparently shares the zodiacal potential as the virgin Mary and keeps her for his own purposes, oh he claims to love her but won't tell her what's going on or allow her any form of normality..... she becomes an extension of his work, a lab rat.

If ever there was a film that feels like it was made by a committee its this one, it is an absolute mess. It throws in stuff that it doesn't follow through with, it doesn't create characters more than it creates vehicles for tenuous ideas that aren't fully formed, and for this reason it's not really possible to get behind any of them. The most charismatic person in the film is, and appropriately so in many respects, Kerjerste who only gets a couple of lines and otherwise gets to stand there looking actually quite menacing. Its probably not only because he's a rather extraordinary looking man certainly there is a rather effective physical performance here but there's also the fact that he doesn't drown us in an avalanche of script that makes him less tiresome. It's quite refreshing in comparison to the otherwise dialogue heavy screenplay. Couple this with the idea that he can will people into committing suicide he makes for a rather intimidating bad guy ad one that has real life reflections in the cult leaders of the world. Had the story been much more about this character or at least explored his existence some more it may have been a sight more engaging, or at least exciting
While it would be easy to entirely write this off, stylistically it is rather decent for such a low budget effort, it harks back to the likes of The Andromeda Strain with its time stamps etc. and there is a strong atmosphere of grim dread. In some ways it really typifies the kinds of films that irked the authorities at the time, occasionally gory, certainly creepy, a smattering of nudity and an ambiguous nature that would have baffled the authorities. But the experience is as bizarre as the subject matter. Suicide Cult is a strangely alluring film in some respects, it certainly has an air to it that demands some attention, does it keep it...well that's debatable. Other than its mean spirited edge, which it displays prominently, it's pays so little attention to what seem to be major plot points and simply doesn't have enough focus to make the audience care too much about what's going on, after all if the film itself treats most of the characters and plot points with no respect then why should we the audience. What it does do is it sets up some hokey yet interesting ideas and some of the scenes are quite effective. It is without a doubt a product of a low budget and is appropriately grimy but it catastrophically lost its way somewhere in production and never recovered. The result was what we see, a deeply disjointed, fragmented mess of a movie that none the less has a strange quality about it that is worth at least a bit of a peek at if you're so inclined. Particularly if you're a die hard Glickenhaus fan then you may want to see it to see his début feature, just don't expect too much, it lacks in action, only has a smattering of the violence and is an overly, inadvisedly and unjustifiably wordy experience that simply feels way longer than the actual short 80 odd minute run time it has. It's certainly a film that very few of your friends will have seen

S3: Zombie Lake

Section 3: Zombie Lake

Welcome to Section 3, rest home for the near nasties and non prosecutable film fodder to keep those industrious boys in blue busy of an evening.
This episode we step back into nazisploitation territory with another nazi zombie epic from the boys and girls at EuroCine. So let's dive head first into the cinematic excellence that is bound to be presented to us as we take an ill advised skinny dip into the zombie lake....

In a small French town people are turning up dead, bitten on the jugular. The locals begin to suspect the deaths are caused by a relic of their war time past when a German division was killed by them and dumped into the nearby lake. The lake, it appears, was used at some point as part of some old magical ceremonies, and its not quite finished with working its mojo. As the dead resurrect, taking victims along the way, one of the zombies takes an interest in his remaining family member... can he be the key to destroying the seemingly unstoppable undead ghouls?

He we go with yet another high quality EuroCine cinematic experience. Zombie Lake is pure exploitation horror in all its low budget glory and is very recognisably a EuroCine product. The story concerns the a small French Town that's suffering the loss of several nubile young girls who inadvisedly go skinny dipping in the lake, though not before some playboy model posing before they take that dip in the murky waters. The Mayor suspects that a combination of ancient magical rites associated with the lakes and the dumping of several German soldiers bodies in the lake near the end of the war have resulted in the soldiers coming back and committing murder on those unwary nude models. The story is tenuous to say the least and has obviously been bolstered with a secondary plot where one of the soldiers returns to find his daughter.
Between this and the zombies on a food raid it just feels like the two plots don't feel quite like the gel together particularly well, the extended flashback sequence that tells us the back story is probably the most interesting part, not least because it rather unusually portrays the German soldiers mostly in a neutral and in the case of one of the soldiers in quite a positive light. Zombie Lake is a confusing film in this regard, why make the zombies Nazi's when you aren't prepared to make use of the fact that they are histories boogeyman. As a consequence it's confusing as hell as to what we are expected to think of these characters. On the positive side though it does rather make for an interesting approach if nothing else.

These issues aside what do we find with this low budget undead nazi flick.....well in typical eurocine fashion it's a decidedly insipid affair for the most part. Right from the opening we're treated to some hamfistedly inserted gratuitous nudity, the likes of which we can obviously see has been put there for no other reason than to have a skin on show....and fair enough, at least it's not pretending to be anything else. Incidentally it's worth mentioning the nudity free version of the film.....all the girls none of the boobs and bums, that makes this film suitable for granny to watch.
Eurocine films all seem to have the slightly over saturated colour, the terrible dubbing and the tenuous story and Zombie lake is no exception. It's a bizarrely off kilter atmosphere as people talk almost entirely out of time with their lips and sometimes without moving their lips at all, undead zombies attack the nubile living giving the hicky from hell. As zombie bites go these nazi zombies seem to only be interested in a relatively minor nibble to the neck and sometimes a gentle dribble of blood will sate their evil appetites. The effects are of course rather risible throughout the movie, not only are the zombie for the most part simply daubed unevenly with green grease paint there is also the rather odd underwater scenes. Now although this is rather a cool idea, stolen from Fulci of course but still not a bad idea...if only they hadn't managed to entirely mismatch the shots to a degree that makes them laughable. The shots are taken in a swimming can even see the walls of the pool on occasions but worse than this is the fact that the outdoor shots are taken on a gloriously sunny day but look like a night time shot in the underwater shot. This is not to mention the murky water of the real pond compared to the crystal clear waters of the underwater shots.
Zombie Lake is an almost entirely insipid film, it bimbles along in its own time going through the motions and barely maintaining any momentum. Apart from anything the whole premise reeks of who gives a crap. There are strictly speaking no bad guys here for some reason, the zombie Nazi’s have a hero, if you can call him that, and the rest of zombies really aren't that evil, they just give out rather aggressive hickeys to folks we neither know nor care about, they are zombies after all and they were never portrayed as evil when they were alive, quite the opposite in fact, and the mayor and his town folks just did what had to be done, though dumping the bodies of nazi's in lake ancient revival curse was probably a rather crappy judgement call. As the story goes it just feels like 3 separate elements have been thrown in together haphazardly, including what seems to be a naturist film from the 50's. [clip]

The biggest flaw is that nothing seems to matter and no one seems to care. The mayor is discussing the impending zombie invasion as if it's a concern with a troublesome football match rather than the revival of dead people with a hunger for human meat, the towns people treat it little more seriously than a burst water main, the reporter seems to think flesh eating ghouls are worth dying for in ridiculous fashion to get a picture of and then there's the little girl, the little girl is remarkably nonplussed by the presence of dead people, I blame horror films for desensitising her. It all feel so low key, IT'S A ZOMBIE INVASION FOR GOD SAKE, and worse than that it's a Nazi zombie invasion, it's double the bastard quota!!! SHOW SOME EXCITEMENT!
It's all round very muted in performances, even the nude scene of frolicking nymphets is as stilted and staged as the worst am dram at the local theatre, The soundtrack is all over the place ranging from a droning dirge to an inappropriately jaunty number at will the photography though, as is not uncommon with EuroCine, is clear, crisp and colourful, almost to a fault. It almost feels like all the budget was blown on cameras and the rest kinda was scrabbled together. Unfortunately this is one of those cases where maybe the film could have gotten away with a lot more, certainly in regards to the make up, special effects and underwater scenes, had it had a lower quality film stock and equipment but lets not rag on the one thing that displays any sign of quality in this film shall we.

Once again it seems Eurocine have basically taken several ideas and bundled them together with an added, though rather camp, bonus of exploitative nudity. Where there are some bare bones of good ideas, they're all too underdeveloped and randomly cobbled together with lame dialogue and curiously unerrotic nude scenes that are so obviously stitched into sex up the proceedings but which simply manage to come over as the kind of films that Britain gave up on the late 50's. I mean come on...volleyball and splashing in the pond. Team this up with the curious fact that there is a nice Nazi that actually makes silent Bob seem like carrot top on speed knocking about as a central character in this film and it's all rather a mess at the end of the day. It doesn't work on any level really, it's a wobbly story with tacked in unnecessary elements that engages neither a story nor the exploitation expectations of someone who is likely to watch a film called Zombie Lake. To call this a complete failure though would be going too far, it does have a strange watchability about it. With the nude scenes ignored the film has a curious atmosphere to it and it really doesn't descend into utter boredom, it just never rises to any level of excitement and it's one of those films where you expect more to happen then actually does. Zombie Lake is overall a disappointing movie with very little pay off even in terms of the so bad it's good category of film viewing. It's simply a cheap, not very well thought out or made film with very little direction or talent to make it remarkable. It's one attempt at a decent idea, that of underwater zombies (done by Fulci of course but not to this extent) may have made this more remarkable had it not been so laughably realised... but one things for sure, I'll just never be able to look at a public swimming bath again in the same light.

Section 3: The Black Room

Section 3: The Black Room

Welcome to Section 3, home to the near nasties, those trashy little gems that made the DPP squirm in anticipation. This episode I have for you a film that once again re-jigs the vampire myth as a room with an unusual view goes up for rent. Ambiguous relationships, filthy fantasies and blood draining weirdos all cram themselves into the abode of ill repute as we take an ill advised stay in... The Black Room.

Larry is a family man, though his love life is being slowly killed off by a lack of passion brought on by a long marriage, a mundane life and two attention demanding kids. His solution is to spice up his sex life by renting an exotic room out of town and bringing young women there to have sex with then telling his wife about them, claiming they're just fantasies. He settles for a rather unusual room, known as the Black room, rented out by Jason who suffers from a blood disorder, and his sister Bridget. They are very accommodating to his needs, setting the room up with wine and candles, but the cost of the room is so much higher than Larry realises. To add to troubles, Larry's wife has found out that the fantasies are significantly more real than she thought and now she wants a bit of black room time. Now at risk of losing their easy supply of blood doners Jason and Bridget have some tricks up their sleeves in order to keep the supply running.

The Black Room is a slightly convoluted tale. This isn't because its a particularly complicated story it's just that the story throws in a couple of things that for some reason don't quite seem to gel together at first. Primarily there is the storyline of the cheating husband who hires the black room and then tell his wife about his activities under the pretence of them being nothing more than fantasies he's dreamt up....... and it works fantastically, until she accidentally finds out the truth and pays the room a visit herself. The other part of the story is that of the landlords of the Black Room, Jason and Bridget, an odd couple who stretch the boundaries of a brother/sister relationship while entertaining the visitors to the Black Room, right before draining them of their blood. Each side of the story is fairly nuanced particularly that of the relationship between Larry and Robin. Where it would be very easy for the writing to take the high moral ground and entirely vilify Larry for his behaviour, it actually takes time to explore the subject from a surprisingly remote stance. His behaviour is of course shown as being largely selfish and this is particularly demonstrated by his reaction to seeing his wife in the black room later but the fact still remains that he clearly loves his wife and family.
While in the surface his behaviour would be regarded as destructive it seems in his case, and his wife's as well, that the acts are actually having some beneficial effects on their lives. This is not of course to say that it's exactly something that is advocated, it's simply part of what is the overall picture the film is painting. The Black Room presents us with two very different aspects of a sex life in comparison, Larry and Robins domestic situation gives us the very mundane and any marital bliss is sabotaged by the bratty cock blocking kids who are seriously obnoxious. The film doesn't quite go so far as to condemn the kids specifically in any way but it sure as hell shows the effect kids can have in a relationship. On top of this Larry and Robin have been married a long time and familiarity has caused stagnation. Larry's remedy for this, as extreme and morally dubious as it is, certainly fires up the relationship to a high degree, possibly saving the marriage. If this was the be all of the film then it may be a rather ridiculous stance to take. This is where Jason and Bridget come in. This couple are a rather extreme couple. Not only do they have a particularly odd relationship, devoid of sex itself but none the less sexual in other regards, they have some rather exotic tastes. First off there is the voyeurism. Jason takes photo's and is clearly sexually excited by the process, particularly when it comes to seeing his sister in action. Then of course there is the contrivance of the vampirism that he goes through.

The vampire myth has often been equated to sexual metaphore and here is no exception, in fact its quite overt. Jason really gets off on the transfer of bodily fluids, as do the victims it seems. There is an undeniable and in fact rather perverse sexual aspect to the bad guys here. Jason and Bridgets relationship, though not sexual in the traditional sense, is very much so terms of how they interact with each other and their reactions to situations. They, as it turns out, are every bit as dysfunctional as those who visit the black room. Their sexual experiences are entirely by proxy, there is always distance. Jason gets off on the voyeuristic activity of photography, he even takes erotic pictures of his sister and enjoys it every bit as much as he does watching his tenants. This is just one of several incestuous traits they display.
But as overtly sexual as they are they are also very removed from the recognisable sexual act for the most part. When Bridget has sex with Larry she seems to realise this but for the most part their sexual experience, in whatever form, is removed from the physical aspects of the act. Even the vampire acts are done at a distance with the blood being drawn from the victim by a machine and delivered to Jason who sits a fair distance from the unwilling donor though the reactions of both the victim and Jason are quite clearly sexual. In a nod to the traditional vampire it's worth noting the twin pronged device used to penetrate the neck, it's similarity to the fangs of a vampire are rather marked.

The upshot of all this is that we have two couples that are opposite ends of the sexual spectrum. Larry and Robin are the conventional couple with a non existent sex life. Jason and Bridget on the other hand are the rather extreme in their sexual tastes however they too have no sex life. The common ground is the Black Room where both parties get to indulge their fantasies. The thing is that it's also a place where sex and its consequences become dangerously ambiguous. For Larry and Robin its the place that at first seems to save, then nearly destroys their marriage and lives. For Jason in particular his sex life, in familiar, physical terms, exists only in this room which he can only enjoy voyeuristicaly. The penetrative and for lack of a more subtle description, the fluid exchange for him exists in the form of his murderous acts. It's no less sexual for him, it's as vital an act as sex is for anyone, a both couples and the black Room is simply the common ground, a place that provides and fuels their sexual experiences, that salvages their lives in one way or another, where the mundane and the extreme can meet and mutually benefit to a degree but ultimately sex and sexual behaviour of this kind becomes the all consuming monster in whatever guise it comes in.
The Black Room is a very surprising movie. It takes on some socially difficult positions and it's handling of the character Larry in particular is rather fascinating. The sexual politics that are explored here are done so with a unusual lack of judgement on the characters themselves and while it does draw some conclusions, some of which can seem questionable, the story does dive into the discussion with a refreshing lack of criticism of the people involved concentrating rather than the issues themselves. The device of having Jason being a vampire of sorts is a great example of how to use traditional movie monsters in a thoughtful and effective fashion. The Black Room does occasionally fall into cliché, and nearly all of the time it's related to Jason and Bridget who come across as insanely off kilter and overplayed. A slightly played down characterisation of these characters may have elevated this film further, but it is all a part of the strangely surreal world that the film puts forward and as such although I felt they were played too large, it's not entirely out of place with the films more eccentric elements.

What is particularly strong about the film though is how it separates sex from love with regards to Larry's behaviour whilst also acknowledging how important it is in a relationship as is demonstrated by the reinvigoration of their love life by the fantasies that Larry brings back. Robins behaviour on finding out about Larry's cheating is rather interesting and the progression from that point does provide a moral stand on the situation regarding the Black Room activities, though again it's not judgemental about it.

The Black Room is overall a rather good film, it takes a very different approach to its subject and subtext and while it could be seen as being a bit slow it really doesn't seem to waste any time. The characters are all rather interesting and atmosphere of the dawning horror of what's going on is built up rather effectively. It's all rather strikingly bizarre and attention grabbing, certainly a film that's worth catching however you can. Credit goes to the directors for taking an interesting idea and being able to go with some fairly juicy horror scenes without letting that element dominate over what is an interesting story with many facets. On top of this there is are the performances that although the bad guys can be a bit hammy from time to time it is all round rather well done and certainly does the characters justice. Unfortunately The Black Room doesn't have a dvd release which is a real shame considering that this is a film that really deserves an audience.

Section 3: Suspiria

Section 3: Suspiria

Welcome to Section 3, the DPP's further viewing list of highly recommended horror and exploitation films that existed outside the Video Nasties list. This first episode we have an eminently seizable title that holds up as a favourite and a classic amongst the catalogue of the horror maestro Dario Argento. Thomas De Quincey provides the inspiration and Argento supplies the beautiful brutality as we join Jessica Harper on a trip into Hell on earth. Ballet and blood and evil incarnate come together in the twisted world of Suspiria.

Susie Banyon travels to Germany to attend a highly prestigious dance academy. Almost immediately on her arrival though things start to take a dark turn when people begin to disappear or turn up dead in gruesome circumstances. As soon as she starts to attend classes she finds herself drawn involuntarily closer to the school which attempts to control every aspect of her life. When Susie looks into the dark history of the school she realises that something is terribly wrong with the staff, and that the sordid past of the school hasn't been entirely consigned to history.

Suspiria, Dario Argento's diversion into supernatural tales, is generally regarded as one of his best. His step outside of the giallo genre that made him famous still bears the marks of his earlier giallo work though the visuals in Suspiria go beyond anything he'd done before.

Suspiria is in every respect a nightmare in cinematic form. Its look, its feel is so deeply ingrained in childish nightmares that the fitful night terrors of childhood come flooding back immediately when you sit in front of this masterpiece of horror cinema. There is an unmistakable childish nature to the story, Dario reportedly had wanted to cast girls of 12 years and younger for the film and this was overruled due to the obvious problems the film would suffer if it meted out such violence upon kids. However despite the casting revision the script, the set, and the events still strongly suggest a story that is routed in a pre pubescent world.
First of all there the authoritarian world that the child exists in, the authority structure of the school is not one that adults would be expected to found in and though Susie does comment on her disdain for the boarding school lifestyle, for the most part the script keeps the dancers in the film as children in all but body, they are rather infantile and Susie herself is a doe like innocent.
The world of Suspiria is filled with images from the dream world, all the childish anxieties of nightmares in fact it goes so far it's almost Freudian in it's obsession with childhood trauma though the sexual anxieties of Freudian concerns is almost entirely absent. For the most part Suspiria bases itself in other fears, most noticeably a fear of authority figures and a fear of lack of control. It's the adults that constantly pose the most overt threat as we are never, until very late, privy to what their plans are, or indeed why they are the way they are. Susie herself is very much out of control, her only glimmer of independence is taken away from her almost immediately when she's forced to take residence in the halls rather than her apartment. She's also constantly drugged, told what and how much to eat and is generally manipulated by the staff of the halls. Childish anxiety is a strong theme through out Suspiria, Susie is even right from the beginning inflicted with separation from the familiar, and immersion into an entirely domineering world that smothers her independence. Following on from the implied youth of the characters these things in particular play into the idea that the subtext to the story is one of the anxieties, fears and frustrations of the transition from prepubescence into the turmoil of puberty where everyone becomes the enemy. The recent release of Black Swan, which ran like a love letter to Suspiria, in a good way I hasten to add, saw a rather different take on the characters in which it is very much a sexual awaking tale, Suspiria doesn't seem to go as far as that though. There are some subtle sexual references, and possibly a couple of passing references to bodily sexual maturity, for the most part Argento focuses on a more innocent mind set with Susie Banyon showing little or no interest in the pretty boys at the academy, other than a passing and childish crush on one of the male dancers, the treatment of her is oddly tentative for Italian horror, though Argento often seems to have these female figures who are entirely innocent, even in the eyes of the often leering camera. Jessica Harper fits into this role perfectly. Her slight figure is strikingly youthful and she has a face and eyes that project a doe like innocence, indeed her appearance and demeanour are child like to the point that she is stripped of sexual focus, and it's rather notable considering how beautiful she is that Argento resists any opportunity to exploit her looks.

Harper has used this aspect of her appearance to create the contrast between innocence and experience in other films, particularly the Rocky Horror follow up Shock Treatment where Janet once again undergoes a character transformation, this time she's seduced by fame to become an attention seeking media whore. The transformation here though is more about breaking the shackles of control, her teachers, though ostensibly evil witches here, are most concerned with control, to the point where Susie's diet and even state of consciousness is controlled. Susie does something that rings of a young girls behaviour when trying to gain some semblance of control of their lives, she throws her food down the toilet.
Another aspect of the world as part of Susie's mind set is the architecture. Much of the architecture in Suspiria has a bizarre look to it, it's very strikingly gaudy and bold, it in many ways resembles a dolls house in appearance and it's a notable feature that the scale of the buildings design is such as to dwarf the actors in them. Even the door handles are placed too high which further reduces their stature, again lending a child like aspect to their interaction with the environment around them.

It's notable that the set design seems to lift from the stylistic approach of The cabinet of Dr Caligari, not only an appropriate choice for the country this is set in but also appropriate because of the sonumbalist thread to that story. The structure and capturing of these sets leans heavily into the expressionist style, and it has an uncomfortable, disorientating sense to it

This aspect amongst others puts us firmly in the point of view of Susie. Suspiria is very much a trip into a nightmare inspired by the anxieties of youth. This world is presented to us in the form a cinematic representation of a literal nightmare. The dream world is not only highly exaggerated, something which is heightened by the use of colour, the crazed, yet strangely formal set design and of course the extraordinary collage of sound, but by the fevered interpretation of the events, in particular the most violent.
In one scene we find one of the girls being chased by the mysterious, faceless killer. When she escapes into the room we get an odd, and tortuous scene where the killer is inexplicably having a hard time raising the catch on a door latch. This feels lifted from the irrational mind, it's the slow, painful and deliberately tortuous, it's also rather abstract and clearly more about the build up of fear than presenting a reality. This is the stuff of nightmares, a slow but inevitable creeping towards you of the big bad and if there's any doubt of that this is a dream world then the girls tortuous death in a bed of razor wire should make it clear. This is a classic nightmare scenario, being slowed down, sometimes painfully, by some bizarre aspect of your surroundings. It's this inevitability, the inescapable and relentless attacks that reflect the nightmare world so perfectly and the iconic opening murder is frankly breathtaking and bizarre at the same time. The victim suffers what could be described as one of cinemas greatest moments of overkill as she's pushed through a window then stabbed time after time only to be dropped from a great height and hanged by the neck while simultaneously her flat mate is killed by the falling debris. It's sequences like this and many others
that display argento's rather refined talent for conducting visuals in an almost musical sense, when this is backed up by his work with the iconic musical landscape the Goblins lay down it all combines to be a seamless combination of image and sound. The skill that this handled with makes Suspiria one of the most accomplished piece of film making not only in the horror genre but in film in general. One of the most fascinating examples of this is a scene right at the beginning where we are introduced to Susie. Symmetry is heavily employed throughout the film, from the architecture to the blocking of the actors, and this is what we immediately find with this shot that seems tense, almost uptight in it's order but not extraordinary in an obvious way. The Goblins play a gentle, almost music box like riff, that despite is gentle, childish qualities also carries an oddly menacing undertone. This of course culminates with Susie walking through the sliding door when the calm and quiet of the airport is suddenly replaced on the cue of the doors hydraulic hiss by the storm outside. Susie's transition from the safe and familiar world into the brutal dream world is now complete. This transition is something of a theme within both this and Inferno, it's the transition from the real world into the fantasy or dream world and it's often accompanied with the familiar use of primary colours that Argento's supernatural films are known for. The depth of the colours was achieved by using the three strip process which allowed Argento to have exquisite control over colour saturation. As a technical side note it seems the scenes were lit with orange gels instead of red which makes sense considering the problems cameras have with reading reds, it allowed the camera to do it's work to a higher standard and the three strip process then allowed Argento to manipulate it colour in post to achieve the desired tone and intensities.
All the various methods and devices Argento uses to construct these dream worlds make them so effective at working their way into the psyche. They play on familiar themes of lack of control, of being an outsider, a fear of strangers and of course the manifestation of evil incarnate.
In the case of Suspiria it's also carries the baggage of childhood and here Argento manipulates everything form the set design in scale and style to make Susie look smaller than she is but also camera angles are carefully selected to further this effect....In this shot where Susie has been taken ill she's infantilsed not only by the actions of the overbearing authority figures around her but is placed very low and in a submissive position, in short she looks very child like in this shot. As I've mentioned before Jessica Harper did already look quite childlike already and this shot does have her reduced in stature to that of a helpless child being fussed over by an overbearing family. The costumes enhance this as well by stripping the girls of sexuality further beyond the innocence of their written characters.

When it comes to costumes, these seem to be deliberately designed to hide the adult attributes of her figure and accentuate the fragile aspects of her stature, again refusing the chance to exploit her sexuality. The overall effect is one of making her seem childishly feminine.
In essence what seems to be happening with Suspiria is that we're following a transition from childhood into adolescence a time that is accompanied by a distrust of and push against authority. It's unusual in this sense that it focuses on some more subtle fears rather than the raging hormones sexual awakening tale ala Black Swan, which I rate very highly though Suspiria is less exploitative in some regards as it tells as involved a tale, just without the promise of eroticism.
Regardless of the subtext of the film though Suspiria is a masterpiece of cinematic art. It's adventurous use of colour, the extraordinary set pieces, the set design and the unnerving dream like qualities all tied together with one of the best and most effective soundtracks to grace a film make this an extraordinary piece of movie making. Visually powerful, aurally gripping and engaging on multiple levels, Suspiria comes as close to being the perfect horror film as is possible and stands in my opinion as the most solidly accomplished film of Argento's that I have seen, some of the others come close but don't quite match this extraordinary film...

Section 3: Oasis of the Zombies

Oasis of the Zombies

Welcome to Section 3, home to the near nasties and a voyage into the exploitation movies the kept the police in for many a Saturday night when they could have been arresting rapists and burglars.
This episode we venture back into familiar territory with a director who's filmography runs like a telephone book and contains more gratuitous ass and snatch shots than your average soft core porn flick. Nazi Zombies once again lope across the landscape in this offering from the man with a million names as we take a trip to the desert with the infamous Jess Franco to the 'Oasis of the Zombies'...

An Afrika corps unit transporting some of the nazi spoils of war is attacked while resting at an oasis by Alied forces. One Alied soldier, Robert, survives the attack only to be visited by a German treasure hunter, Kurt, who kills him after finding out the location of the oasis. When Roberts son
finds out about his fathers murder he and his friends decide to look for the treasure themselves. However they find there is something less welcome than treasure to be found as the oasis is inhabited by the dead Nazi soldiers who are still intent on guarding the gold.

Yep Jess is back and this time it's Nazi zombies that are his muse. Certainly one of the oddest areas of exploitation cinema is the Nazi zombie genre, I mean, how do you make histories number 1 bad guys even more repellent..... you have them be maggot infested corpses that still want to kill you.
I've spoken about the Nazisploitation genre a bit before, they are an almost semiotic sign for bad guy, a generic bastard that we can all recognise as being evil without any exposition needed. Essentially this means that they are kind of the fast food of the stock bad guy world, the Mc.Villain if you will, bland, shallow and doesn't take any thought to produce
Is Oasis of the Dead different in this regard?....not in the slightest. What we have with Oasis of the Zombies is more of the same when it comes to the bad guys...they're all German. Things do look up in some departments though. First off there is the fucli-esque feel to the zombies, they seem to be straight out of zombie flesh eaters which is a good thing in some respects if a little unimaginative. The zombies do also play second fiddle to the story which essentially boils down to a treasure hunt and it's only really at the last minute that the whole thing becomes the gut muncher one would expect. The story is very basic though manages to be quite confusing because of the flashback sequence which could have been presented a bit more clearly. It's confusing because it's so protracted that you forget that this stuff you're seeing is actually exposition and not part of the stories main narrative.

Story has never really been Franco's strength in these kind of knock of movies that he's well known for and Oasis of the zombies really doesn't make too much effort, or rather Franco doesn't seem to concentrate on the important aspects of the story which had they been more coherently handled may have made for a half decent, undemanding action film. What we have instead is a seriously rambling, story which is prone to half arsedly wandering around plot points, pausing on insignificant details and killing any pacing stone cold dead. There is no sense of rhythm with the film at all, it all jerks from one place to another and feels like some sort of Frankenstein's monster, stitched together crudely but somehow vaguely animated into a gross parody of what it should actually be.

For the most part it's standard Franco fare, cheap, nasty and it doesn't even have Franco's normal flare for cinematography. The dialogue is of course stilted and is often delivered by some very bored sounding dub actors. [clip]
the good guys in this film are pretty awful as well, they go off on what is clearly going to be a dangerous journey, totally unprepared and with an attitude that makes most of the teen camp councillors in any given slasher film seem like responsible and smart adults.

While this and many other things are clearly wrong with this movie, and believe me it makes bloody moon look like a multi million dollar production in comparison, it does actually carry a certain creepy air to it as well. There is a droning meandering bontempi sounding soundtrack that is quite incessant. Sometimes it works rather well, harking back to some earlier exploitation movies but it does also wander into the irritating as well as it just doesn't let up... for over three quarters of the movie.
For all it's faults, and they are the overwhelming feature of Oasis of the Zombies,the pay off's are occasionally not too bad. The war scenes are rather exciting, to the point that one wanders if they are borrowed from another movie, which is a little sad but possibly true. The zombies are well realised and though the pacing problems continue into these scenes as well it is only fair to recognise that the zombies are pretty damn creepy. But frankly it's all a bit too little way too late.

One wanders how is it that Franco could have done this as much as he did, constantly produce films that have some great ideas but end up being such a mess. Certainly the manufacturing line products that constitute the vast majority of his output have an air of simply being another days work farted out into the movie market, though Oasis of the zombies is by no means the worst of Franco's work. It does have something about it that indicates Franco may well have been slightly interested in the project but ultimately it's poor in almost every technical aspect and the artistic content is woefully low with only the occasional glimpse of the brilliance that Franco can on rare occasions throw out. The film as a whole is also way to dry and serious, sadly without reason, and isn't even as much fun as some of Franco's other work can be and unfortunately the final product is simply way too flawed to even be charming to some degree. The worst thing is that it simply drags it's leaden arse through it's surprisingly short runtime and magnifies each minute by a factor of 3, it's incredibly hard work to get through and the padding that you have to sit through just destroys any good will that is generated by the films highlights.
While I have just spent a fair time highlighting the faults of this movie and I realise it's not going to be one that many will rush to see now it has to be said that as these cheapo zombie films go Oasis of the Zombies could have been so much worse. Had it's pacing been kept tight and the story more efficient then it may have been at least a half decent movie despite it's lack of budget. Franco does deliver some horrific zombies and an exotic and unusual location for the action. It's look is unusual, it's sound bizarre but occasionally effective and if nothing else it's a rather decent take on the Nazi zombie sub genre.
Overall though I can't imagine too many people being able to appreciate this film even despite the occasional decent moments, it's just way too slow, way too choppy and feels like an amateur movie instead of being a film by a man who directed more movies at this point than almost any other director in the industry.

Section 3: Mausoleum

Section 3: Mausoleum

welcome to Section 3, home to the near nasties and a place of final rest for films that tickled the balls of bad taste when pre cert cassettes were simply video cassettes and the police felt the need to help themselves to your collection. This episode we have a film that features the worst kind of hand me down as a young girl gets herself good and cursed by a family demon in Michael Dugan's Mausoleum.

Susan is orphaned at a young age and after running away at her mothers funeral she happens across a rather ominous looking mausoleum which she seems compelled to explore. Inside she encounters a horrifying creature that kills off the stranger who followed her in, something odd is apparently afoot. Years later and we find Susan grown up and having inherited her mothers old house. Things are not quite right though as her family and friends notice unusual things going on with her

Mausoleum is a silly and kinda nonsensical film. From the very beginning we get a rushed out piece of exposition that culminates in the Young Susan running away from her guardian. The reaction of the guardian, Susan's aunt, is rather bizarre to say the least and only explainable in retrospect but the film likes to play these games with the audience, even if it's never directly addressed. The general shoddiness of the film is on full show just in this first scene from the less than spectacular optical effect of the mausoleum, to the random killing of the stranger, the way that Susan is somehow already enthralled by the demon but still feels the need to go see it emerge from the crypt to the soon to be reoccurring nomed reference (psst.....spoiler alert but it's Demon spelt backwards.....) I guess Son of Dracula was more influential than I realised...
It's this kind of cheese that typifies Mausoleum as a whole it's all a bit flaky and when it comes to making sense then the shit really hits the fan. The first twenty minutes brings up a plethora of unanswered questions such as why does the possession happen so young but not manifest again until much later in her life, how come the young Susan looks nothing at all like herself those years later, why does she play the games with the gardener, seducing then berating then shagging him before killing him? If these kinds of unanswered questions are going to drive you nuts then strap yourself in because it's not going to be an easy ride.
Even some fundamental questions such as why it is the family are cursed are skated over in the briefest of fashions, nothing is really explained and so much is taken for granted. This is really the irksome thing about Mausoleum, it just doesn't bother to so much as care about the simplest things that it itself hangs the story on. It is to the core, deeply sloppy and messy in these respects. As a result of this the entire film feels rather disjointed, there is a disconnect between what's seen and what happens, cause and effect are so loosely tied and sometimes even completely detached to the point that you just don't even have to be paying attention to catch the plot holes. This oddly can sometimes works in favour of a film but in the case of Mausoleum it really doesn't do anything for it. Mausoleum does have a very nightmare like quality to it the fractured images and plot as much of a hindrance as it is does almost falteringly tie into this, though had it been better executed in terms of the story then maybe it could have tied in the woolly plot structure and flaky attention to detail and made it contribute to the bizarre atmosphere of the film more effectively but as it is it simply makes for a barely coherent mess of a story. It's clear that when an explanation for something happening was identified that a contrived solution was whipped up to fill in the gaps, but it also seems that that was as far as the writing would go, answer the immediate question with an answer that makes little to no more sense than the original problem. Point in case the funeral scene....(opening scene) okay so sure they seem to know about the curse but why fulfil it by taking her to the very place where the problem exists....hold the funeral somewhere else for crying out loud. This is really a film with more holes than a mole infested golf course and if you hope to have anything substantive to watch here then frankly you're in for a disappointment as it's just nonsense upon nonsense with an ending that makes less sense than anything in the movie before it, no spoilers here but damn if it isn't the strangest and most ill thought out use of a plot twist ever and aside from that it leaves so much up in the air it'll put Nasa to shame.
This is really Mausoleums major flaw, and it's a big one, however its not so big as to entirely kill the film off. What we have here is basically an Omen/Exorcist inspired film, though Mausoleum really doesn't get to the dramatic height of either of these films by a long shot, it's just too cheap and nasty to compete on either films terms and considering the story was rather thrown together it's not like it even has that going for it. However, Mausoleum does manage to generate a weird atmosphere that peps up the film as a whole, sure it doesn't make too much sense but it does feel like a stroll into a fevered nightmare of someone suffering terminal malaria.
This is amplified by the bizarre characters, from the odd Aunt, to the creepy doctor and the slimy gardener. The later, the gardener is one of the more ….. uncomfortable portrayals in this film. The ethnic characters are not only rather screwball they are rather, stereotypical. I say stereotypical rather than racist as I don't think its malicious rather than a bit lazy. The black maid is straight out of the worst kind of parody even down the exclamation of Great googly moogly! This just peppers the film rather than permeating it and it would be easy to overstate it. It comes across more as ill advised humour rather than being malicious and there is a moment of levelling in one scene between Susan and the maid........[19:30ish shopping list] ain't much but it's there and it does make the portrayals lean more towards comedy than being mean spirited.
To add to the off the wall feeling there is the casting of Marjoe Gortner who's surprisingly capable here but it's fairly strange to see the ex child evangelist superstar acting alongside a naked playboy model.

I am very aware that this has so far been a rather negative review of the film, this is not what you should take away from this review though as Mausoleum actually works out to be a moderately fun film despite its shortcomings. It's certainly hokey enough to be amusing, the performances just the right side of bad and the special effects are particularly amusing. It all comes over as being an early 1900 horror that arrived at the cinema in the wrong decade. The shadows of the monsters come over as a lift from the classic Nosferatu, though to the casual viewer its of course a cheap way around the low budget, truth is it's probably a bit of both. Then there is the exorcist like make up of Susan as the monster and the indiscriminate use of ultra violet lighting that makes some of the scenes seem like they've been filmed at a cheap Halloween party but for whatever reason the film works, not overwhelmingly well but it is a halfway decent and undemanding watch that at least has some fun deaths along the way.
If you can put up with the nonsensical and ragged plot, the contrivances that move the story along and the dubious special effects, including a very prominent appearance by a flying rig, then Mausoleum does at least offer a bizarre acid trip of a horror film. While it can't be called a good film by any reasonable standards it does however provide a decent degree of fun along the way at least and frankly that can sometimes be just about enough. Just be prepared to be in for a goofy and almost surreal ride.

Section 3: G.B.H.

Welcome to Section 3, home to the near Nasties that the police just couldn't keep their hands off of. This episode I have for something for you that captures the age of the video revolution, being as it is low budget, almost unheard and actually shot on video for video... Lets delve into the murky world of the Mancunian underground with the bad ass bouncer with Cliff Twemlow's GBH....

Night clubs across Manchester are being raided by heavies working for the local crime boss Keller and being extorted for protection. When club owner Murray realises his club may be next he calls for the services of an old ally, a man who's just about to be released from prison after helping him before. That man is Donovan, the legendary bouncer known as The Mancunian.
As Donovan begins to work he quickly comes face to face with the heavies sent to threaten the club
and so a battle begins for control of the scene and a few old scores will be settled.

GBH is a rather distinct film in several regards. It's one of the very few films on the list that really typifies the video revolution. The relatively cheap cost of recording and distributing on video meant that film making suddenly became something that almost anyone could do with the a comparatively modest budget. Of course at the time there was an explosion of shot on video productions, many went nowhere and even the most successful were minor hits in the grand scheme. Occasionally some true cult gems emerged, and GBH was in my opinion one of the best.

Now when I say the best I don't mean in practical terms. The acting is very shaky for the most part, the editing, rather amateur, the general construction of the movie is done by people that clearly are working with not just a limited budget but struggling with limited resources in experience with the technology. So what is it that makes this at least an interesting film. Well it starts with the utter enthusiasm that this seems to buzz with. This is one of those films that clearly comes from people who genuinely seem to want to make movies, and this enthusiasm is quite infectious. The main character Donovan is a well meaning man, clearly a man of violence but one of noble intent. There is a strange handling of the character in some respects in that the film occasionally slips into near homo-eroticism but then Donovan is also clearly a ladies man. This duality of character is quite interesting, certainly Donovan is a clearly macho man, slick with the ladies but also a sensitive man with a close bond to his male comrades, even those who are his enemies. This is really a minor point though, the character is a good man regardless of sexuality and his willingness to resort to violent means to ensure rough justice.
This is the heart of the film, Donovan's integrity against the scum and thugery of his enemy Keller. It may be possible that the identification that can be made with a character like Donovan was something that the DPP felt was problematic. He's a character who is ambiguous in his methods and quite alluring as an anti hero, certainly he's not as clear cut as the desirable hero in terms of morality. To some extent he's a misogynist, he's also not averse to being a thug but his moral compass is true if somewhat rougeish. In some respects he's very much like the wild west hero, trapped in a violent society and forced to play the game of the lawless, though for the good guys. Indeed the film itself seems directly inspired by westerns with the nightclubs replacing saloons, and even with there being a violent shoot out that could almost be lifted directly from any number of westerns. There are hero's, villains, the woman who can potentially salvage the hero's soul, and an unspoken bond even between enemy’s and even a butch and sundance style going out in a blaze of glory ending, the similarities are uncanny, though the violence in the film are probably more reminiscent of the spaghetti westerns than anything else. It does also cross over with the more notable crime drama's but then both genre share common ground, choosing to humanise what would in normal society (what ever that may mean) be recognised as being amoral or at least dubious.
GBH also both suffers and is lifted by it's localisation. This is clearly a film for British audiences, how well it would cross over to foreign audiences is questionable and most likely would be unsuccessful. This isn't because the characterisation is shoddy or the story unrecognisable but the specifically British urban feel is something that even many British audiences would struggle to get over. The fact that it particularly Mancunian in tone can itself be an obstacle though this for me was part of it's charm and there a hard core of Twemlow fans who very fondly embrace the specific regionalising of not only this but of Twemlows other films. The overarching feel of this film is one of utter enthusiasm for the project and the characters are played with what seems to be a great deal of gusto. It's often apparent that there is an awkwardness to the performances and the lines and action can not only be very cliché but ham to a significant degree but it all seems so very forgiveable because despite all of this it trundles along at a decent pace and doesn't waste much time trying to be anything pretentious.

It's this honesty that really makes GBH what it is. While it's still a fantasy of the rough diamond good guys standing up to the injustice of the bad guys it plays in an honest and sincere manner that frankly leaves many major movies in the dust and I suspect this is in part what appeals to fans of this film.

It's the heart that the film has rather than it's technical accomplishment that rings through and this shows through in the key characters, in particular in Donovan who comes over as a true working class hero.
When it comes down to it GBH seems to be a labour of love by all involved in making it, though it will always languish in obscurity because it's technical shortfalls alongside it's amateurish overtones will be too much for many viewers to get over. Which is a shame because what likes underneath is a rather fun story with a decent central character and story that, if you can be charitable enough to forgive the multitude of rough edges, is actually quite engaging and fun. It's all a little done maybe but what with the Manchester background and recognisable landscapes this should actually a be a rather endearing film to at least a British audience, at least those who appreciate wild west/crime drama kinds of films. Even for those who can't bring themselves to enjoy the film the one thing that should be very apparent is that this is a rather strong example of how the video revolution presented unparalleled opportunities to film makers. Where the final product may stand separate from the mainstream, there were at least chances to make independent films on a nearly non existent budget, for better or for worse. It's a small taste of a more level playing field in the film world, something that has been sadly lacking for the most part and something that given new media opportunities we are beginning to see again, much to the angst of major studios.

As way of a parting comment it bears mentioning for the unwitting that this is not the GBH you will generally find by Googling it. The one you are most likely to find will be Alan Bleasdales drama staring amongst others, Michael Palin. If you can get to see Twemlows rather rare title, by whatever means you can, I think it's a worthwhile watch that you may either love for its charms, or loathe for its aesthetic.

Section 3: Dawn of the Mummy

Welcome to Section 3, home to the near nasties and major concern for all those of a superior moral standing. This episode we head to Egypt for a tale of an ancient curse, lost treasure, grave robbers and a gaggle of beautiful people as a classic movie monster returns to the screen looking surprisingly like a very different kind of movie monster. Lets dive into the Frank Agrama's....Dawn of the Mummy.

Ancient Egypt and Sephriman, an Egyptian Pharaoh, wages a cruel campaign against the population until he dies and is buried with full honours and a curse that means if any one tries to help themselves to his treasure then he will rise and kill and his henchmen will also revive to all go on a jolly little escapade of rising and killing. Thousands of years later and grave robbers discover the untouched tomb but as they try to find the hidden treasure inside they attract the attention of a group of models on a photo shoot nearby. When the models let themselves into the opened tomb and decide to set up and shoot in there, unwittingly they manage to revive the dormant Sephriman who proceeds to go on the rampage against all of Egypt, rising and killing.....well you can't say they weren't warned.......

Dawn of the Mummy certainly is a rather odd little film, probably not watched by many and saddled with the look of the cheapest horror films like the forcibly crapped out Oasis of the Zombies it seems to swing wildly from the kind of film that Jess Franco would later disown for being crap to something rather attention grabbing. The story is set up with the revelation that an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh was so protective of his gold that when he died he had a curse placed upon himself and the treasure to ensure that any thieves would be brutally dealt with should they be so brazen as to insult him so. Being an absolutely arrogant thug in life this is of course not surprising. A couple of millennia later of course and enter the impressively Arian Rick who has found the tomb and wants to make the gold his own despite the curse. Of course him being an absolutely arrogant arsehole with a gold fixation that would make Yosemite Sam suggest an intervention, Rick picks a rather oddball collection of buddies made up of some guys who die in an attempt to rip him off, all a misunderstanding of course, and two closer colleagues who have something of the hysterical about them. One of the later manages to get the models attention by shooting at them to which they respond by going to pay the shooter a visit......... now not only do they not get the hint about not being entirely welcome here they decide that they're going to go crashing into the tomb citing an all access pass from an antiquities minister of some kind which apparently means they can storm into sites of historical significance set up blazing lights and touch whatever the hell they please in whatever manner they wish..........say hello to the good guys folks, my god this is going to be a bumpy ride. And the grave robbers don't just bump them off and have done with it, they stand back and let them get on with it.... And this is the best bit... After Rick and his buddies have set off numerous high explosives and rattled around the tomb in the most unsubtle piece of archaeology since the opening scene of Indiana Jones it takes a bunch of models and an arsehole of a photographer to revive the big bad by heating him up with their lighting. Oh yes, this is all the American model tourist brigades fault. Of course carnage eventually ensues but not before we get to hate the photographer guy enough to want to see him have his giblets slowly removed via his anus by a long dead Egyptian despot.
Dawn of the Mummy is not a good film in almost all respects. The characters and characterisation are abysmal to say the least. The good guys are not only the cause of the carnage they are so amazingly arrogant and frivolous that one wanders if this isn't a sly and bitchy comment by Agrama on Americans in general. The bad guys are so outrageously over the top that they are nothing more than parody. They are at least a lot more likeable than the group of models though and do provide many laughs along the way, possibly unintentionally. One example is the exploitation staple of subbing out the rat......this time with a beautiful fluffy cute white mouse...... seriously.... the beast in heats set guys at least took the time to paint their guinea pig rats the right bloody colour. These are our bad guy folks, a group of guys lead by a man who makes Giovanni Lombado Radice's coke fuelled Mike Logan seem like a steady guy and some side kicks that give us the worst kind of ham since porky the pig was found dead in his apartment after a month of laying there.
The thing is with Dawn of the Mummy that it takes a rather two tone approach to telling the story and these tones are rather polar. The hammy tone I've already talked about but at about the 30 minute to go mark things really get ramped up in the gore stakes. Now the movie has touched on this kind of stuff throughout but the climax to the movie gets full on with the stage blood....and it's surprisingly effective. These mummies could almost give Fulci's zombies a run for their money and it's here that the films Italian influences come in full force as up until this point it's ran like one of Jess Franco's more animated efforts. It's clear that the director was relishing making these scenes and although its not necessarily the most competently put together sequence it certainly has a lot of energy.

The whole film carries off the very strong euro exploitation vibe incredibly well, particularly in regards to the acting, the very stock the film is captured on the piled on gore and ham acting it all works towards that aesthetic really well and it's surprising that in fact this is an Egyptian/ US production rather than a Eurocine release. The first half of the film is rather ramshackle though, the credit sequence for instance seems to want to establish the main characters in a photo shoot in New York, fine but it goes nowhere, all we get is the cast posing in New Yorks parks and the likes, padding, it's all just padding. When we do get to hear them speak for the first time then we immediately get to know the photographers an asre and the girls are largely vacuous, colour me amazed.
Obviously being shot in Egypt there are some terrific locales that Agrama got to film in and there are plenty of times when they really take advantage of this, unfortunately the crypt does look exactly like what it is....a cheap set. It's a low budget film though and much of this can be forgiven really. Where it can be a drag to watch on some short occasions it usually breaks the boredom on regular enough intervals to keep you awake and damn it it's pretty amusing. It's Italian exploitation feel, as fake as that may be, makes it a fun watch for fans of that particular chapter of cinema history, but I for one would have guessed at it being one of the better Jess Franco knock off films because as bad as it is, it just seems frivolous and fun.

Dawn of the mummy really should have been an utter disaster, the bad bad acting, the hokey story, the low budget, the should have been abysmal. However it somehow manages to drag itself through all this crapness and become a rather enjoyable film, at least in part. For one thing it is incredibly funny, laugh out loud at some points, some of it it seems to be intentional too. True you can't really give a crap about any of the good guys and the bad guys give some pretty out there performances but it does make their inevitable demise a guilt free pleasure. It's just the utter abandon with which the film is made seems to result in it being a completely fun 90 minutes of film. It chugs through the exposition fast enough to get it over with and then treats us to a suitably bloody climax. It's not the most exciting film out there of course but for what it is and what it could have been it's certainly worth the time out to see it. I can't help but think that this is the very least that Jess Franco should have been kicking out, Dawn of the Mummy at least shows that an entertaining film can be churned out for a minuscule budget.