Vidar The Vampire – Thomas Aske Berg & Fredrik Waldeland – 2017

Posted in 2010's with tags , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2017 by bookofdread

Is Jesus a Vampire? This is one of the central conceits of Thomas Aske Berg and Fredrik Waldeland’s absurdly violent and rude film Vidar The Vampire, a scandalous Norweigian romp, sure to please fans of Hammer horror and the kind of charming kitsch harnessed by the likes of Edgar Wright, Wes Anderson, and Jared Hess.

Vidar, played by Thomas Aske Berg, is a farmer whose life is monotony and work, and he prays to Jesus for a way out. And Jesus answers his prayers and offers the ‘body of christ’ in what is sure to be an all time classic of a scene. Subsequently, Vidar is transformed into a Vampire.

Vidar The Vampire cites the biblical text, “eat this it is my body, drink of this it is my blood” to justify a complete inversion of the Christ figure into broish ball of charisma. Brigt Skrettingland imbues the Jesus/Satan figure with a kind of rough charm and daemonical glee. He takes Vidar to prostitutes and promises him a sample of both women of twenty and twenty plus.

It is a testament to the acting chops and strong likability of the lead actors to make such insufferable fiends not only tolerable but hilarious. The film is at it’s best when poking fun at social awkwardness, the strange quiet moments experienced by someone who isn’t used to talking to people. In this way we root for Vidar to find connection as someone alienated. Unfortunately for Vidar, being a Vampire doesn’t really make things easier.

There is also a strong subtext about what it means to transform into a kind of night for day person, not so much a literal vampire but the obfuscation of life that living only in the night brings, and the kind of murky interactions that occur there, whether or not they lead to blood sucking.

Speaking of blood sucking, there is another, incredible moment where Vidar feeds that is an all time great vampire scene. The film is packed with cool in camera effects and this all lends to they type of Hammer feel I described above.

The cinematography is bleak and blue like the Norwegian setting and the score by Aske Berg is cool and atmospheric, navigating the grounded absurdity and the dreamlike sequences with fluid ease. There are also a few folk songs peppered throughout the film that create novel montages for growth in Vidar.

If you can handle the subversive text and enjoy silly, gory, sexy fun, Vidar the vampire is movie bliss.

 

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Top 25 Films of 2016

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2017 by bookofdread

Unlike many who posit best of lists at the end of the year, I assume no objectivity, and these aren’t the BEST films of the year. These are my favorites, and all of them are films I think are worth returning to in the future. The Witch is on last years list, and I haven’t seen Scorsese’s Silence yet, or I’m sure it would make this list. Some of the titles haven’t been released yet. Nevertheless, these were my 25 favorite films of 2016.

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25. Battledream Chronicle – Alain Bidard

A sweeping, thrilling animated sci-fi epic, anchored by two strong female characters make the first ever feature film from Martinique a unique creature to behold. Bidard’s visual sense brings hand drawn animation into the twenty-first century, and I cannot wait to see what he does next.

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24. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – Gareth Edwards

Rogue One really thrilled me with visual panache and iconography. The Michael Giachinno score was suitably spectacular and I had a grand time in the Star Wars sandbox. (I liked it much more than The Force Awakens.)

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23. Batman V. Superman: Dawn Of Justice (The Director’s Cut) – Zack Snyder

It wasn’t until after I saw the actual cut of the film did I see what Snyder was up to re-making The Last Temptation of Christ with super-heroes. He throws together the biggest of DC’s universe shaking events with aplomb, and most of it not only sticks, it thrills. Best of all, Wonder Woman and her kick ass theme light my smile every time they appear.

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22. When Black Birds Fly – Jimmy ScreamerClauz

More than any film I saw this year, When Black Birds Fly felt very transgressive. It’s shocking, political, blasphemous, crude, and nihilistic. Yet, the entire enterprise gives one hope for art. The whole picture is framed as a piece of propaganda for a strange future church. More than anything, it reminded me of Eraserhead in its conflagration of suburban “Heaven” and the hellish world of color on the other side of the wall. Not for the faint of heart. This film will offend you.

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21. The Autopsy Of Jane Doe – Andre Ovredal

A brilliant narrative device and a pair (trio?) of stellar performances made this morgue tale one of the most frightening stories of the year. After seeing this film, a cat toy with a bell in it scared the shit out of me.

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20. Blood Father – Jean-Francois Richet

Mel Gibson returns to form in this hugely entertaining blood feast. We need more like this.

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19. Scherzo Diabolico – Adrian Garcia Bogliano

Bogliano returns with his blackest film yet, a comedy. With each precise musical cue and turn of the screw I kept asking myself, “Am I supposed to be laughing at this?”

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18. Terror 5 – Sebastian Rotstein and Federico Rotstein

Terror 5 is the rare horror omnibus that adds up to more than the sum of its parts. Each segment is strong on their own, but added together it reaches kind of political Fulci-esque climax that hit me in the feels. I was ready to rage against the machine as the dead take the city.

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17. Split – M. Night Shyamalan

I can’t say anything about this film, because you haven’t seen it yet, but James McAvoy gives a performance for the ages, and Anya Taylor-Joy also turns in stellar work in Shyamalan’s best film in over a decade.

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16. Last Girl Standing – Benjamin R. Moody

The cleverest American film of the year kept me guessing until I was rooting for the story to go where it did. A fine script and taut editing make Last Girl Standing sharp as The Hunter’s knife.

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15. American Honey – Andrea Arnold

This riveting look at youth in Middle America left me breathless. The cinematic equivalent of getting in a van and going, wind in your hair, music up loud.

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14. The Neon Demon – Nicholas Winding-Refn

The Neon Demon is an intoxicating cocktail of images and music that DEMANDS to be seen on the big screen. I felt like I was going to fall into the screen.

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13. Everybody Wants Some!! – Richard Linklater

As only a mild fan of Linklater I was very surprised when he turned out what happens to be my favorite of his films. Everybody Wants Some is both specific and general in the anecdotes it uses to show formative days for these baseball players. Revisiting the weekend before college was a real fucking treat.

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12. Hail, Caesar! – Joel and Ethan Coen

It was a good year for films with exclamation points in the title. Hail, Caesar is a fine throwback film, a classic film about a classic era, and stupendously funny. No film this year can claim such an electrifying ensemble.

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11. Be My Cat: A Film For Anne – Adrian Tofei

This Romanian found footage film is some kind of marvel. Starring, written by and directed by Tofei, Be My Cat is based on a one-man show he created called “Monster”. The film, a strange slasher by way of portfolio piece to Anne Hathaway, is a new kind of brilliant. I was unnerved, but hooted and howled in laughter at his sick little film.

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10. The Shallows – Jaume Collet-Serra

I love the “aquatic terror” genre, so I was already in the bag for this to begin with. I wasn’t ready for it to be a masterpiece of the genre. We are all running from this metaphorical shark at one point or another and circumstance wont free us, only our belief in our self, and a little faith.

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9. Eyes Of My Mother – Nicholas Pesce

Along with The Driller Killer, Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer, Eyes Of My Mother, attempts to create empathy and deconstruct psychotic behavior. It is a beautiful chilling portrait, the best horror film of the year.

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8. The Handmaiden – Chan-Wook Park

The hottest film I have ever seen. Erotic and sleazy, refined and crude, The Handmaiden has it all ways and then some. Bells have never sounded so heavenly.

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7. Elle – Paul Verhoeven

The world’s greatest provocateur hasn’t lost his touch. Elle’s constantly shifting moral perspective makes it a work of the highest sophistication, and Isabelle Huppert gives an all-timer of a performance.

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6. The Nice Guys – Shane Black

Shane Black has been distilling the buddy comedy for decades now, and The Nice Guys might be the purest batch of the bunch. Exhilarating and hilarious Black is the best Hollywood has to offer at this type of entertainment.

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5. Hacksaw Ridge – Mel Gibson

Another violent film about faith, Hacksaw Ridge is moving filmmaking. Gibson’s hand is so strong here; we see that we are losing filmmakers like him. There aren’t many who have so strong a voice and the tools to use it. Welcome back, Mel.

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4. The Hunt For The Wilderpeople – Taika Waititi

What a life affirming film. There’s nothing like it. I really can’t compare it to anything. It reminds you to take life by the balls and have a laugh with it. I left this movie absolutely on a cloud.

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3. Colossal – Nacho Vigalando

How does this movie even exist? The premise is so crazy that it would take a razor sharp mind like Vigalando’s to make it work. And work it does. It delivers that kind of magic Spielberg would produce on the regular in the eighties. Everything is note perfect, including the on the nose subtext. Vigalando is one of the best filmmakers in the world.

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2. La La Land – Damien Chazelle

I’m no cynic. This film was like a drug. I loved the songs and the use of imagery together. It was a film I felt more than I watched and I was drunk in it for two hours. I feel it’s a new classic, which while borrowing from the past lends newness to the genre.

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1. Nova Seed – Nick DiLiberto

I cannot say enough how much I love Nova Seed. Completely written directed and animated by DiLiberto, Nova Seed is as close to peering into a single imagination as can be. A throwback to early 80’s adult animated classics; Nova Seed exists in a genre the last entry of which may have been Don Bluth’s Titan A.E. I saw Nova Seed twice during Fantastic Fest, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. See this film!

Nova Seed – Nick DiLiberto – 2016

Posted in 2010's with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2016 by bookofdread

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What is Nova Seed? Nova seed is the most spectacular film of the year. It is a mind-melting cornucopia of psychedelic animation not seen since the early eighties. Films like Rock and Rule and Heavy Metal are obvious forebears, but there are nods to nearly everything from the era such as Masters Of The Universe, Thundercats, and GI Joe The Movie.

But unlike those commercials for soundtrack albums and action figures, Nick DiLiberto’s opus grande is built from the ground up out of his imagination, melding video games and cartoons from his cerebral cortex into a sight never seen before.

Gone is the slick mass produced animation that can only be harnessed by a firm of artists. DiLiberto drew every single frame of the picture and the passion shows. Camera angles whiz around characters mid free-fall, the artist not content to show his viewers anything less than the most cinematic approach.

The story concerns a half Lion man who escapes from a fascist regime who may be the only hope in stopping an evil necromancer from destroying the Earth with the help of a powerful weapon/(individual) called The Nova Seed.

The film hurtles along like one long chase sequence, leaving little time for character asides or monologues. However, characters are frequently talking and characterization is often provided in the stellar voice work of, you guessed it, DiLiberto.

The villain, Doctor Mindskull is one for the ages. Part Skeletor, part Cobra Commander and part Mok, Mindskull is the ultimate reprobate, a mad scientist whose plan involves becoming a giant trash beast and wrecking shop.

Our hero, the Lion man NAC, (Nick?) is the strong silent type, but his animation is so heroic and charming, you can’t help but love the guy. Also, he’s putting his neck on the line for a world that wants him dead so he’s got that Snake Plissken element to him if Snake never talked and was a big Lion Man.

The action is non-stop. The aerial battles are clearly love letters to Miyazaki and produce a thrill that could only be improved with 3D. The big Kaiju action at the end is Toho inspired sequence that will leave any monsterphile giddy.

The soundtrack is an incredible confection of eighties sounding synth composed by some guy named Nick DiLiberto. It’s brilliant in it’s own right and makes the film a fever dream of adrenaline.

Here’s the best thing about Nova Seed. Because DiLiberto wrote, directed, voiced, and scored the thing, and because it’s animated, it’s about as close to falling into a single imagination as I have ever seen. There are no studio notes, nothing to fix. There are all rough edges and idiosyncrasies. It’s that special film that makes it from mind to screen as purely as possibly. We need more like it.

R’XMAS – Abel Ferrara – 2001

Posted in 00's with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2016 by bookofdread

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Christmastime is a peculiar context for a kidnapping story, but in the hands of New York provocateur Abel Ferrara it’s not really that big a surprise. No stranger to the juxtaposition of religious atmosphere and illicit dealings, (Ms. 45, Mary, The Funeral), Ferrara uses these settings as a way to humanize his criminals. In a Ferrara picture someone is always looking for salvation.

Real life thug Lillo Brancato Jr. plays a drug-dealing husband who lives with his family in a Penthouse. He’s a bit dim witted, but clearly knows his game. Drea DeMateo plays his wife, clearly the brains and balls in the family business. They have a daughter and seem to live with two older ladies, maybe her mother and aunt. This Dominican family is very like any family at Christmas time, dancing, eating laughing.

The film begins at a kid’s school performance of A Christmas Carol. A little boy in a Lincoln beard plays Scrooge and walks by the homeless giving them money. I think we can read this as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Husband, (as he is referred to in the credits), got into the drug game most likely because he didn’t speak much English and he wanted to help his family back home. We hear his wife frequently refer to the money they send back to the Dominican Republic.

He films the play with a camcorder, as human a figure as you could ask for, we see him with his family, he seems normal until he tries to bribe a toy store employee with a wad of cash to get a doll for his daughter.

Come to find out, he’s a big time cocaine dealer. He visits a separate apartment where he meets associates who give him his cut of money. Another associate meets him, and leaves his cash with him over Christmas, because he thinks he’s being followed. This gentleman is the Ghost Of Christmas Present. He represents the paranoia and the walls closing in. If husband doesn’t quit the game, something bad is going to happen.

Something bad happens. The husband is kidnapped. Wife meets with Ice-T to discuss release. He demands all the money she has and she even finds the hidden money in the separate apartment and gives it to him. He demands that if he releases her husband that she do everything in her power to get him to quit selling drugs. She agrees. This guy is the Ghost Of Christmas Future. He’s showing her what will happen if they stay on this path.

But then comes the Abel Ferarra twist. Husband and wife discuss quitting the business. Finding a new way to earn. But she says she doesn’t want to take their daughter out of private school, and he says he wont live with her mother. Then, on TV she sees the man, arrested as part of a sting on corrupt NYD officers.

Finally, we see them at a fancy party. Some associates call the husband away to the alley. In the trunk of a car we see Ice-T with a bloody plastic bag around his head. The Ghost of Christmas future is dead.
What is Ferarra saying here? Who are the most identifiable or moral characters? The crooked cop? The immigrant drug-dealers? I’m supposed to be glad the lying cop is dead, but his argument about selling drugs to kids is also sound. Ferarra provides no easy answers. There is a card at the end about Rudolph Giuliani being elected Mayor and that the story would be continued, but I’m not sure it ever was. Clocking in at a brief 83 minutes the film feels a little light/incomplete, but still a unique effort.

Despite the normalcy the family strives for, it seems that Ferrara’s New York won’t be affording them it anytime soon. At least they all end up together, and that’s as close to a Merry X-Mas in this film as you are going to get.

Top films of 2015

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 21, 2016 by bookofdread

Top 20 films of 2015

20. Curtain – Hernri Jarron-Maccrae

I loved this little demon tale. Like an early Clive Barker story, Curtain executes deft world building then drops the characters in the drain.

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19. Maps To The Stars – David Cronenberg

Cronenberg’s first film shot in Hollywood is also his cruelest. Julianne Moore was never better.

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18. Baskin – Can Evrenol

Like a Lucio Fulci film directed by Clive Barker, this pitch black Verhovian satire will leave you seething at the bloodshed and licking your lips for more.

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17. Embers – Claire Carre

A heady sci-fi trip in which people have lost their long term memory leaves us with some of the most heart wrenching cinema of the year.

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16. Follow – Owen Egerton

To anyone who has ever had a love one threaten to leave you behind, Follow is a literate psychologically sound thriller that backs up your psycho exes most horrible promises.

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15. High Rise – Ben Wheatley

Hillarious and dark, years ago this spot would have belonged to Cronenberg, but Wheatley has become our preeminent satirist. Loads of psychedelic fun.

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14. Bone Tomahawk – Craig S. Zahler

Kurt Russell leads a stellar cast in this rare western horror. More like this please.

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13. Ant-Man – Peyton Reed

Marvel keeps the stakes small and the laughs big. Micro photography shows us the inside of a dirty bathtub like never before.

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12. Crimson Peak – Guillermo Del Toro

GDT makes a cautionary tale about beautiful liars aimed at tween hearts. As beautiful a Hammer film as anyone could wish to make, Crimson Peak is another gorgeous Del Toro experience.

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11. Furious 7 – James Wan

James Wan’s Road Warrior.

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10. Beasts Of No Nation – Cary Fukanaga

A tour de force by Idris Elba cements this beast of a film.

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9. T. I. M. – Rolf Van Eijk

The most Spielbergian film on this list and this list actually features a film by Spielberg. T.I.M. is maybe the best boy and his robot film ever.

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8. Bridge Of Spies – Steven Spielberg

Spielberg shows the USA the moral high ground we should maintain as a nation.

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7. Love – Gaspar Noe

The Maggot Brain scene alone is mind blowing. Nearly the sexiest film I’ve ever seen.

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6. Tikkun – Avishai Sivan

Indescribable. Like an Israeli Lynch film, Tikkun will leave you changed on the other side. A film about holding on loosely to your faith without letting go.

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5. Tangerine – Sean Baker

I never had more fun hanging out with characters this year. Special credit to James Ransone who is becoming the best unknown in the biz.

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4. Sicario – Denis Villenueve

As scary as this film is, the real thing is worse.

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3. The Witch – Robert Eggars

Best horror film of the decade.

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2. Mad Max: Fury Road – George Miller

Miller shows he is one of the greatest filmmakers alive with a work that advances everything from gender roles to the filmic language.

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1. The Hateful Eight – Quentin Tarantino

Tarantino explores Americas bloody embarrassing history in this Agatha Christie by way of John Carpenter western.

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My Top Films Of 2014

Posted in Uncategorized on January 2, 2015 by bookofdread

No apologies. I haven’t seen everything. Here goes.

25. John Wick

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John Wick is a fully realized action world with kick-ass characters and great stunts. Plus, who doesn’t love Keanu, the guy is a damn treasure.

24. Noah

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Darren Aronofsky pushed all his chips in on this psychedelic bible trip. Is it what they teach in Sunday school? No, but, it was an amazingly realized original vision. I loved it.

23. Cheap Thrills

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“It’s been cool partying with you Craig…” Never has the sentence “I’d do anything for my family.”, seemed quite as sick as after seeing this film.

22. In Order Of Disappearance

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Snowy poetry and the goofiest villain of the year. This film made me laugh the most as I watched it’s tragedy unfold.

21. Automata

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The most moving film about robots I’ve yet seen.

20. Open Windows

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Your computer and telephone are watching you and there is nothing you can do about it.

19. Captain America: The Winter Soldier

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The most adult and morally grey film Marvel has made, which makes it all the more badass that Cap is on the side of what’s right instead of toeing the party line.

18. Freefall

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This film breaks all the narrative rules and instead shows you sights you never imagined. Never.

17. The Tribe

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This film keeps you out but has you looking as close as possible. Also, absolutely the best ending of the year.

16. Late Phases

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Late Phases is the kind of meditation on masculinity and what it means to grow old that rarely surfaces anymore. Think of it as 10 to Midnight, with werewolves.

15. Tusk

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Tusk is everything a movie should be. Funny, authentic, romantic, silly, gory and strange. I’ll never hear that Kleenex box drumbeat from “Tusk” the same again.

14. The Raid 2

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This movie is too long and convoluted but rises to this spot on the merit of its final hour. The action pieces in this film are the best the world has to offer.

13. Snowpiercer

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The back of the train working with the front of the train to keep us all in line is a potent symbol and I’m glad there is a film, (starring Captain America, no less!), that gives words to this struggle.

12. Gone Girl

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Did for marriage what Jaws did for swimming in the ocean.

11. The Zero Theorem

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Does it mean anything if it all means nothing? Also, best use of Radiohead in any film ever.

10. Nightcrawler

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Lou Bloom scares me. That’s why he’s real. He’s looking back at you in the mirror right now, knowing you could do a little better for yourself if only you were more motivated.

9. Under The Skin

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An interstellar predator learns the human condition. It’s like the inverse of Springbreakers. Instead of humans growing cold and murderous the cold and murderous grow human.

It’s the Iron Giant of evil bitch films.

8. Let Us Prey

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A Carpenteresque police thriller that keeps it coming until the final second. Violent and mean, this film is hard and as cool as they come.

7. Enemy

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Second best ending of the year, and second and third best Jake Gyllenhaal performances. This is a film I’ll watch again and again.

6. Cold In July

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Don’t show this to your basic bitch girlfriend. This is a film about men, bad men, and the worst men. Riveting.

5. All Cheerleaders Die

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Nearly as cool as a teen horror comedy can be, this film is bloody, and sexy and so much fun.

4. Tokyo Tribe

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Better than you ever dreamed a Japanese rap musical about warring gangs would ever be by a power of one thousand. This film left me feeling so happy I cannot explain!

3. The Guest

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The Concept. The Soundtrack. Dan “muthafuckin'” Stevens.

2. Guardians Of The Galaxy

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“Oh Boo Hoo! Everybody has got dead people! It’s no excuse!” This film is great precisely because it is a film in which a crew of self-interested crooks learn to give a crap about something other than themselves. And it’s a high concept fantasy with a pop soundtrack. Pulp Fiction in space.

1. The Tale Of Princess Kaguya

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It took Isao Takahata eight years to adapt a fable hundreds of years old that tells the story of a princess who races through life at an accelerated speed. The effect is one of the most mesmerizing experiences I’ve ever had with a film. This film truly carried me through a spectrum of emotions and set me safely and happily on my feet again after we were through flying. A masterpiece, and in contention for the greatest animated film ever made.

Looking forward to many more great films in 2015!

Zombie Holocaust – Marino Girolami – 1980

Posted in 80's with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2014 by bookofdread

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Marino Girolami’s Zombie Holocaust is hands down one of the most gleeful cinematic experiences one can have. It features powerful women, exciting adventure and enough gore and nudity to choke a cannibal.

Before we get into the mountains of good about this awesome, super fun film, let’s get to the bad. It’s a major rip off of Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, a film of which I am a great fan. However enjoying that film really only adds to the enjoyment of this vastly inferior, but goofier film. The film’s even share some of the same sets! Unlike Fulci’s Zombie, Zombie Holocaust is a crowd pleaser with a happy ending, instead of a twisted spiral of nightmare.

So, the plot is very unoriginal, Ian McCollouch and Alexandra Delli Colli book a trip to the West Andes to solve a mystery concerning missing body parts in a New York Hospital.

They team up with some meat puppet reporters and head out into the jungle. The reporters are plucky female writer and a beardo photographer who wears a Daily Planet T-shirt! This gal and our heroine are really the standout quality of this film.

In most adventure films, Zombie included, women are fairly marginalized and especially in euro-cine films of the time women were pretty useless on screen. Delli Colli is an anthropologist who is cool and intelligent, and who ends up saving the day at the end of the film.

After the four get to the island the reporters are quickly killed and the wig wearing detective and the tall drink of water are separated by the cannibalistic natives. We are sure the cannibals are going to eat the delicious Delli Colli but when she is placed upon the sacred stone grapefruit, it turns, revealing that a white woman from New York is the destined savior of their tribe and the rightful queen of their land. This is helpful when rescuing wig detective from the antics of the mad Dr. Obrero and an onslaught from a zombie horde, not so helpful when convincing other cultures that you don’t think a tall white woman is the answer to all their cultural needs.

It’s a pretty gross trope and one that hit its’ low point in John Guillermin’s Sheena, starring Tonya Roberts as a hot white woman who is the queen of an African tribe.

So pro woman, yet sadly harshly xenophobic, Zombie Holocaust isn’t liable to put a smile on Santa’s face. However with a case of your favorite beer or a bottle of wine or spirit you can really have a lot of fun with this one. I present to the world, for the first time in public:

THE ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST DRINKING GAME!!!!!

There are several rules that must always be obeyed.

Rule 1: Drink for gore.

Rule 2: Drink for nudity.

Rule 3: Drink for the sound of Kito (weeeeeeooooooweeeeeooooweeee)

Rule 4: Drink for the sign of Kito (the red oval sign, usually
accompanied by the sound of Kito)

Rule number 5 is the most important rule of all.

Rule 5: When you hear the Jungle bird, Drink.

I swear, they use the same canned jungle bird a thousand times, and I promise you, if you follow all of these rules, you will have a wonderful time with this film and end up drunk as skunk.

Zombie Holocaust has great acting, a silly plot, decent music, and loads of gore. If cannibal films are your thing, this one might come across as a bit weak sauce, but if you like fun and silly horror comedy, this is your ticket. Most films this gory don’t come with so many laughs, and I’d argue that most of them were intentional. This film isn’t a bad cannibal film, it’s one of the great, unheralded horror comedies. Dive in and drink up.

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