Archive for Hell

Born For Hell – Denis Heroux – 1976

Posted in 70's with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2013 by bookofdread

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Denis Heroux’s Born For Hell is a nasty little piece of sleaze. Few movies have the nerve to be so fucking slimy. But this one is one of the lowest films I’ve ever seen. Even with its’ fairly sterile presentation, the content alone is enough to make one want to bathe in Holy Water.

The film begins with a Mass. As a bomb explodes a Vet in a green jacket barely reacts to the dead bodies on the floor. A church bombing in the first 5 minutes? Yeah, it’s going to be that kind of a movie. This is a film about the cycle of violence, and how sometimes one cant leave the frying pan for carrying the fire around inside.

A US Vietnam Veteran is stuck in Belfast. He doesn’t have enough money to board a ship back to the states, and the next one doesn’t leave for a week. He’s broke, begging, abandoned by his nation. He’s staying in a hostel. An Asian man beds next to him. The vet asks where he’s from.

“Vietnam”.

The vet pulls out a medal and tells him he had to kill a lot of men to get it. He offers it to the Vietnamese man. The man tells him to, “Shove it.”

After a good thirty minutes of building a slight but definite empathy for veteran, Cain Adamson, (Good Grief….), Cain enters a house full of nurses for a lengthy second act. Good God does it get ugly.

Cain ties up all the girls in one room, and then takes one out to talk to her. He tells her she looks like his ex-wife before he tries to rape her. She resists his advances so he takes off his belt and pulls it around her neck choking her. He rapes her and chokes her to death. One down.

This film is incredibly misogynistic, and the villain clearly hates women. He tells one victim that Jimmy-Boy, his best friend went home early with hepatitis but then knocked up his wife. So, this man is cuckolded, and a war-killer. Here in Belfast, he’s desperate, defeated, destroyed.

Cain returns to the room and asks for two more girls. He forces them to perform lesbian sex acts as he whips them with his belt. As the girls resist he resorts to his trusty switchblade. He places the weapon inside one of the woman’s hands and forces her to slay her friend. Then he drags her to a sink where he half-assedly washes her off before choking her to death with his hands.

This character both hates women and desires them. Much like in Werewolf Woman, Cain desires these women, but wants to destroy them in the name of his wife’s betrayal. This conflict makes him murderous. Though it is a bit more believable here because he is a war killer.

The late nurse and housemother come home at 2am. Whoops. Cain stabbed them.

He returns to the room where two are left. One is hiding. He goes to a wardrobe and stabs mercilessly through a golden curtain, slaying the woman hiding inside. He kills another, until only one is left.

Except, Cain doesn’t know there is a visitor this night. A pregnant nurse hides under the bed.

Cain takes the now hysterical final nurse to the kitchen and gives her cake. She takes his switchblade off of the table in a despondent act and stabs herself. This act is quick, but in a modern film, it could be excruciating.

Cain heads back to the bedroom and robs the corpses of their money. He falls asleep on the bed the pregnant nurse hides under. She sees a tattoo on his arm—Born For Hell.

The next day the man leaves. As the milkman discovers the women, the news descends on the gruesome crime scene. Cain learns there was a survivor who saw his tattoo. He tries to cut it off.

We cut to a hospital where a doctor saves his life and cleans his wounds. The doctor sees the tattoo. Born For Hell.

“So, It’s you.”

Born For Hell is a scathing satire, and grimy exploitation piece.  Made by a German production company, directed by a French director, set in Belfast and featuring an American protagonist, (?) this film shockingly contrasts the religious conflict in Ireland with the US’s lack of responsibility in reigning in their own shell-shocked GI’s after conflict.

This film is only for the most fearless of viewers.  It is an incredibly hard picture, though I can totally imagine an even less sanitized modern version. 

What if Adrian Garcia Bogliano made a version of this film? It would be ruthless and incredible! I want to see that film!

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A Simple Plan – Sam Raimi – 1998

Posted in 90's with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 7, 2013 by bookofdread

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Sam Raimi’s A Simple Plan is a hellish nightmare of a film. It’s dressed up as a Coen Bross style Hitchcock thriller, but this film is so much more Raimi than all that. It lacks the humor of a Coen film and the identifiable or empathetic protagonists of most Hitchcock films. No, A Simple Plan is a hate-filled treatise on greed, not unlike Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell. In that film the curse of greed manifests in a literal demon, creating a remove from our everyday reality, but in ASP, Raimi shoves verisimilitude of reality in our face. The performances are incredibly humanistic career bests from Thornton, Paxton and Fonda.

The plot is simple. Three yokels find a crashed plane with four-million plus dollars inside. They form a pact to keep the money till spring, and if no one is searching for it, split it three ways and run away. The seeds of greed have been sewn.

Raimi takes an incredibly righteous glee in putting the screws to these types of characters, and as in drag me to hell, the greed in these people is not those un-identifiable wall street hot-rods, it’s a seed accountant, or a loan officer.

Bill Paxton is riveting as a man who becomes more and more involved in a series of lies and murders involving his brother and their friend. In a truly awful moment, Raimi shoots Paxton’s face as he suffocates a man in the snow. No wide shot. We see only a close up of Paxton as the man dies, choking under his hands. This scene is as horrifying as any moment in any of Raimi’s more overtly Horror films. In this moment, and as a testament to Paxton’s awesome ability, we see the man become evil.

From here on Paxton and his wife begin a series of deceits that end up in murder after murder. Bridget Fonda is stellar and in one scene, a moment that takes place just after her child has been born she is absolutely terrifying. You’ll know it when you see it. Having her the lioness with cub only adds to the sick drama of this whole tragedy. You know when these dumb fucks open this bag there’s no happy ending. So why does it hurt so much? Raimi and writer Scott Smith and the actors make these greedy little men so real, so genuine.

Billy Bob Thornton wears some strange, out of date, overgrown Elvis haircut. He has prosthetic teeth in that make him look hideous and taped glasses from the seventies, which I believe may have been his fathers, though it’s not explicitly stated. Jacob is a simple man who only ever wanted the farm, but his father mortgaged it so Paxton could go to college. Jacob both looks up to and resents his younger brother, and it’s this conflict that makes the whole film so sad. It’s this simple man’s fall that hurts the most.

Their father is revealed to have killed himself, one in a series of revelations that the seemingly simple Jacob bequeaths to his brother. The specter of their father, a man who each seems to admire ending his life in hopelessness only adds to the doomed nature of this morality play. Theirs is a cursed bloodline.

Brent Briscoe is great as Lou. The character is a bit under-written as just kind of jackass, but Briscoe finds some great humanity for Lou, especially in tape-recording scene that ends in a shooting.

After having watched this film, I have to say that it lands high on Raimi’s filmography, with my only complaint being, I really didn’t like any of the characters, and while I suppose the point is to laugh at these evil people getting what is coming to them, I find the whole ordeal super-bleak. But, hey, the poison of greed is deadly.

Raimi resists most horror tropes with the exception of the death-foretelling blackbirds that watch our characters omnisciently throughout the film. Removed from the action, they judge the sinners. When the birds fly directly at the camera, directly at Hank, the birds warn him. Jacob asks him “Did you see those birds?”

 

Hell Is For Heroes – Don Siegel – 1962

Posted in 60's with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 6, 2013 by bookofdread

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Don Siegel’s Hell is For Heroes is a dramatic retelling of the events that transpired on the Siegfried German line in WWII. A small squad of soldiers is required to maintain a stretch of the line despite having few men and fewer resources. The film is lean, muscular little beast, with a crackerjack cast, very nice black and white photography, and a stirring plot.

The film opens with dramatic stills of soldiers in the trenches when the title, “Hell Is For Heroes” explodes onto the screen. I have to note the music here, and it’s the last time I’ll do so. It’s very dated, action-suspense music, and I feel it gives little effect to the film, and often I was distracted by it’s bombastic presence.

It’s 1944. France, somewhere near the Siegfired line, 2nd squad waits for the call to go home. We meet these characters one by one, each making a point of empathy. I particularly like James Coburn’s mechanic type. This film is more about plot than character, so each of these guys is really just a type: the funny guy, the guy who fixes things, the loner, and the existentialist. We meet the squad and their commander tells them to get ready, they’re going home. Only, they’re not going home. They’re going back to the line.

Steve McQueen is Reese, a previously court marshaled dickhead who’s a great soldier. He’s a bit cracked though. McQueen is serviceable here, giving seething looks but never coming across as inherently noble, as he should.

The film moves quickly and once at the line, most of the battalion leaves in the dead of night, leaving 2nd squad, six men, to defend a huge stretch of land and not give away their depleted forces. The second act of this film is much character building and not too much action. However after days of being pinned down and with the commanding officer killed, Reese decides that they have to take the pillbox or die. They can’t afford to wait for reinforcements.

This failed attempt ends up with a man dead. Reese retreats. When the CO of the battalion returns and asks Reese if he was right to attempt to take the pillbox, McQueen replies, conflicted, “Oh, who the hell knows?” In this one moment the film drives its point home. War can make even the most capable man rash and prone to bad even fatal decisions.

The 1st squad makes good on their promise to return. They storm the hill and attempt to take the pillbox. Reese sees men get shot and James Coburn covers Reese with a flamethrower so that Reese can run a charge pack up and throw it in the bunker. He does, but it is thrown out again. Standing Reese is shot, but he runs back at the bunker and tackles the explosive into the open portal. The bunker blows to smithereens. Roll credits.

This film is a tough mans film peppered with moments of psychosis and sentimentality. It’s a very low concept production and until the third act it appears as if it could be taking place anywhere.  There are few misplaced characters that add some un-needed comic effect. The Polish kid who wants to come fight with these GI’s is pretty annoying and though his character should serve as a vessel of perspective for a devastated nation, he comes off as goofy and bumbling. Furthermore, Bob Newhart, though funny, is a constant distraction.

Hell is for Heroes and for Heroes there can be only Hell.

The ending of the film is very abrupt. I read that this was because the film ran out of money, however, I find it to be an exciting punctuation mark on a sometimes lugubrious film. The ending effectively makes the film, and I recommend it to anyone who loves war films, Bobby Darin or Fess Parker.

 

 

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