Ginger Nuts of Horror
By Alex Davis
Dir. Dustin Mills, USA, 50 mins
Sometimes you just read a title and think to yourself – now that sounds like a winner. This one drew me in right away for sure, and the sound of the synopsis also made this one sound very much like my kind of territory. I've also never minded a shorter film, as it can often be the case that the shorter running time enables there to be more packed into things. So would that be the case here?
Her Name is Torment follows the gruesome story of 'Patient 394', a woman convicted of 27 murders and now under psychiatric care. Our opening shot is a grainy vision of her stalking one of her victims – which runs a bit long for my liking – before we get the voiceover from her doctor during the opening credits. I like this way of doing this, as it did a lot of setting up in a short space of time without crashing into the main film. The thread of the story is largely composed of two parts – one of an interview being undertaken with Patient 394, whose face us blurred out to hide the apparently hideous scarring she has given herself, and the other an unflinching look at some of the crimes she has committed. This takes in our male victim having part of his tongue removed, an eye gouged out with a spoon, a wooden needle stuck into his ear and pushed far beyond that, and a whole lot more besides. It also introduced Patient 394's dead lover – only known as 'him' – in a scene that was uneasy watching but didn't ultimately seem to go anywhere.
That last line possibly sums up the main issue with the movie for me. Even for 50 minutes, the plot is relatively slim and it's more of an exploration of events we're effectively told about in the first five minutes. In fact the most interesting twist – and potential set-up for a sequel – comes in the last 60 seconds. We learn a limited amount from Patient 394 in her psychiatric assessments, which left a slightly frustrating feeling that we'd only really scratched the surface of things. The scenes are generally well done – be it the gore or be it the more candid interview sections – and I have to give a huge credit to director Dustin Mills for achieving what he has on such a shoestring budget. But I did feel this was perhaps a part of something rather than a full product.
The other aspect of the movie that was slightly questionable for me was the constant use of various visual and camera effects. We have lots of smash cuts, shots that are blurred, shots sped up, cuts from colour to black and white and back again, words almost subliminally flashed onto the screen... and don't get me wrong, there were places where I liked these and felt that had a good effect. But after 50 minutes there were times were the visual 'flashiness' just started to become a bit grating and feel like overkill.
With all the above said, there were many things I like about this movie. The lead performance was strong for sure, there were a few scenes that had be cringing in discomfort (for all the right reasons!) and the concept and framing were both good. Having initially said I've never minded movies being shorter than the industry-standard ninety minutes, I can't help but feel that this one would have benefited from being a bit longer. We get a sense and a flavour of Patient 394's twisted world, but we never really dip fully beneath the surface in order to get right into the murky depths. And that feels a little like an opportunity missed. To sum it up, I was certainly say watch it and enjoy what there is here. There is a sequel out there – released in 2016 – and given what I've seen here that's certainly one I will be looking out for and hopefully that will give a more rounded, deeper view into the events explored here.
RATING: 7/10. An interesting concept with some good ideas, but held back from a real top rating in the main by being rather too much of a 'tease' in various aspects of the story, as well as an overuse of gimmicky effects. With that said, hats off to all involved for actually getting the movie made at all on its restrictive budget and delivering something that did draw and hold my interest throughout. It's not unmissable but fans of Film Gutter would probably get something out of it, so it's very respectable 7/10.
By Alex Davis
Dir. Yoon Hon-Seung (AKA Chang), South Korea, 88 mins
It feels like it's about time Film Gutter made a stop in South Korea – while the series has visited Japan many times over the course of its existence, we've rarely dipped into Korea, which is a nation that probably doesn't have the same association with extreme cinema. However there are doubtless some offerings that are well worth our time, and Death Bell is among them. My main point of reticence is that the story is all set in a school, and given how terrifying I find the girl ghosts of Asian Cinema, I was a bit uncertain going into it. But blessedly there was nothing too Ringu-seque to truly keep me awake at night here. What there was, however, was a pretty decent horror/thriller with some more gruesome elements.
Death Bell begins with a pretty weird – and practically meaningless – dream sequence before introducing us to a class of youngsters getting ready for their final exams. With the stresses and strains of those vital tests behind them, the kids are looking forward to breaking up for summer – but for the brightest and best there's a catch, as they're expected to stay in for additional classes as part of an exchange with Eton. The mood at the beginning of this extra day's teaching isn't great, but is going to get an awful lot worse as a deranged killer begins trapping the students in deadly situations – giving their fellow students the chance to save their lives by answering exam-style questions correctly and unravelling something rather more sinister one answer at a time...
I described the movie as pretty decent as I felt this was something of a mixed bag. There were a number of things I liked and a fair few things I wasn't keen on as well. The story itself is a slightly uneasy mixture of a paranormal horror and a Saw-esque thriller that never really satisfyingly resolves whether there is a ghostly element involved or not. There may be something lost in translation from the Korean but some of the answers, and the logic to reach them, don't really make a great deal of sense to me. The acting is OK but some of the characters are pretty annoying, including one who evidently knows much more than he lets on about the haunting element but again there's not a full explanation given there. The ending is largely possible to work out, which doesn't make it ineffective but maybe demeans the ultimate impact.
With that said, some of the traps are pretty inventive and the visuals tend to be very good – the director has a strong background in music videos, which I think shows in the look and feel throughout. The atmosphere is tense and there are a host of scenes that do leave you uneasy, although some of the deaths do lack a bit of impact because you don't know the characters all that well. But it's twisty enough and stylish enough to be enjoyable, although I couldn't call it unmissable. If you're also looking for serious gore then there's plenty more gruesome offering out there than this one, and you might be better served elsewhere. But I think it's worth ninety minutes of your time to check out.
RATING: 7/10. Death Bell makes a lot more sense once you read that it's made by a director largely known for music videos. It has style, and gloss, and ideas for sure, but equally the story itself is a bit messy and has a few logic holes here and there that can make it a slightly frustrating experience at times. But overall it has enough atmosphere and enough energy to keep you watching, although it's hard not to be slightly in mind of better movies – the British Exam included – as you work your way through. So it's an endorsement for Death Bell, although not exactly a ringing one. (Ringing? Get it? Bell? Oh, forget it...) 7/10, or maybe I should better describe it as a steady B...
Dir. Tetsuya Nakashima, Japan, 118 mins
There's always a certain sense of excitement and anticipation when approaching a Japanese film. It seems almost whatever the genre, Japan and many of the countries surrounding it have a superb reputation and many great directors to boot. The same very much holds true for extreme movies, and with many iconic films to try and follow on from The World of Kanako had plenty to live up to. This was not one of those movies I knew a great deal about coming in, but from little I had read there were a number of comparisons to Park Chan Wook's masterpiece Oldboy. So no pressure then?
It's not the kind of comparison to be made lightly, and I can see why that parallel has been drawn. It has many similar themes to Oldboy and is shot is a similar way, as well as the story unfolding in a pretty unorthodox way to show one fresh layer of darkness after another. The story itself follows a number of leads in a couple of timelines, headed by washed-up ex-detective Akikazu as he sets out on a quest to find his missing daughter Kanako and – simultaneously he hopes – enable him to make amends with his ex-wife in doing so. He's your classic lead in many respects – drowning in self-pity and copious amounts of alcohol, violent and desperate in his quest but stoically determined to do everything in his power to find his little girl. The mystery of the 'world' of Kanako actually runs pretty deep as we find out that her estranged father, her rather more close-at-hand mother and indeed some of her friends really had very little idea of what Kanako was getting up to in reality.
While Akikazu is our main current-day storyline, we have a flashback storyline following the story of a bullied boy who is defended by Kanako – and some of her more dubious connections – and the journey as he falls in love with her. But it doesn't take long for that feeling of love to become warped into something else entirely over time, as her world truly opens up to him and he finds out exactly what Kanako truly expected from any would-be suitor.
If my description seems a little all over the place, that's because the telling of it is delivered in a very complex way – we have a host of characters that we engage with, many different storylines and flashbacks to various different time periods. And while all of that is pretty great to look at, and can be exhilarating in places – I'm not a big of action fan, but I did love the many action set pieces in this movie – it's also a pretty riotous mess. To delve further into that comparison with Oldboy, The World of Kanako employs lots of the same devices but Oldboy does it in a cleaner fashion that is easier to follow. With that said, I did enjoy the tapestry of horror that is unfolded and just how dark Kanako's story does eventually get – this seemingly innocent student is involved in plenty of pretty dank dealings up to her elbows, as we find out piece by piece. It's a little like someone putting together a jigsaw which looks great but I feel is ultimately missing a few pieces to make it a true masterpiece.
There are a few other quibbles too – the film does feel overlong to me, and there's a lot in the closing stages that I could happily have lived without. In fact the last ten-fifteen minutes in my opinion don't really add anything. Akikazu's character becomes pretty extreme, and for me the acting from him and one of two other individuals becomes a bit over the top. I'm sure that was part of angling for a bizarre, hyper-real sort of feel, but it ends up coming over distinctly overplayed. There's no need to try that hard for dark and disturbing when you have this kind of story playing out.
The World of Kanako is dark, imaginative, daring film-making and as any Film Gutter regular will know, I do tend to like originality. However in this case that originality feels like it's employed in a slightly scattergun way – it's rarely boring, but can be muddled, and for that reason I can't really award it top marks despite its doubtless ambition. But I do think it is worth some good marks, so it's a highly creditable 7.5/10 here. If you like your movies loud, lively and multi-layered, then this could just be the film for you.
By Alex Davis
Dir. Kasper Juhl, Denmark, 73 min
Having so recently been blown away with Kasper Juhl's most recent movie, Your Flesh, Your Curse – which earned the #2 spot on my Film Gutter Top Ten of 2017 – I was naturally curious to delve further back into the director's previous work. There are two films that I had heard the most about – A God Without a Universe (which I will be looking at in a future installment!) and today's focus, 2013's Madness of Many. This movie comes with a reputation for being pretty confronting, which it did live up to throughout its runtime.
I have to start the body of this review by saying it's hard to watch this one without drawing some comparisons to Your Flesh, Your Curse. The movie treads many similar aspects – the extreme suffering and pain of its female lead, the philosophical approach and voiceover, the similarity of some scenes from on to the next... the lead character even has a similar name. And while I stand by Madness of Many is a good film in its own right, I just feel as though it falls short of its more recent counterpart.
Our story follows Victoria White, a young woman trying to make sense of a horrific life of abuse and torture, first at the hands of her parents and then at the hands of a grim group of abductors. Much of the actual information comes in the form of voiceover from lead actress Ellen Abrahamson, who certainly brings the kind of strange and ethereal quality needed for this sort of project. With that said, her voiceover does become a little grating as her delivery is fairly monotone – this might be a deliberate decision, but it just seems to lack real emotion and inflection and somewhat diminishes the impact of what we see on screen.
The awful things that she goes through are very well presented and have the same quality as YF, YC, feeling very authentic and believable – often too much so for comfort. That's not presented as a criticism, more as an observation of the integrity and thorough approach of all involved. It's certainly not a pretty movie either, and things are presented in a gritty fashion that many times makes it feel more akin to the work of Lucifer Valentine than anything else, both in terms of its content and many aspects of its soundscape. It's a hard watch in a number of places, that's for sure.
It's ultimately a sort of bleak vision of a life blighted by pain and misery, presented in a very non-linear fashion as almost a montage overlaid with voiceover to explain some of the actions and indeed the effect of what is going on. Surprisingly, it actually has a strangely upbeat message to it and closes with one of very few rays of hope in the entire movie.
As I said upfront, Madness of Many is certainly a good movie. It doesn't hold back, presenting its more gruesome content in a very effective fashion, it has some interesting ideas and there are some beautiful shots amidst the horror. With that said, I would still point you to Your Flesh, Your Curse as the director's better movie – given the themes and style the comparison is irresistible. If I were to try and draw a suitable analogy, YF, YC is like being artfully cut to pieces by a skilled samurai, while Madness of Many is like being beaten to death with a baseball bat. MOM has a blunt intensity all its own, and it's well worth a look in its own right.
RATING: 7/10. Another strong offering from Danish director Kasper Juhl, whose stock in the field of extreme horror is rising and rightly so. There's lots to like here, but it just lacks a little bit of refinement in a few places. The voiceover becomes a bit overbearing, and the lead actress here – while solid – doesn't quite live up to the fantastic performance of Marie-Louise Damgaard in Your Flesh, Your Curse. There's plenty of very dark content and things that are difficult to watch, but it has an unmistakably strong impact and is certainly worth them time of any extreme horror fans out there.
Dir. Andreas Marschall, Germany, 112 min
This week we're going to be taking a second dip into the work of Andreas Marschall, an exciting German director whose work has propelled him to being one of my favourites. And, different from the other movies of his I have seen, this one is not an anthology movie – Masks is a single storyline and follows the strange goings-on at a remote acting school in the heart of Germany.
And yes, before you say it, there is more than a hint of Giallo here – in fact Masks does pay more than a little homage to Suspiria, in particular. However, even with that in mind, there's plenty here that feels fresh and interesting, as well as enough quality in the production to make it a great watch in its own right.
Our lead character is Stella, a young aspiring actress who doesn't seem to be getting terribly far when she is handed a flyer for an acting school. At first she'd dubious – as well she might be – but so determined is she to pursue her dream that she ultimately decides to go, leaving her boyfriend behind and meeting the strange brand of folks currently inhabiting the school. Naturally she doesn't fit in at first, and it takes a while for her to find a friend – who transpires to be a bit more than a friend – in the shape of Cecile.
In the background of this plays another story entirely, with rumours of a strange technique once taught by the previous tutor of the school, Mateusz Gdula. These stories of extreme methods to encourage students to access all kinds of buried emotions and bring them to their performance – to bring something much more real than acting – hang over the establishment like a pall, and are often whispered of among the students. Inevitably, Stella is eventually offered the chance to go to the part of the school that is usually shut off to most students and learn this method to enhance her skills. And it's here that we go from rumours to stark reality...
Like I've already said, there's no particular secret where this movie draws its inspiration from – it's a giallo through and through, but it also happens to be a very good one, with some decent modern touches. The atmosphere is laid on thick, but remains effective, and the colour scheme is well-chosen and pays a fine homage to its predecessors. The central concept is interesting – offering something of an echo to Marschall's previous movie, Tears of Kali – and is explored in a way that gives some interesting visuals as well as great tense scenes. There's one moment where the silence just goes on and on while you wait for something terrible to happen that becomes almost unbearable. And the finale – in true giallo style – is distinctly bonkers, featuring an excellent but twisted confrontation and some truly unexpected moments.
Regular readers here at Film Gutter will know I've always been partial to German extreme cinema, and it certainly had a very fine pedigree behind it with the likes of Jorg Buttgereit, Marian Dora and many more besides. Andreas Marschall certainly stands out as one of the most exciting names in the current generation, and while Masks may not be his most extreme work it certainly has some pretty bleak moments and keeps much of what has become his trademark in my eyes. The capacity to develop and keep breathless tension remains a powerful feature in his movies, and this tribute to the masters of Giallo is a worthy entry into the canon.
RATING: 8.5/10. The first full-length story I've seen from this director thankfully has all the assets I've enjoyed from his work on anthology movies, and is a movie that delivers in atmosphere, unsettling visuals and interesting character dynamics. The performances also hold up well, and it has a sense of energy and also skill behind it. I wouldn't honestly consider myself the biggest fan of Giallo, but when it's done well it can be fantastic – and I think Masks is certainly the form being done well.
Dir. Andreas Marschall, Germany, 106 min
Director Andreas Marschall certainly announced himself on my ‘talent to watch’ list with his fantastic instalment of German Angst, an excellent anthology film from 2015 in which his closing segment ‘Alraune’ was a real standout. It’s one of this bits of film with still lives in my head to this day, so I was coming to Tears of Kali with high expectations, if no real preset idea of what to expect.
I was not surprised and nor was I disappointed to find this was another anthology film, although in this case all three chapters were directed by Marschall. The trio of stories are held together by a linking thread of an extreme psychological experiment carried out in India, looking to delve deep into the human psyche. While that turned out not to be a real historical basis, it certainly felt pretty real and believable. The ‘linking’ sections feature another pretty creepy performance from German veteran Peter Martell (also known for Marian Dora’s deeply disturbing Melancholie Der Engel) and are ultimately pretty light-touch.
Each story also has a pretty strong link to religion, and whilst I enjoyed all three, I think the opener was my very favourite. ‘Shakti’ sees a reporter visiting a convicted murderer who was part of the Taylor-Eriksson 'cult' in an effort to get a fresh take on the events of that time. The chemistry between the two actresses in this portion is really great, and the final reveal – despite one slightly cheesy effect – did genuinely get to me. I don’t remember the last time I actually held my breath during a horror film, but that was the exact effect here.
Our second instalment, ‘Devi’, sees a young man on remand from prison attending sessions with a psychologist who studied under the Taylor-Eriksson group. It’s immediately apparent that the method will be unusual, but it soon comes to light exactly how extreme the method will be in order to save the patient from his own demons. It’s done without being gratuitous, and while the cast is again limited the two, the interaction there feels more than strong enough to carry the relatively simple story.
The final act of our movie is ‘Kali’, which features a man and a woman trapped with some sort of creature that they are trying to escape from. While it might start out as pretty standard fare, again the connection to the cult and its dark psychology does become apparent. Whilst there were elements to like here, I thought this was the weakest link of the three, not helped by a distinctly cliché finale.
Tears of Kali feels pretty tight and well-constructed, and it’s fair to say that the whole 105 minute runtime really shot by, to the extent when I was slightly surprised when the credits rolled – always a compliment to a movie when you barely notice time passing at all. What impressed me most about Marschall’s Alraune – and held true again here – was just how this director is able to build and then hold tension. The first part of that equation is not easy, but the second is even more difficult. There were moments where if you’d snuck up on me or rung my phone I would have absolutely jumped out of my skin, because I was waiting so much for something to happen. Marschall stretches tension like an elastic band and only lets it go when the band is on the very verge of snapping – there’s no desire for jumpscares even when lazier directors would pile them on.
Add to that some very solid acting performances, a strong mythology behind it – part of me was itching to dive onto the internet and read more about it, only to find it was never a real thing! – and some fine scares and it adds up to a pretty memorable film. My only criticism would be that a few of the effects don’t look all that great, but that’s simply a side effect of filmmaking on a budget, and you can bet you’ve seen plenty worse to boot. If you don’t like anthologies, you might want to steer clear, but other than I’d recommend this one to anyone who likes indy horror and extreme horror.
RATING: 9/10. Film Gutter’s jaunts to Germany have often paid dividends, and Tears of Kali is no different at all. A fascinating example of the anthology film, this single-director movie dips nicely into Hinduism and draws out some impactful threads. It’s nicely shot, and keeps things simple and low-key to great effect all the way. The minimal cast all perform well in their roles, and each section of the movie has good ideas and generally very strong execution. As such, it has to be a highly commendable 9/10 from me.
By Alex Davis
Dir. Joe Maggio, USA, 95 min
Since we're just past the festive season, let's talk about food, shall we?
Eating and food seems to be a pretty popular theme in extreme horror. We of course have Blood Feast (original and pending remake), Feast and its two sequels, Eat, Gnaw, Bite and many more besides. Of course many of those movies touch on cannibalism – Eat played particularly well with the theme of self-cannibalism – but here is a movie that is far more about food in its wider sense. It's also a withering condemnation of the role of the critic and the reviewer, so I'd best tread a little carefully with what I say...
The movie follows two main protagonists, pretentious chef Peter Grey – who constantly espouses the virtue of local, natural ingredients on his TV show and at his restaurant – and marginally less pretentious food critic JT Franks, who writes a food blog called Gastropunk that evidently wields enough influence for his bad review of Grey's restaurant Feast to get Peter fired from it. With Peter's life falling apart and JT's life falling apart simultaneously, the two are about to cross paths in a very dark way...
What follows is a what many would call a 'torture porn' set up (although I genuinely despise the term) with Grey capturing Franks and dragging him to his cabin in the middle of nowhere to tackle a range of food challenges. With each failure, he suffers a brutal and often strange punishment from his captor. It's more interesting than I could have been for my money – starting with ducking the cannibal angle that I was absolutely ready for all the way through – as the characters aren't really clear-cut black and white or good guy and bad guy. It's hard to really root for either of them at any stage, which makes for a dynamic I personally didn't mind but many people might not find to their tastes. It's only when Franks's partner gets drawn into things there's a real clear good and bad delineation.
The other complaint I had with this film – and it's rare I pin things to one character or actor – is Larry Fessenden's turn as a private detective here. It simply drags the plot and his character is so cliché it's almost unbearable – with some good character dynamics elsewhere that whole part of things just feels unnecessary, almost padding in some places.
On the whole it's OK – it's perfectly watchable but doesn't really excel itself or differ enough from many similar films to be very distinctive, but there are some interesting ideas and as a reviewer it was quite fun to see an exploration at that, and the thread of 'creators' vs 'destroyers' than informed things was followed pretty well. The acting was generally decent as well, which helped things along, so overall it wasn't bad but a bit middling and also a little predictable – I've never been that great at guessing the endings to things but in this case I had it figured out from pretty early on.
RATING: 6/10. I can't really lay any heavy criticism at the door of Bitter Feast, but equally it's a movie that's hard to get hugely excited about. It does the subgenre decently enough, and hits all of its main beats well, but doesn't really depart as much as it could or do anything terribly startling to pull itself apart. To continue the food analogy, it's a decent pub meal rather then cordon bleu cuisine, so I'm happy to award this one 6/10.
By Alex Davis
It's that time of year again, a moment to reflect on everything that has come before in the last 365 days, including plenty of movies watched in that time. In that spirit, here's our annual top ten Film Gutter movies!
As always, there was plenty of challenging material this year, with some being flat-out disturbing, some being utterly weird and either even finding strange strains of humour in unexpected places. This year's list follows the tradition of looking at movies watched and reviewed in 2017, not necessarily movies released in 2017. It also doesn't necessarily follow a strict numerical order, as on reflection it can be common to see things that little bit differently.
With all that said, here goes...
ONE: IRREVERSIBLE (10/10)
This one was a rewatch after a fair break, and had lost nothing of its superb visual style, wonderful soundscape and utterly crunching impact. Launching itself at the viewer at full speed from the very get go, this story told front-to-back remains one of the finest examples of extreme horror ever crafted, capped by incredible performances from two of the continent's finest actors in Vincent Cassell and Monica Bellucci. Brace yourself, because it is bleak...
TWO: YOUR FLESH, YOUR CURSE (9/10)
Kasper Juhl has been on the scene for a few years now – having garnered a cult following with movies like Madness of Many and A God Without a Universe. But this stamps itself as his magnum opus, at least to date – a beautiful and visceral tale of torment, abuse and revenge. Every shot of this movie is stunning, and with a cracking lead role from Maria-Louise Damgaard this marked itself as one of 2017's must-see titles.
THREE: CAT SICK BLUES (9.5/10
Part disturbing serial killer movie, part insane comedy, Cat Sick Blues was a film I knew nothing about before watching and smacked me in the face with its energy, originality and lively performances. This Australian feature is bat-shit crazy (or should that be cat-shit crazy) and was a delirious experience from the very get-go. If you love classic slasher, but are feeling a little jaded with movies following the formula, then this could well be perfect for you.
Four: German Angst (9.5/10)
I've always loved anthology movies, and with three superb German directors involved – Jorg Buttgereit, Michal Kosakowski and Andreas Marschall – this one was unlikely to miss the mark. Whilst all three sections were very worthy efforts indeed, Marschall's surreal tale Alraune was a standout in closing this one. If you've been a fan of German extreme cinema, this one will feel like Christmas has come early for you.
Five: Kuso (9/10)
A stand-out for the most 'WTF' film of the year, Kuso emerged from the mind of Flying Lotus and its early reviews had marked it out as one of the most disturbing films ever made. If you've read my review you'll know I barely had words to describe it then, and I'm not sure I could do any better now. It is literally like nothing else out there, and for that alone I have to suggest checking it out – the most bonkers anthology you will ever see.
Six: Love Object (9/10)
This wonderful tale of a sex doll apparently coming to life in disturbing fashion is wonderfully told, a horror movie with a distinctly human angle and great performances from Desmond Harrington and Melissa Sagemiller. Everything about the telling and the style is slightly off-kilter, making this a compelling hour and a half. Love Object had stuck with me from a first viewing in the fairly distant past that was a pleasure to revisit.
Seven: Combat Shock (9/10)
Coming from Troma, there was a sense this would be more a b-movie than anything, but I had heard good things and wanted to give it a whirl. And Combat Shock was a very rewarding view indeed – while it's obviously made on a budget, and has a few limitation, it's very effective in what it does and paints a strong picture of desperation and the pure need to survive in the face of terrible circumstances. It's free to watch on Troma's Youtube channel, so check it out.
Eight: Black Mass of the Nazi Sex Wizard (9/10)
Like him or loathe him – and there are plenty on both sides – extreme horror has likely missed Lucifer Valentine. The fourth in the Vomit Gore Trilogy (Series?) is the best of the lot, shot and produced better than its predecessors while certainly losing nothing of the absolutely horrible edge of body horror, playing alongside an (un)healthy dose of psychological and verbal torment. If you like the originals, then you'll be in hog heaven with this one.
Nine: Bad Biology (9/10)
A fun favourite of mine, this utterly bizarre tale of a women with too many clitorises and a propensity to give birth just hours after sex and a man with a huge, mutant penis with a mind of its own and a horrible drugs craving manages to be funny as hell. I can't claim it has any great artistic qualities, but it certainly is a stitch of an hour and a half and if you like a b-movie or two then this is bound to appeal.
Ten: Maskhead (8/10)
And to close on another fun note, this weird and wonderful montage following the conquests of a serial killer taking place across a host of fetish shoots is again marvellous entertainment. It's a bit messy narrative-wise but has energy and enthusiasm in bounds, which makes up for many of those shortcomings for an experience filled with likely very inappropriate laughs. It's clear everyone involved was enjoying themselves, and I expect you will too.
The 'Why Did I Watch That' Award for Most Disturbing Film: Black Mass of the Nazi Sex Wizard
As I've already mentioned, the return of Lucifer Valentine was certainly long-awaited, but you have to really screw up your courage to stick these movies on and watch them. And the fourth installment of Vomit Gore did not miss its usual marks – drenched in vomit and urine and filled with genuinely unpleasant moments of psychological and physical abuse, this remains one for only those with the hardiest constitutions.
The 'Why Did I Watch That' Award for Worst Film: Black Devil Doll From Hell
Good. Lord. It's hard to imagine a movie worse than this could exist, and it remains a mystery to me how this terrible 'shot on shitteo' production (to quote the mighty Cinema Snob) ever got a release. Truly abysmal in every respect, this is a perfect storm of awfulness – the hideous Casio keyboard soundtrack is a marvel of bad music, the acting is lousy, the picture and audio quality are laughable, the plot is paper-thin and the 'scary' moments are nothing short of absurd. For all this, Chester Novell Turner's movie has somehow gained a cult following and earned its place in film folklore – if horror fans had their very own 'The Room', this would be it.
The 'So Long, And Thanks For The Memories' Award: Rampage, President Down
Wherever you stand on the man's work, Uwe Boll has been a unique and hard to ignore presence on the film scene for a long time. While his video game adaptations remain much-maligned, much of his more extreme work – features such as Stoic and the Rampage trilogy – stand on their own as very watchable movies. Boll announced his retirement from filmmaking with the conclusion of the Rampage series, and it was a pleasure to have the chance to interview the man himself to boot. Whatever Boll moves onto next I'm sure he'll have just as big an impact there as well.
Head on over to our Film Gutter review page to read the full reviews for all these films and loads more reviews of horror films from the darker side of the horror genre
By Alex Davis
Dir. Kazuo 'Gaira' Komizu, Japan, 72 min
I was debating how best to describe this movie, and here's the best thing I could come up with – can you imagine if someone at Hanna-Barbera absolutely lost their mind and decided to put together a really extreme, almost hardcore episode of Scooby Doo? You know, with the mystery gang breaking down in the middle of nowhere and hiding out in an abandoned warehouse before all falling into horribly mysogynistic sex and our lead characters each being hunted down by a badly-costumed demon with a huge erection?
Well, you'll be glad to know you don't need to imagine it anymore, because director Kazuo Komizu, or Gaira, has gone out and made it for you with Entrails of a Virgin. Of course it's not exactly that, but it feels like a fitting metaphor because this movie is about as believable and frightening as an episode of Scooby Doo. The plot centres on five men and women – whose names I simply cannot recall at all – who are in the process of shorting a softcore porn film. They're travelling to their next location when their van breaks down and they are forced to spend the night in an empty warehouse in the middle of nowhere. What could possibly go wrong there?
Well, alongside bringing out the worst in our male characters – each one of whom is a shockingly unlikeable chauvinist pig who takes great delight in humiliating their actresses – it seem them all one by one hunted down by some sort of crazed sex-demon who kills the cast in various horrible ways, his erection never seeming to waver once. I mean, two of the female characters he literally screws to death. But there is a survivor – one of the poor women involved – who just so happens to be pregnant, possibly with a quickly-made sequel...
There are two primary problems with this movie – first up, if you took out the atrociously unarousing sex scenes then this film would probably run to about half an hour. And I don't think there's really an argument to say they build the characters up in any way, it's far more about vulgar titillation and simply trying to keep your viewer watching by any means. I could happily have switched off, uninteresting sex or no. It also makes both the men and the women of the movie come across as absolutely awful. Maybe that's deliberate, and you're supposed to be rooting for the demon killing them off one by one, but I'm not sure if I honestly believe this little piece of Japanese exploitation is that clever.
Secondly, I just can't decide if this is a movie that wants me to take it seriously or not. There's not enough laughs throughout to think this is supposed to be a flat out horror comedy or a gross-out black comedy, but there are places where things are so laughably bad you wonder if it's actually on the level or not. If the aim was to deliver a sort of schlocky b-movie that in the 'so bad it's good' bracket I can't help but think it even failed in that respect. The constant near-pornographic content doesn't do anything to dispel the illusion this wasn't meant to be funny, but oftentimes is unintentionally so.
Suffice to say, this goes down in my book as nonsense of the highest order. It doesn't have any shock value about it you can take seriously, the effects look dated, the humour – if that was even the aim – is badly placed and unfunny, the sex scenes fail to garner any interest and all to often play to ridiculous male fantasies ('Oh! It's too big! I hope it will fit inside me!'), the monster is unconvincing and it's impossible to muster up a jot of like or dislike for any of the bland characters. A total car crash of a movie for me, yet somehow it did inspire a second part, which I suppose I should take a look at really...
RATING: 1/10. Rare that I come down this hard on a movie, and honestly the mark is only there because it did make me laugh out loud a couple of times, whether it actually meant to do so or not. There were a spate of similar types of movies made in Japan around this time, many of which have some sort of charm or hook of interest – be they genuinely shocking, utterly bizarre or riotously tongue-in-cheek. Sadly Entrails of a Virgin is none of the above, and crashes in at a lowly 1/10. In fact, now I think of it, I doubt anyone in this movie was actually a virgin at all...
By Alex Davis
Film Gutter's Alex Davis sat down with Kasper Juhl director of the rather excellent Your Flesh, Your Curse for a special Gutter Talk interview.
Born Kasper Juhl Pedersen in Roskilde, Denmark, on April 12th, 1991. He got his first camera at the age of 8 and has since been passionate about making films. He's known as the founder of controversial independent film company Hellbound Productions, where he has directed, written and produced several feature- and short-films. He has since written and directed the feature film "Gudsforladt" (english title: A God Without A Universe") which premiered on CPH:PIX film festival in 2015 and won the "Best Feature" award at the BUT Film Festival in the Netherlands, and the "Jury Award" at the Sadique Master Film Festival. He's currently one of the most active directors in Denmark.
First off, I wanted to say how very impressed I was with Your Flesh, Your Curse! What can you tell us about the inspiration behind this movie?
I talked with my producer, who’s also the composer/sound designer on the film, about making a beautiful extreme horror film. We quickly found out that we would like to do another film in the same universe as our previous film, ‘Madness of Many’ – this time we just wanted to make more of a visual stunning piece of art.
This movie sees some stunning performances, especially from lead actress Marie-Louise Damgaard in the role of Juliet White. How was it on set in putting her character through so many horrific events?
Yes, she went through a lot. We always talked about everything in detail before each shoot, so that she was 100% sure of what was going to happen. I did everything I could so she would always feel safe during the shooting. Between every shoot everything was fine, we were laughing and having fun.
The whole film feels extremely authentic, which makes it very hard to watch in places, How much of what we see on screen was real, if anything?
All of the torture/abuse, not involving blood and gore, is in some way real. The actresses I worked with were aware that they could get hit, scratched, spit at etc. but all under professional circumstances. No one was harmed under the shoot in any way and everyone had fun, even though the scenes are quite extreme.
The film very much eschews traditional narrative for a much more unusual style of storytelling – was that a conscious decision from the very start?
Yes it was. We set out to make an abstract/experimental horror film. To me film is about feelings and not so much about a narrative story. It’s like Stanley Kubrick said: ‘The truth of a thing is in the feel of it, not in the think of it.’
Were things shot in order, or did you look to create scenes and then put them together in the editing process?
Everything was shot in order and we followed a script.
The visual aesthetic was stunning, really finding a dark sort of beauty in the nightmarish chain of events. Do you have a particular process in creating the 'look' of your films?
On this film me and my producer really talked a lot about the visual look of the film. We used most of our funding to buy a professional 4K camera, as we wanted to make a visually stunning underground film. Before each scenes, we talked in detail about how we should shoot it. We chose to have everything handheld, as we still wanted a realness to the scenes.
Are there any other filmmakers or directors that have particularly inspired you? At moments it put me in mind of Lars Von Trier, if you don't mind me saying so!
Trier is my favorite director, so I am just glad you can see the comparison, even though I didn’t went out to make a Trier-style film. I’m inspired by a lot of filmmakers like Harmony Korine, David Lynch, Lukas Moodysson, Larry Clark, Gaspar Noe, Tobias Lindholm, Thomas Vinterberg, Martin Scorsese, Wes Craven, David Cronenberg, Park Chan-wook and Alfred Hitchcock.
Your Flesh, Your Curse is a really intriguing and very complex movie – even after watching it twice I don't feel as though I have got everything out of it yet! How would you describe the message of the film?
It’s all about what you feel when you watch the film. What message you get when watching the film is probably the right one. I have my own idea of what the movie is about, but your interpretation is probably just as correct as mine.
This is your seventh movie so far – can you tell us anything about what you're working on next?
I’ve just finished editing my next film ‘Forever’, which will be an avant-garde documentary about the loss of my dad, who died on the 23rd of February 2016. It will be my most personal film yet, but it has nothing to do with horror. As for 2018 I have some huge plans, but can’t say anything about that yet.