Dir. Nick McAnulty and Brian Allan Stewart, Canada, 96 mins
There's a lot of random movies that I stumble across at Film Gutter, and this is one of those cases. Never heard of it, didn't know the first thing about it but looked the right sort of film with the right sort of flavour. It's apparent in the opening minutes that we're entering the world of found footage once again, which is a double-edged sword – although I'd say that there's more bad than good for me personally. But as always I was determined to keep an open mind and not approach it with too many preconceptions.
And I have to say it wasn't bad. Not wonderful, certainly, but not bad. The movie follows young couple Jennifer and Farhang, who – at some point before we enter the narrative – have decided they are going to kill somebody. We certainly don't launch into that willy-nilly at all, and I think it's quite interesting to see the serious planning and build-up to what they are going to do. We see them at the hardware store picking out the best axes and saws for the job, getting good-size tarps, plotting what they are going to do with the bodies after the fact. It's practically a military operation and the two are happy, excited even to be working towards this end game.
The first tensions arise when Jennifer proposes a victim, a businessman of some kind who is rude and unpleasant to her on the street. Farhang was keen to avoid any personal connection, so is keen to stay away for this gentleman, even though he follows along on their stakeouts to find out more about him. And eventually Jennifer decides he is right and brings them home a homeless victim...
I won't say too much more about this one plot-wise. It's pretty gruesome in places, the effects are realistic enough and I think the performances are OK from all involved. The two actors even keep their own names for the characters. The highlight of the movie is the real unease and relationship trouble that actually committing the act causes, as Jennifer revels in it and Farhang feels pangs of conscience. That's probably a more interesting angle than the actual violence and death, which is no bad things.
However I can't give it a hugely high rating, and here's why – in fact it's something I intimated at earlier. They obviously have had a conversation some point beforehand about deciding to kill a totally random person. And it just left me wondering why? The two don't seem especially unpleasant, or violent, or psychopathic. And that's what jarred me the most of all – if these two pretty normal folks are just going to wake up one day and say 'hey, why don't we kill someone' I would love some more motivation and justification. Without that, it just feels a bit like 'Five Go and Commit a Murder', like it's all some wonderfully jolly jape and a big adventure they'll look back on and laugh. Characters need motivation, and ultimately that's what we're missing here – and that does have a genuinely detrimental effect on the movie. Capture Kill Release does a number of things right, but in doing this major one wrong very much limits what it can hope to achieve as a movie.
RATING: 5/10. Capture Kill Release is a strange misnomer of a title, now I think about it – the first two are certainly happening but I didn't see anyone getting released here at all. Anyway, there was promise here and the found footage style was used better than in many movies. The acting wasn't stunning but it was certainly believable, and the relationship element and the impact that their decision to kill has on the relationship is pretty effective. However the fact that there's simply no motivation for their actions and nothing in their apparent characteristics for why they would do it is just a massive stumbling block for me on a personal level. It's something fundamental to storytelling they seems to be egregiously missed here, and it loses several marks for that, so it's only a fair mark of 5/10.
Australia is a nation that has produced some very decent horror movies over the years, and has a pretty fair pedigree in terms of extreme horror as well. The Loved Ones remains a firm favourite of mine, and with other offerings like Wolf Creek and Hounds of Love to boot it's certainly seems to be a lively scene down under. This one had pretty much passed me by, but on a hunt through the body horror section of Shudder I thought this one sounded like it could be some fun. That's not often a phrase that I apply to body horror – a subgenre that has served up some of the movies I've personally found very hardest to watch, including the horrible Thanatomorphose. Thankfully this one wasn't anywhere near as hard as some of its bedfellows, and in fact was pretty enjoyable.
To be fair, the story is pretty disjointed, but it fundamentally follows the residents of Pebbles Court, Homesville. The characters are pretty broadly-drawn but suffice perfectly well for the plot in this one, which concerns a local health farm and pharmaceutical company who are producing a highly experimental drug. We see its first victim – a former employee who tries to go and warn the good folks of Homesville – die in a pretty gory fashion, and that's a precedent for what comes next as the denizens of Pebbles Court are slipped this new drug by one means or another, and gradually find themselves bursting, exploding, melting and plenty more besides.
It's all pretty silly, but it sets its stall out early enough in that respect. You know what you're letting yourself into in the space of a few minutes, beginning with the stunningly retro computer graphics and then more firmly established in our meeting the absurd dramatis personae. There are a few chuckles to be had along the way – the cast of 'rednecks' (I know it's technically Australia not America, but I can't think of a better word) are a stitch, as are the bonehead teens on the block – and the deaths are generally pretty inventive and interesting. It's hard to be horribly shocked by anything, given the context, but the effects are good for the time and there's some pleasure to be had in wondering what the next extravagant death will look like. The fact the characters are basically 'shreddies' means that you don't miss them, or really feel for them, but again given what this film is trying to do it doesn't make too much difference.
Body Melt isn't especially cutting, or visceral, or hard to watch as so many of our entries in Film Gutter have been before it. I don't think it's going to prove to be that memorable either. What it is – and I don't get the chance to say this enough - is a fun piece of horror that plays with some extreme ideas but keeps the humour and the outrageousness at the heart of it. There are plenty of flaws, sure – the story jumps all over the shop, giving almost the sense of a portmanteau rather than a full movie, some of the acting is hammy – like beyond the kind of hammy you'd like too see - and there's little to stir any sort of emotional response. But it was an enjoyable way to spend 80 minues, and on those grounds it's worth a nose as an antidote to the more gruesome and distressing offerings we often encounter.
RATING: 7/10. Body Melt almost feels like a movie out of time, as it would have been a perfect fit for the 80's style of horror. Even for when it was made it was likely retro, and looks even more so now, but it holds up in terms of effects and approaches its slim idea with enough energy and verve to make for a chaotic but ultimately pretty funny experience. It's not unmissable, but you could certainly do a sight worse if you like your extreme horror on the less serious side.
To begin with, it's worth saying this is a film I had been looking forward to for some time, and hats off to Shudder for picking this one up – it's a bold choice given what has been said about this movie prior to its release. Apparently enduring a host of walkouts during its screening at the Sundance Film Festival, and later being described online as 'the grossest movie ever made', this one screamed Film Gutter from the very get go. And given some of the talent involved at Brainfeeder Films – talent that certainly has a reputation for the bizarre – I was buzzing to get stuck into this one.
In many ways, it was everything that I expected, and really rather hard to describe adequately without actually watching. Kuso's framework is an occasionally-referenced earthquake that has caused a strange series of events to occur, which allows for a sort of montage style that provides a lot of creative freedom. So just what is it about? It's about a man who enters into a three-way relationship with a talking boil that has developed on his girlfriend, which we unfortunately get to see the consummation of. It's the story of a woman descending into hell to save her baby only to find herself physically attached to another woman. It's the story of a man determined to cure his fear of breasts by undergoing a trippy treatment after a cockroach, Mr Quiggle, emerges from his doctor's ass and squirts some sort of medicine (kind of) into his mouth (starring George Clinton and male porn star Lexington Steele, no less). It's about a woman who discovers she's pregnant by a creep that emerges through her toilet to say hello and the two bears (again, maybe not a perfect description) with TVs for faces that she lives with. It's about all of those things and an awful lot more, but that probably gives you some sense of just how odd this piece of work is.
I think whether this is to your taste or not, the craft and care that has gone into Kuso is undeniable. All the make-up work is meticulous, the visuals are breathtaking for the right reasons in places and all the wrong reasons in other – veering from glorious to horrifying – the soundtrack is wonderful (as you would expect from anything associated with directory Flying Lotus) and there is a freshness and originality here that is hard to deny. The film's detractors might argue a case that it is trying too hard to be different, but as any of my regular readers will know I prize originality in horror above a lot of other qualities, so you won't hear any complaints from me in that respect. I have a deep suspicion this is also a movie that will improve with repeat watching, as so much Adult Swim television.
And as I wrote that, I realised the best way I could describe Kuso is if Adult Swim decided to make a horror film, this would probably be it. It's relentlessly original, continually disturbing and takes pleasure in keeping its audience distinctly unbalanced. Just when you think you've figured something out, wham – we're onto the next thing. For me, it is entertaining and it kept my attention held tight all the way, but then Adult Swim has always produced some of my very favourite TV, and generally the stranger the better for me. But I think any reviewer would probably be wise to say this is not a movie for everybody – in fact Kuso is probably something that will be truly enjoyed by a small minority. Surreal, hilarious, artistic, sickening, energetic, twisted, intense, discombobulating – Kuso is all this and much more.
RATING: 9/10. If I were reaching for one word to described Kuso, it would probably be wild. This is a group of filmmakers well and truly let loose to create something that makes no concessions to its viewers or the film industry it is a part of. It is gross – not as gross as some movies we have watched, although Royal the Boil was a singularly queasy moment – but it is a flat-out assault in the sense with its off-the-wall imagery and mini stories it tells. I might have to watch it a few more times to be sure, but it might just be genius and I think is bound to gain a real cult status in years to come. I enjoyed it heartily, and although it certainly isn't a movie for everyone, it was undoubtedly a movie for me. One of the craziest rides ever here at Film Gutter and worthy of a great 9/10.
I happened to stumble across this DVD (along with a host of other very good horror DVDs) for just 50p at a completely random charity sale. It's a movie I hadn't seen for a while, or even considered for a fair bit, but the minute I saw it I had a recollection of it being something I had really liked. In fact I distinctly recall renting it from Blockbuster (I know some of your out there will remember those) and really enjoying it. But would this one have stood the test of time? An hour and a half later I was relieved to be able to answer yes – Love Object still has plenty about it as a movie and remains high in my estimation. While it's not as flat out visually disturbing or gross as some Film Gutter entries, it plays with some very odd and somewhat shocking ideas in a subtle and clever way.
There are times as a reviewer where you are slightly limited by the form itself. Those moments are blessedly rare, but in turning to review the fourth part of Lucifer Valentine's Vomit Gore 'trilogy' there is a certain sense that I can't really, truly convey what it is like to sit through one of these movies. Emotionally, psychologically, sometimes even physically, these movies are a pure and utter assault on the senses. And I don't mean that in any enjoyable, lively, colourful way – everything about these films is unpleasant. Lucifer Valentines has a following in spite of – or perhaps because of – making these films a living nightmare for the viewer. I'd even argue Valentine sees you as his enemy and the whole series - and this film in particular – is an attempt to break you.
CAT SICK BLUES (2015) Dir. Dave Jackson, Australia, 101 mins
Regular readers of this series will know that one of the things I most value in a film is originality. Horror cinema as a whole is a field riddled with archetypes, stereotypes and clichés, and extreme horror can also suffer that to some extent. The attempt to be transgressive and challenging tends to invite more originality, but there are plenty of gory slashers and movies focused on extensive torture and human suffering that equally risk treading a path well trodden. Australia’s Cat Sick Blues is, in a sense, a slasher, but I would argue is genuinely unlike anything you’ve seen before. Gloriously odd, sometimes hilariously funny, other times cuttingly serious and dark, this movie has shot high up the list of my favourite extreme movies. It might even be a top ten already.
The Greasy Strangler (2016) Dir. Jim Hosking, USA, 93 mins
It's not uncommon that I get requests for reviews here at Film Gutter, but if there is one that has come up time and time again it has to be this one. Many a conversation has strayed to the topic of this movie with a refrain of 'Oh, it'd be perfect for Film Gutter!' It's of course been a movie I was aware of upon its release, especially given some of the names attached as producers – Elijah Wood and Ben Wheatley both supported this one to its 2016 release. It's even brought to us by a British director in Jim Hosking, so there's simply no excuse for putting this one off any further. By popular demand it's time to look at The Greasy Strangler.
In what I hope will become a semi-regular feature here at Film Gutter, we’ll be exploring some of the great extreme horror projects out there looking for crowdfunding and support from the community. There’s a huge array of work in the subgenre that is only made possible by this kind of funding, so if you like what you read then drop by the crowdfunding page! Even if you’re not able to pitch into the project, a share on social media alone can be a huge help to people trying to get their projects off the ground.
Today the focus turns to one of the most exciting artists in the field of extreme horror, Martin Trafford, who has recently launched his Hung, Drawn and Slaughtered book on Indiegogo.
Over the years, reviewing and interviewing here at Film Gutter has enabled me to do some very exciting things. I've had the chance to natter over email, and occasionally in person, to some fantastic actors and directors. This year one of the most thrilling opportunities yet came my way when Starburst Film Festival called to ask if I'd be interested in putting one some extreme horror screenings for the event.
The indiegogo campaign for Song of Solomon is live now on Indiegogo If you like what you read, check it out and support it if you can!
Those extreme horror fans out there with long memories will no doubt recall the Japanese series Guinea Pig, which exploded onto the splatter scene in the mid-80s and ran for several years, serving up everything from hardcore torture and dismemberment to bizarre comedy through to disturbing character pieces. Even if you haven't watched the originals, you might well be aware of the furore that surrounded the earlier movies in the series, with director Hideshi Hino famously having to prove Flower of Flesh and Blood wasn't a genuine snuff film following an FBI investigation...