Category Archives: no idea

Antibirth 21016

The horror genre can be very repetitive. It is constantly going through cycles, making the same stories over and over again. We are subjected to years of slasher movies with little creativity, then years of post-modern slashers mocking them. Possession films have been spat out for so many years that surely everyone must be bored of them by now? Found footage has had its day, at least this time round, as has the haunted house movie. A film about ouija boards is a box office smash and a year later the shelves are full of Ouija rip offs. If you look at the horror genre as just this cycle of repetition then it would be easy to dismiss it as a beast always eating its own tail.

However the horror genre is also the ground for some of the most experimental and unique movies out there. Maybe it is because of the low risk nature of the budgets, or perhaps because experiments in art often result in nightmarish imagery, but the genre is packed with all kinds of weird, off kilter and demented projects. Its not a coincidence that a number of Any Warhol’s films were horror ones. Horror is the place where Cronenberg can explore his obsession with the alien nature of the human body, and where David Lynch can study the fractured state of reality. Horror may be sometimes a cheesy yarn about teenagers being chopped up in a woods, but every now and then it can achieve something much darker, stranger and better.

This is where films like Antibirth exist. It is clear that director Danny Perez’s approach to narrative structure is secondary to weird imagery from the opening scene where we follow our heroine Lou, played by Natasha Lyonne, through a fragmented, drug fueled night of partying which barely makes any sense. The rest of the film is about Lou’s attempt to piece together what happened that night when she finds out that she is pregnant. Whilst initially hard to follow what has happened and indeed what is happening, that is a really the point. We are following Lou’s point of view, and being a drug addict and alcoholic her point of view is as incoherent as her daily life. It’s not like Lou even tries to straighten herself up, either because she has potentially been sexually assaulted or because she is carrying a new life inside her. In fact she seems to go the opposite way and drink more, smoke more and intake more pills. Of course if you have seen Orange Is The New Black then you know this isn’t exactly a stretch for Lyonne. However it is really worth checking interviews to see Lyonne isn’t just being herself on screen, she’s just really good at playing a waster.

Lyonne is ably helped by Chloe Sevengy playing her best friend Sadie. The two of them are like low rent versions of Eddie and Patsy in Absolutely Fabulous– whenever the shit hits the fan, or even if they just have a bit of spare time, their approach is just to pop back to Lou’s horrible prefab home (that seems to being the middle of a dump site) and get off their tits.

All this self abuse leads increasingly to Lou having weird flashbacks and hallucinations which, surprisingly, drive the narrative forward as she is able to see clues as to how she ended up pregnant in the first place. What is most surprising abour all of this is that all this destructive madness makes sense at the end with a gloopy and gory climax for which the word “bonkers” was invented.

The film is designed with primary colours which swwwmed to have been left to mix up together too much in a paint pot so instead of bright and cheerful it’s repellently gross. This is no more vividly expressed than when we meet what seem like bad trip versions of the Teletubbies.

Antibirth probably isn’t for everyone: it’s incredibly cheap and sleazy, and the lead character works hard to get your disrespect and is barely able to stand for most of the time. However if you like to watch some freakish and experimental fun with a brilliant central performance from an actor honing a particular type then you will be laughing. And then there’s that ending which is either hilarious too of revolting, depending how you look at it…

 

 

 

 

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Videodrome 1983

I saw Videodrome fairly early on in my teenage years, being a fan of David Cronenberg’s oeuvre before even the wild popularity of The Fly sent him into the film director stratosphere. A couple of years later I owned a copy of the VHS as part of my ludicrously large horror collection and watched it numerous times. Since that tape disappeared into the ether though I don’t think I’ve watched it since, although I’ve always had fond memories of it and thought it was one of Cronenberg’s best early movies.

Finally watching it again now it struck me with one question: how on earth did I watch this film when I was thirteen or so and understand a jot of it? All the scenes that I remember we’re still there, plus the great central performances from James Woods and the alluring and mysterious Debbie Harry and the weird graphic imagery. But it was like watching the film with fresh eyes. I’d always found the main plot a bit murky and people’s actions confusing. Now, I understood it as clear as day. And of course this makes perfect sense: it’s great that the teenage me got some pleasure from Cronenberg’s films but he is an adult director making adult pictures with adult themes.

Videodrome concerns James Woods as a cable television programmer who works for some sleazy station way down on the TV Guide options (Channel 83! That’s better than ITV2 nowadays) who is always looking for more, er, interesting shows to draw in an audience. Finding little more than soft core porn to titillate or bore his viewers*, his bespectacled boffin assistant comes across a grim, fuzzy show called Videodrome which by all accounts seems to only concern itself with showing naked women being tied up to a wet, electric wall and beaten to death. Somehow this show is hypnotic to anyone who views it and Woods feels he needs this to boost his ratings. However it starts to have some weird ass side effects on him.

Essentially Videodrome is a whacked out Conspiracy thriller but even then there is so much more going on. There have been endless articles on Cronenberg’s study of body horror so I won’t go on about them much here (although how I never knew that the wound in Woods’s stomach was vaginal just shows how naive my young self was). Okay the familiar theme of the body taking over the man is here but also,as the film progresses, what grabs me the most is how Woods as a human being was no longer in control of his his own life but used as a puppet for various fractions own ends. The broadcasters of Videodrome want to make him a weapon against any number of real or potential enemies in order to gain power. Those who fight against them want to use Woods for their own ends. The so called “new flesh”, the rebellion against Videodrome, is no better than the alleged corporate villains. Woods becomes dispensable in their existential game of chess: a pawn for one side, stolen to be used on the other.

Then there how Videodrome appeals to some very deep dark desires and needs of the sexually active adult. When Debbie Harry’s Nikki sees the programme for the first time she is not horrified by it but turned on. Granted we later find out that there is some form of transmission to the brain underneath the main video signal which would make any viewer become addicted to it, but for Nikki this is tapping into the sexual dispensations she already has. I do wish Nikki had been in the film for more screen time. It’s not long before she’s setting off to audition for Videodrome (surely a bad career choice) and outside of the hallucinations we never see her again. It’s not just that Harry gives a terrifically multi layered performance but that whilst Woods quickly catches on that Videodrome is something not to be messed with, Nikki, fascinatingly, embraces it, even at the cost of her own destruction. Of course it would be a different story but it could have been interesting to see if Nikki realised the error of her ways or if her apparent demise was something she welcomed as part of some kind of psychological destiny. Perhaps if Videodrome had been made now we would have found out more as the movie would have been several hours long rather than the amazingly tight ninety minutes we have here.

There is no denying that all the videotape horror does feel positively antiquated upon viewing it now. I mean, I work with people who have never even experienced VHSs and they think DVDs are a thing of the past. However, whilst the medium for transmitting imagery into our brains may have changed over the past 34 years, the themes that Cronenberg is talking about here sure as hell haven’t. There is the Videodrome itself, stimulating and intoxicating the viewer into a state of addiction the same way watching porn at home can and does to people now. Whilst it’s programme mostly deals with torture and murder, Woods is naive enough to think they are just really good actors. Nowadays it is taken as a given that someone having sex on the internet is really having sex, when someone is beheaded they are really beheaded. There is also the character of Doctor Brian Oblivion, the creator of the Videodrome, waxing lyrical about how a personality is more real on television than they are in real life. This may have been a stretch in 1983 but in this world of YouTube sensations and internet celebrities maybe Oblivion was right – Donald Trump entire public persona was created on TV and in Tweets, and now he’s the most powerful person in the world.

Not only did Cronenberg seem to be writing about social attitudes towards media in the future, he was also showing how his film making would change in the future too.Production wise Videodrome is a big step up from his previous films. The movie he made immediately before this was Scanners and, as successful as it was, it still had an aura of B-movie about it. Not so Videodrome. Now, despite the sleazy apartments and sound stages, the art direction and general look of the film is exemplary. Make up effects are super realistic – well, as realistic as a stomach virgina or TV spilling intestines can be – and this is all headed by a disturbing soundtrack and that starry A-list turn by James Woods.

Videodrome may be set in the world of videotapes and cable TV, neither of which exist any more, but it’s also a timeless classic.

*There’s a hilarious Japanese softcore porno involving a geisha and her dildo doll that is less sexy than primeminister’s question time.

The Greasy Strangler 2016

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The Greasy Strangler, it is fair to say, is not your normal horror film. Nor your normal comedy. Or indeed, even a normal film at all. Imagine the bit inside the radiator in Eraserhead where the woman squishes foetuses under her feet, but for an hour and a half, and played for laughs. Then you may have a vague understanding of what this piece is all about. Although in all probability not.

In keeping with the abnormal presented here, it is also impossible for me to even review the film in any standard fashion. There’s no point in making any judgement on what the acting, script, cinematography, effects or direction are like as they are all done exactly how director Jim Hosking want them done (unless something went horribly, horribly wrong). If you or I don’t like The Greasy Strangler then that is our own problem. Its a singular vision, a singular, parallel universe based vision where this kind of thing probably goes on all the time.

I better tell you the basics of the plot – help you decide if this is for you I suppose. Hold on to your hats.

Middle-aged Big Brayden lives in some trashy part of Los Angeles with his father Big Ronnie. By day they run a disco tour for confused tourists. They take them around disused warehouses and back streets and make wild claims about the BeeGees performing their first gigs there. At night the tourists are prayed upon by some hellish killer. He’s known as The Greasy Strangler, because he’s covered in grease and strangles his victims. Brayden suspects that his father might be the notorious killer because he has a tendency to slather everything he eats with oil, fat and, indeed, grease. They both meet a beautiful young woman called Janet who gets in between them and threatens the really quite unpleasant bond between father and son. Or at least shags them both in revolting ways.

That’s the basic version of the story, and if that sounds conventional to you then a) you watch some weird fucking movies and b) you are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. And a twat.

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The main thing you have to be aware of is that Ronnie and Brayden may share a house like normal father and son shouldn’t do at their age, but they do most of it in very tiny underpants. And it is not like these guys are the epitome of masculinity. They both have skinny legs, sagging guts and man boobs. Old Ronnie also has far too much hair where you don’t want it and Brayden doesn’t have enough on top. Also Ronnie has a need to flash his flaccid arse on a regular basis and its clear he doesn’t wipe properly.

Then there are the penises. Oh god, the penises…

Old Ronnie spends a lot of time wandering around naked (usually just after having the grease washed off him at the local car wash) and his massive cock and balls dangle out of a suspiciously dark and hairy bush. Even when he gets dressed up for the disco, Ronnie wears a deeply unsavoury purple spandex jumpsuit with, I think, a see through area around his crotch so you can see his manhood dangling down the side of his legs. Either that or its a painted on image of the same member. Big Brayden on the other hand is far from big, having a tiny, little red willy with a couple of minuscule testicles protruding from his over abundant pubic zone. He has tiny, little wanks with it too.

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If you thought I gave away who The Greasy Strangler was in the last paragraph then trust me when I say it is really quite obvious who it is. This is partly because he keeps on denying that he’s The Greasy Strangler when no one even mentions it, partly because of his grease obsession and partly because The Greasy Strangler looks just like him but covered in grease.

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There’s a lot of weird characters, all of whom tend to shout their lines at each other as if they are in a wind tunnel rather than standing three inches away. Then the whole film looks like a terrible month I had twenty years ago when I mixed too many wrong, er, items in my head – all bright colours, moments of time disappearing and slime dripping down the walls . Also if you’re not put off by what age and bad food does to your body by the end of this film then you are either the healthiest person in the world or blind. And if you are blind that won’t save you either, as a blind man gets, strangled, has his head sawn off and thrown at a basketball net, which it misses.

Do I recommend The Greasy Strangler? Yes of course I do, if only to see your faces afterwards…

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