Evil Dead Trap

Ever wanted to see a Japanese horror film which is an homage to the '70's and early '80's Italian slashers and giallos? I thought so. This movie is as close to a Western horror film as I've ever seen come out of the East. It is a novel idea and you can tell, all the way down to the music, that the filmmakers truly love the giallos of Italy and the Slashers of North America.

Director Toshiharu Ikeda starts this flick off with a scene of graphic violence which harkens back to Lucio Fulci and his love of "eye" horror with a videotape which has been sent to a journalist that depicts a woman being brutally tortured and killed. Included on the tape is footage of the killer(?) driving to an abandoned factory which is presumed to be where the girl met her untimely fate. This is just the first minute of the movie. Ikeda wastes no time in the setup. Character development be damned!

She assembles a small crew to accompany her and they embark on their last assignment. I don't want to give anymore of the plot away, but I assure you that it includes some of the most inventive deaths and bizarre imagery that you've ever seen in an '80's flick. Writer Takashi Ishii pays homage to Argento, Fulci, Cronenberg, and Raimi in his off the wall; never know where it's going to go storyline.

This movie has got it all for a horror buff such as myself. Great atmosphere, "Goblin-esque" music, costumed killer, amazing death scenes, a fucked up ending, and a dash of cheesy nudity. The first time I saw this, I thought I had died and gone to horror heaven. Synapse released this movie 10 years ago, and you can still pick it up just about anywhere. I got it in their "Asian Extreme Horror" boxset, which includes three other great Japanese horror flicks "Entrails of a Virgin", "Entrails of a Beautiful Woman", and "Organ". I seriously recommend this movie to any Italian horror fan, Asian horror fan, and Slasher fan... which should included just about everyone under the sun as far as I'm concerned.

As an endnote, Unearthed Films released the sequel "Hideki" which is greatly inferior to this true horror classic. I won't suggest avoiding it, but I don't recommend it either.


Last House on Dead End Street

Sound familiar? Last House on... well get that thought out of your head right now. This baby was filmed in the winter/spring of '72-'73 for about $1,500 by Roger Watkins. The name is a "cash-in" title given to the film years later by the distribution company who finally put it out in the late '70's. There is no house; there is no dead end street, but there is insane nihilism, and scenes which leave you in awe of the films brilliance. Unfortunately the distribution company also decided to hack up the director's cut of the film, which Watkins admits may have been self-indulgent at roughly 3 hours long. That version of the film, under the title "The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell" has yet to be found, but is believed to be somewhere in a film lab in New York.

This movie has been hacked up, there's scenes which don't make much sense, voice overs which seem so out of place, and piss poor dubbing. But, even with all of these strikes against the film being good, it manages to bring to the screen a new level of gritty violence, surreal atmosphere, and a soundtrack that really gets into your head with the use of heart-beats and over-driven organ/choir music. The film is haunting, to say the least.

The story consists of Terry Hawkins, played by Watkins himself, who has just been released from prison. He sets out to gather a group of like-minded individuals who set out to make movies the likes of which have never been seen before. They don't think sex sells anymore, people want something new. Terry decides that in order to make the killings on film realistic, there's nothing better than the real thing. I don't want to give too much away here, but from this point on your about to get mindfucked.

The killings, according to Watkins, were virtually left alone by the distributors of the film. They did happen to cut out one of the murders apparently.. which we only see a flash cut of, in a completely different scene. The power of the film is still there to be seen on your screen. It really is an amazing film. If you have ever seen "Flower of Flesh and Blood", you will notice something very similar, hint hint.

Roger Watkins never ended up with the career that he deserved in the film world. After this movie, he made one more horror film "Shadows of the Mind", and several hard-core pornography titles. In a way, Watkins predicted his own life in "Last House", the seedy underbelly of the movie business, pornography, and an appropriately downbeat attitude are all present.

Barrel Entertainment released this film in a stellar 2-disc edition, and seeing how they dropped off the face of the Earth some time ago I doubt that this baby will ever see a new Region 1 release. I've seen this film go for quite a chunk of change on the web, and I can safely say that it would be worth every penny to pick up. This film is the starting point to an entire sub-genre of films. Just look at the first two Guinea Pig films, the August Underground series, and Tumbling Doll of Flesh to see the influence.

I cannot recommend this movie any more highly. It really is one of the most powerful exploitation/underground films that I have ever seen. If you're like me and you have a taste for off-beat cinema, you owe it to yourself to check this out.


Tetsuo: The Iron Man

I figure that if I want to start this review blog, I should probably start with the films that are responsible for my love of horror and off-beat cinema. Sure I had seen my fair share of horror movies before this one, but seeing this movie for the first time was like a mystical experience. I had yet to gaze at the black and white images of Eraserhead, nor had I had the pleasure of seeing any of Jodorowsky's films. I was 14('97) when the American VHS was released, and I can remember as if it were yesterday the first time I saw it at my local rental store...

The reviews on the box threw words like "Brilliant", "Hyper-kinetic" and "Shockingly Hilarious" into my brain.. leaving me to look into the creepy gaze of the dude on the front cover. I remember thinking to myself.. "How the hell do you pronounce "Tsu-Ka-Moto"!? The other movie that I was debating over was strangely enough "Blood Diner"... not yet my precious, I'll get to "Blood Diner" in a two years as fate would have it.

So I take this baby home, and oh my goodness this is some fucked up shit. If you're not prepared, like me, then this movie can really get into your head. I knew what I was seeing was truly visionary, and I can remember thinking that I need to find more movies like this. This movie really started my love/fascination with extreme cinema. I sought out that feeling again and again, and let me tell you... it rarely gets as good as Tetsuo.

So, enough reminiscing, onward we march. The movie is a surrealist/cyber-punk take on the "Metamorphosis " story, except the main character is turning into a machine. The abandoned factories and iron scrapyards really reminded me of my local surroundings of a post-industrial city. Once I saw Eraserhead, it was as if I had already seen these factories before, as if in a dream. The director, Shinya Tsukamoto, never relents in his assault on the viewer. You never know what is going to happen... and after the drill scene, you don't want to know what will happen.

Everything about this movie is perfect to me. The actor Tomorowo Taguchi gives it his all with his performance of a man loosing control over his own body. The industrial music track by Chu Ishikawa adds palpable tension to some key scenes, such as the one in the subway. The photography by Kei Fujiwara is dark and very experimental, and her performance is amazing as well. She would later make her own films, which include "Organ", a particularly nasty experimental flick.

This movie freaked out my all my friends, who I felt obligated to show.. one at a time. "You're odd" was a common comment after our viewing excursion... touche'. For me, this film acted as the high-water mark for my future forays into the horror underbelly. As I watch this film over the years, and I've changed so much from when I first saw it, but the film still holds its raw power to me in the same way as it did in 1997. It's like a bad hallucination.

If you haven't seen Tetsuo by this point, what on earth are you waiting for? The Tartan Asia Extreme DVD is still readily available, get yours now.

Welcome to my Lair of Horror...

I've been a huge fan of horror since I was very young. I can remember watching movies like Frankenstein and The Wolf Man when I was only a few years old. I have never believed what I was seeing was real, but I was fascinated with the darker side of art. I had read the complete Poe by the time I was 12, and I had already hunted down VHS copies of Fulci's Zombie and Romero's Dawn of the Dead. Needless to say, after discovering the writings of H.P. Lovecraft and Clive Barker as well as the films of Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, and Shinya Tsukamoto, I was well down the path of becoming a horror connoisseur.

Like most people who have devoted much time and effort into amassing a substantial movie collection, I have found certain sub-genres which I have taken to heart more than others. We all have our own particular tastes of course. The aim of this blog is to bring to light rare and obscure movies that many of you have yet to see, or have yet to appreciate... and give them a thorough review.

Of course in this day and age, it is becoming increasingly easier to acquire obscure movies thanks in large part to the DVD revolution. But if your were to check ebay from time to time, you'll notice that horror movies make up a large portion of the collector's market. Certain movies I own, like "Last House on Dead End Street" by Barrel Entertainment, "The Guinea Pig Box Set" by Unearthed films, "The Ilsa Collection" by Anchor Bay and "August Underground: Snuff Edition" which was self distributed by Toe Tag Pictures have all fetched around 100 bucks at one time or another. I am not alone!

The passion of collecting films is still alive and well in my mind. Even though the economy puts a halt on excessive splurging, I can still look at my shelves and transport myself to the old "Mom and Pop" video stores I grew up on and love. There is something ridiculously awesome about being able to go grab my Synapse DVD of "Horrors of Malformed Men" and see a film that hasn't been shown for nearly four decades. If you're like me and can't get enough Italian Zombies, Cannibals, Samurai's, Giant Monsters, Mushroom People, Faux-Snuff Movies, Necrophilia, Back-Woods Slashers, and Henenlotter movies, then appreciate this golden age.