Wednesday, July 1, 2009

freakenders.

Just back from a weekend of pure unadulterated pleasure dear reader, rare big screen showings of House By The Cemetery, Cut And Run and the fantastic Macabre.


In attendance, Lamberto Bava and Ruggero Deodato, two of the funniest, wittiest and accommodating folk I have ever met.


Oh, and a group of three, fat bearded 'horror enthusiasts', stinking of sweat and with their trousers pulled up to their necks shouting things like "CGI is shit!" and "Romero rocks!" at any given opportunity.

But I will admit that I'd have been disappointed if they hadn't been there too.

Kudos to the GFT, Arrow Films and emcee Callum Waddell for everything.

Anyway, for those of you who haven't seen the movies in question.....

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The House By The Cemetery (1981)
Dir: Lucio Fulci
Cast: Paolo Malco, Giovanni Frezza, Catriona MacColl, Ania Pieroni, Silvia Collatina, Dagmar Lassander and Gianpaolo Saccarola.

Geek beard academic plaid boy Norman Boyle (Malco from Demons III: The Ogre and The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine) has been given the opportunity to complete a fantastic research project on, um, clever things left unfinished when his slightly bonkers college went mental and killed not only himself but his bit on the side too.

Being a feisty New York gal (with an English accent) his wife Lucy (genre goddess and singer of the ultimate Christmas hit Fairytale of New York, MacColl) isn't well pleased with the idea of spending the summer in the middle of nowhere lodging in an old dilapidated house (by a cemetery) and to top it all their young son, Bob (former cult idol, Cassidy lookalike and Facebook friend Frezzi) is having crazy dreams about a freaky ginger girl named Mae (Collatina) telling him to stay away.

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Inside Gary Glitter's mind.


This I can identify with seeing as I often dream about Silvia Collatina too.

But then again, who doesn't?

Alarm bells should start ringing when it turns out that groovily big haired giallo Grannie Dagmar (Hatchet For A Honeymoon) Lassander runs the local estate agent, coupled with the fact that she wont mention the house's previous owner by name and that wee Bob is experiencing visions of shop window dummies getting decapitated and has taken to playing with crusty old Victorian dolls whilst sitting in the gutter.

Thinking nothing of the cellar door being boarded up and the bloody great tombstone in the living room, Norman gets down to work, hiring freakily eyebrowed, babysitter cum home help Ann (Pieroni, the original Mother of Tears) to give the already shot to fuck Lucy a hand with the dishes.

It appears that Ann has misread the job description however, as she appears to have misinterpreted her various household chores with standing around in silence and staring at Lucy with the intense look of a constipated bulldog whenever she's asked a question.

Unless she's wiping pools of blood off the floor when she then silently stares at Lucy whilst wiggly her arse on all fours.

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"Compare me to Wendy fucking Richard
again and I'll fucking kill you".



Whilst all this creepy shit is going on, Bob idles away the days by playing various chase-based games with the ghostly Mae in the cemetery (which is by the house in case you'd forgotten).

Every so often tho' she stops playing and just stands there all googly eyed whilst shouting "Get away from the house Bob!"

Which spoils the fun of hide and seek somewhat.

Norman however, hasn't noticed any of this, seeing as he's spending more and more time in the local library leafing thru' his predecessors notes, trying to figure out why he abandoned the really interesting research paper to write about death, immortality and a local Doctor called Jacob Freudstein who used to own the house that Norman's family are now staying in.

How much of a coincidence is that?

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"Put it in me!"


Turns out that Freudstein was a wee bit of a nutter, firstly for being obsessed with cheating death by murdering people and using their organs to prolong his life and then by cruelly butchering his (somewhat stern) wife Mary and their daughter Mae.

Hang on......no....it couldn't be Bob's spooky pal?

Could it?

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Separated at birth: Giovanni Frezza...

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...and Cassidy the boy wonder.


We'll soon find out, because Norm has unblocked the cellar door leaving the faint odour of cabbage in the house and a bloody great crack in the tombstone.

Oh and he's inadvertently unleashed a seven foot tall undead doctor with a face like half chewed caramel on his unsuspecting family....

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"Knife in mah mooth!"


Building on the surrealism of City of The Living Dead and the spookiness of The Beyond, The House By The Cemetery is undoubtedly Fulci's last great film with every element coming together to create a unique almost fairytale-esque take on the fears of childhood and growing up.

It plays out like a bitter and twisted version of Peter Pan, with Mae in the Pan Role, Bob as Wendy and Ann the babysitter as some kind of weird, lonely Tinkerbell figure, tired of walking thru' eternity and praying for sleep, slowly grooming Bob as her replacement, silently encouraging him to become further and further attached to Mae as she calmly tidies the chaos around her, knowing that her time is nearly up.

And what about Bob?

From the very beginning of the movie he seems not to want to be with his family, happier with the image of Mae in the old photograph hanging on his parents wall. He seems a child out of time, his hair and face give him an almost angelic look and the odd choice of voice actor only adds to his uniqueness.

This is a child unable (or unwilling) to live in the dark and dangerous world of adults and, at the movies climax when we see Bob crawling thru' the vagina like crack in the tombstone towards an unearthly bright light it's as if he is reborn at that moment, freed from the shackles of his parents mundane world of work, arguments and monotony and forever young within Mae's perfect childhood, watched over from afar by the kindly Mrs. Freudstein.

That's why the young girl in the films opening scene has to die, she's given up on childhood and embraced adulthood via a sexy liaison with her fella.

And come on, I mean Freudstein? That must be a big hint to the underlying metaphors of the movie.

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Norman: a tearful wank and a Pot Noodle.


Well, either that or I've got way too much free time in which to over analyze Eurosplatter movies.

You decide.



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“Thank God you’re white”



Cut And Run (Inferno in Diretta, 1985).
Dir: Ruggero Deodato
Cast: Lisa Blount, Leonard Mann, Willie Aames, Richard Lynch, Richard Bright, Michael Berryman, Eriq La Salle, Karen Black, John Steiner, Valentina Forte and Gabriele Tinti.

They always say start as you mean to go on, and Ruggero Deodato's fantastically violent exploiter does just that.

Drug dealers, sexy sweaty ladies, topless poison dart firing natives and bad toothed cokernee's getting torn in half, this film has it all, plus about seven opening sequences and a rocktastic Claudio Simonetti score.

Perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Opening with a group of sweaty drug runners (or bakers) doing interesting things with white powder (flour?) on a makeshift pier, this fantastic free market commune soon comes under attack from Michael Berryman in tiny green pants, what looks like Moby in a sarong and a squad of Beatle wigged natives.

Within minutes all the drug types have been killed by fast acting poison whilst the ladies present have been nailed to the floor, fiddled with and then beheaded.

Gratuitous sexism in a Deodato movie?

Never.

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"Need any scissors sharpening?"


Meanwhile in sunny Miami, a harsh faced South American woman cradling a crack filled doll has arrived at the airport to be met by two shady foreign types (are there any other sort?) who drive her to a rundown apartment.

Unbeknown to these hoodlums, ace cable news hound Fran (Lisa "I won an Oscar!"Blount) and her tight trousered, tussle haired cameraman Mark (Leonard Mann who, no doubt does whatever a Leonard can) are on their trail, looking for a scoop on the rising drug problem facing America.

Keeping tabs on the building from afar, our heroic duo soon get bored waiting for the police to arrive and decide it'd be a good idea to just wander in and ask the drug dealers for an interview.

Sneaking inside, Fran is just about to knock the door and shout "Oi! drug dealers NO!" whilst Mark waves his camera at then menacingly when she notices the pool of blood on the lino.

Nervously pushing the door open they find the apartment has been ripped apart, the bodies of the swarthy men are lying in pools of blood, whilst the stony faced woman is stripped naked, her throat slit and her frighteningly unkempt bush on show for all to see.

Not wanting to waste the opportunity, they record a hard hitting (for Newsround) report admist the carnage before Fran rifles thru' the dead womans purse and legs it back to the studio.

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"Just say no".


Intrigued by a photo that the dead, nude woman had on her, Fran heads over to her informant the groovy strip club owner and part time pimp Fargas (future star of ER LaSalle, wearing one of Jon Pertwee's old suits) to let him have a wee gander at it.

Being a man with his ear to the ground (and from the way he walks a pole up his arse) he recognizes not only her bosses missing son Tommy (Aames, star of Bibleman) in the pic but one Colonel Brian Horne (insectoid like genre stalwart Lynch), Vietnam War veteran, and former right-hand man to Jim Jones.

Obviously Tommy's parents (doe eyed Black and the permanently tearful Bright) are delighted to know their son is still alive (seeing as he'd only popped out to buy some sweets) and eagerly send Fran and Mark off to the Amazon to find their son and interview the illusive Horne.

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Relax girls, he's Christian.


Whilst all this is happening Tommy is having a bad time of it in the jungle. Forced to wear a kiddies Mickey Mouse t-shirt and not get shot (for being white apparently), he's kicked a lot and spends his time off watching his only friend Ana (the sweatily breasted and remarkably arsed Forte) being forced to have sex with various pock marked Italians.

Bored with all the forced sex, showering and Tommy's tears, Ana has figured out a way for them both to escape (and no, it doesn't involve her hiding Tommy up her ample arse). You see she plans to sneak aboard the plane that's due to land shortly.

Can you guess whose plane it is?


This is how I felt watching this movie.


But best laid plans and all that because as soon as Ana and Tommy start to light the runway fires guess who comes a calling? Yup it's Berryman and his pants revealing posse out for justice.

From here on in it's action all the way (well, kinda) as Ana and Tommy are separated in the attack (by separated I mean Tommy runs away crying) and Fran and Mark's pilot is killed by one of the pygmy Beatles.

Phew.

After hiding in a bush for most of the night, Fran and Mark relay a live report to the news station before finding Ana jammed sideways in a cupboard. Collecting a bag of tinned peaches and Vimto for the journey the trio then head out into the jungle.

Tommy, meanwhile, is wandering through the bushes crying like a wee lassie until he (literally) stumbles across his nasty, pube bearded boss, tied to a couple of trees and being slowly pulled apart whilst begging Tommy to kill him.

It's obvious that he is not a happy chap.

Instead of helping the poor sod on his way, Tommy stands about with his face screwed up and watches as his boss is ripped to pieces.

Then he shoots him.

Tommy, as you can tell, is a complete arse.

Back with the cool posse and Mark, Fran and Ana are busy traipsing down river and getting ready to send another report.

after viewing another broadcast along the lines of "It's dead hot in the jungle and we think your son went this way due to the trail of empty Pot Noodle cartons and discarded stiff tissues". Tommy's dad (also crying like a small girl) decides to go visit Fargas himself. Partly for more info on that Horne fellow but mostly to get a lapdance off the fairly hot barmaid.

Nearing the local boating lake (next to the shop selling 'kiss me quick' hats) Mark and Fran take a well deserved rest whilst Ana wanders off for a tinkle in the bushes. This tinkle is cut short by Berryman who ties the poor girls body to a tree and drops in on our intrepid news crew.

Faining mild concern the pair carry on towards the boats where they find Tommy hiding under a dirty sheet and (yup, you got it) crying.

Dodging crocodiles and Tommy's never ending streams of snot the trio make it onto a boat and head in the direction of a nearby friendly tribe only to be capture in big butterfly nets by Horne and his team....

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Round the Horne.


But help is coming in the corduroy clad form of Tommy's dad and a helicopter full of gun toting soldier types, the question is will they arrive in time?

Playing out like an ultra-violent episode of Miami Vice (on budget that wouldn't pay for one pair of Don Johnson's deck shoes) drunkenly gene spliced with liberal helpings of Heart of Darkness and the directors own Cannibal Holocaust, Cut And Run so wants to be a serious adult crime drama ala The French Connection but comes across more like a secondary school video club version of Apocalypse Now with added breasts.

And frankly it's much better for it.

From the 'hard bitten' female reporter to the purple hatted pimp via the Nam vet gone native, every single character is a comic book cliche made flesh, the ramshackle plot stopping only for even more bloodshed or needless nudity. The plot (what there is of it) moves so quickly (only stopping for a beheading or a quick glimpse of lady parts) that you happily forget that none of it makes sense and just sit back, switch off and enjoy.

And the reason it works so well is all down to Deodato's direction, his jovial personality and sheer entertainer-like persona seeps into every scene and every performance be it good or bad.

Except, of course where Willie Aames is concerned that is.

Which in it's own perverse way is one of the most enjoyable things about it.


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Your dad's cum face.... he must have been watching...

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Macabre (AKA Macabro, Frozen Terror. 1980).
Dir: Lamberto Bava.
Cast: Bernice Stegers, Stanko Molnar, Veronica Zinny, Roberto Posse, Fernando Pannullo and Ferdinando Orlandi.

Square faced temptress Jane Baker (uber-milf Stegers from Xtro) is trapped in an unhappy marriage to a camp bald man with a bad taste in ties (Pannullo, most famous for playing Count Pepoli in the fantastic Le strelle nel fosso) who, when not having to spend time with her ungodly children, is involved in a sordid affair with groovy hipster Fred (Posse, from the classic Nazi Love Camp 27 and the not so classic L'Isola Degli Uomini Pesce).

The pair meet up at any oppurtunity at an apartment Jane rents from the kindly old dear Mrs. Duval and her blind son Robert (Molnar, not playing the actor from Apocalypse Now) for sweaty (and very noisy) bouts of 'the sex'.

Your mum, in my bedroom yesterday.


Mightly pissed off with being left to babysit her wee brother all the time, Jane's mono-browed daughter Lucy (Zinny) decides to drown the poor sod in the bath before calling her mum to say there's been an accident at home.

Rushing home, she and Fred are involved in a huge crash resulting in Fred getting decapitated and Jane getting her nice new dress ruined.

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"Steven!"


Jumping forward a year and Jane is released from the local asylum and heads back to her rooms at the boarding house (now run by Robert) to rebuild her life.

It's not long however before we realize that this 'rebuilding' consists mainly of rubbing up against Robert and having loud orgasms every night with a mysterious stranger.

If that wasn't enough she's also fitted a huge padlock to her freezer and refuses to let anyone into her room, not even her daughter who seems determined to see her parents back together at any cost.

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Yes, I did give her that pearl necklace.


Becoming more and more intrigued by the identity of the mysterious lover and how he manages to enter and leave the house even thru' locked doors, Robert is soon to uncover a secret so bizarre that he begins to question his own sanity, turning to little Lucy for help.

But he soon discovers that she has an agenda all of her own...

With this, his directorial debut (co-written by Pupi Avati director of the fantastic Zeder and inspired by a true story), Lamberto Bava seems to have taken his father Mario's famous quote about only needing "a girl, a room and some lights to make a great horror film" and made a conscious decision to use this as a template on which to structure Macabre.

And it's this choice that makes the film such a joy to watch. Bava's direction has never been better, carefully balancing the films more amusing moments with scenes of bizarre unease that leave the viewer with a vague uncomfortable feeling of where the plot may be heading. Even today, when viewing it with an audience nearly 30 years after it's original release Macabre still has the poower to shock and horrify it's audience.

Which is no mean feat.

The performances are perfect from Stegers almost panto like villainy to Molnar's twitchy and lovelorn Robert, Bava makes sure that everyone, even the most minor character is just the right side of 'arch', producing nervous laughter from the audience but never at the expense of the film.

It seems such a pity that Lamberto Bava would never reach such dizzying heights again.

But rewatching Macabre with a modern audience and experiencing their delight and terror at such a classic piece of film making is it really so surprising?

Macabre is an honest to goodness classic that demands to be seen on the big screen, so forget your shiny new (or in my case battered and scratched) DVD release and take to the streets demanding a proper cinema release.

The campaign starts now!

3 comments:

Phantom of Pulp said...

Sounds like a great time, Unwell.

I love Macabre, too.

Ashton Lamont said...

It is a great movie, but wierdly it's made even greater by seeing it on the big screen with an audience, i was really surprised at the difference it made to it!

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All my best
Calum