This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on October 28, 2015. The rating was 0.5/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.
“When you hear my thoughts, you’ll know where to go.”
Oh. Oh my.
I was looking forward to Dario Argento’s 1998 adaptation of Phantom of the Opera with something like macabre excitement. After all, it was identified by TV Tropes, among others, as being widely regarded as the worst adaptation of that source material, in any media form, ever. Still, I expected that there would be something noteworthy or praiseworthy about it. After all, Phantom is a work with a huge body of reimaginings and revisions; Wikipedia lists twenty-eight different film adaptations (although some of these are homages rather than direct translations of the source), thirty stage versions, forty-six literary retellings, and an additional fourteen literary versions made for children. That doesn’t even include the radio plays, television shows, and comic books that retell or revisit the story. That’s no small feat, considering that the original novel was published barely over a century ago. Personally, I don’t quite understand the story’s enduring appeal, although that may simply be because I’ve never read the original novel, although I know the plot largely as the result of cultural osmosis through the various homages to the narrative that show up in other media from time to time. Such a large body of adaptations bespeaks a kind of fanaticism that made me question whether or not the “worst adaptation” moniker applied to Argento’s version was accurate or should be interpreted as a criticism on par with one made by Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. I expected that this might be the case, but I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.
Continue reading “Il fantasma dell’opera (aka The Phantom of the Opera, 1998)”
This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on October 24, 2015. The rating was 1/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.
Hooboy, this one was a stinker. Directed by Zoltan G. Spencer (nee Spence Crilly), The Satanist is a B&W horror nudie (a kind of subset/cousin of the genre of nudie cuties that Brandon has been writing about of late) that was released in 1968 and was thought to be irretrievably lost after its last screening in 1971; film archivists generally agree that only five prints of the film were ever made, and the single surviving print was unearthed only a year ago. It has been screened only two or three times since then, including at the Forgotten Film Festival in Philadelphia last summer, and most recently at the Alamo Ritz for the Halloween season. Unfortunately, of all the missing films out there in the world that are begging to be found, this is one whose discovery doesn’t enrich the world all that much.
Continue reading “The Satanist (1968)”
This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on October 25, 2015. The rating was 4/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.
After watching Trauma and seeing the premonitions of failure in Dario Argento’s later works that the film possessed, La Sindrome di Stendhal (The Stendhal Syndrome) was surprisingly refreshing in its successes. That’s not to say that Syndrome is perfect; there’s a lot wrong with this movie, including multiple sexual assaults, a killer with impenetrable motivations, some really bad effects, and disturbingly dark sexual politics. If you can overlook those problems, there’s a decent mystery here and a fresh twist, even if it is predicated on a skewed sense of gender dynamics and a warped understanding of trauma. This review, like this movie, is quite triggering with regards to sexual assault, so be warned. Also, spoilers.
Continue reading “La Sindrome di Stendhal (The Stendhal Syndrome, 1996)”
This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on October 20, 2015. The rating was 4/5 Stars, with a Camp Stamp. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.
Full disclosure: I may have implied I knew more about the John Waters canon than is strictly accurate in my review of Polyester. The truth is that I saw (the intentionally filthy and shocking) Pink Flamingos and Mondo Trasho in high school eleven years ago, and have randomly seen both Cry Baby and Hairspray a few times each, although even I, with my limited knowledge, know that these two are not really indicative of Waters’s body of work (a friend once told me that Cry Baby is a straightforward representation of the genre that Hairspray was meant to satirize, which seems accurate to me). I also once started watching Pecker, but the VHS broke about thirty minutes in, so I can’t speak to that movie, really. That was my entire experience with the Waters oeuvre until a few weeks ago, and I may have made some not-quite-accurate generalizations in my previous review. Feel free to point out my errors in the comments!
Continue reading “Desperate Living (1977)”
This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on October 19, 2015. The rating was 4/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.
Dan Curtis is most well remembered as the creator of gothic soap opera Dark Shadows (poorly remade as an irreverent fish-out-of-water comedy starring Johnny Depp in 2012), but remembrance of his legacy should also include his direction of 1976’s horror film Burnt Offerings. A kind of haunted house flick, the story concerns a run-down neoclassical manor home and the spell that it casts over a hapless family in order to rejuvenate itself.
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This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on October 14, 2015. The rating was 4.5/5 Stars, with a Camp Stamp. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.
I first became aware of the ridiculously titled The Love Butcher when the crew over at RedLetterMedia planned to watch it for one of their Best of the Worst specials, only to discover that the tape in their possession was damaged and unwatchable. A week later, the Alamo announced its Weird Wednesday line-up for the month of October, and Butcher was the revealed as the month’s first screening. A forgotten oddity, the 1975 proto-slasher focuses on the the split personality of physically handicapped Caleb and his suave, handsome, murderous alter ego Lester.
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This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on October 12, 2015. The rating was 4.5/5 Stars, with a Camp Stamp. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.
Functioning as an unassuming but surprisingly elegant eighties nostalgia vehicle, Turbo Kid is a New Zealand-Canadian co-production starring Munro Chambers (formerly Eli of Degrassi TNG) as “The Kid,” an otherwise-nameless survivor of a nondescript apocalypse fighting to stay alive in the distant, irradiated future year of 1997. His hero is comic book character Turbo Blaster, master of the Turbo Punch, and he obtains water (which is becoming less drinkable by the day) by trapping and trading mutant rats. His life changes when he meets and reluctantly befriends Apple (Laurence Leboeuf), a strange girl who comes from the other side of the wasteland, and discovers an underground bunker containing the Turbo Blaster’s real armor and weaponry. The master of this domain is the implacable Zeus (Michael Ironside, because of course), a warlord who is attended by his masked lieutenant Skeletron (Edwin Wright), a voiceless monster with a metal skull mask and razor-studded football pads. When Apple, the newly christened Turbo Kid, and renegade cowboy Frederic (Aaron Jeffery) are captured by Zeus to compete in his murderous bloodsports, the trio learns that the water they’ve been drinking is made of the same stuff as Soylent Green; they escape and begin to take the fight to Zeus.
Continue reading “Turbo Kid (2015)”
This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on October 11, 2015. The rating was 3/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.
Well, here we are, folks. I wrote in my review of Opera that many considered that film to be Dario Argento’s last good movie, although I had also read that Trauma had its fans as well. I was pleasantly surprised by the director’s “Black Cat” segment of Two Evil Eyes, so I was looking forward to Trauma with some reservations but an open mind. On the whole, this 1993 film (released just a year after the director’s cameo in Innocent Blood) has a lot of meritorious elements in its favor and is a decent movie, but throughout the run time I kept thinking to myself, “Oh, so this is where we’re going now.” Although the giallo elements work, for the most part, the movie’s most memorably quality is blandness, although how much of that is intentional or not is unclear.
Continue reading “Trauma (1993)”
This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on October 2, 2015. The rating was 3.5/5 Stars. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.
Goodnight Mommy (aka Ich seh Ich seh, literally “I see I see” but culturally translated as something more akin to “I spy with my little eye”) is the non-documentary feature directorial debut of Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala, who previously collaborated on 2012 documentary Kern. The film stars twins Elias and Lukas Schwarz as twins Elias and Lukas and Susanne Wuest as their mother (maybe). Released in Austria last year, the film has made its way stateside and is generating non-negligible buzz in the international film community, despite an unsurprising “twist.” As one commenter on Salon’s review of the film says, “If you haven’t guessed [the plot twist] by ten minutes in, you haven’t seen a movie before,” and, with all the positive buzz surrounding the movie, I hate to admit that he or she is right.
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This review was originally posted on Swampflix.com on October 5, 2015. The rating was 4.5/5 Stars, with a Camp Stamp. Image courtesy of Swampflix Editor Brandon Ledet.
Polyester was not John Waters’ first feature, but it was the first to garner any significant amount of mainstream interest. Following his first forays into feature films with Mondo Trasho and Multiple Maniacs, Waters worked on what he dubbed the Trash Trilogy, consisting of Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, and Desperate Living. To say that these films pushed the envelope and seemed design to induce faintness and nausea is an understatement; to say that they were in poor taste, or were made as an exploration of “good bad taste,” does the films’ shameless vulgarity a disservice. The films were confrontational, characterized by notoriety, and generally just gross for the sake of it.
Continue reading “Polyester (1981)”