Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Beyond (1981)

I’ve always considered Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond to be the definitive Italian horror experience, and it’s the one I’d recommend most, even over Suspiria, if anyone ever asked me what a real good Italian horror is. No one ever has, though, and most anyone remotely familiar with Italian horror already knows about The Beyond. When I first saw it, this gross, gory but beautifully nightmarish picture had awoken something in me that completely turned my attention to Italian horror, with an unwaning interest, and it changed my previous negative opinion of Fulci’s Zombi 2 into an entirely positive one.

Presently I can’t figure out why, but I had loathed Zombi 2 for quite some time, so when a local theater that specialized in cult and independent cinema advertised a screening of an old Zombie film, Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, I immediately recognized the director and thought, “oh no, not that guy” (I was severely of the uninitiated at the time). But, since I regularly attended the weekly midnight screenings at this theater, I thought it’d be fun to go and watch this movie in a dark room full of strangers and observe the general response. Despite numerous riffing and laughter from the audience, there was something about the film that entertained and terrified me. Those moments with the grieving widow in the morgue and every time someone went into room 36 were real intense for me, and the scene with the blind ghost girl, Emily, surrounded by the zombies from Hell gave me a nightmare that night. The characteristics of The Beyond reminded me of Zombi 2, in a good way, and the gore, as indicated by the screams and waves of laughter in the audience, was a real crowd pleaser.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

From Beyond (1986)

While Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond is known as an adaptation to H.P. Lovecraft’s short story of the same name, the movie is nonetheless its own beast, with the original literature being more like a seed to what Gordon and his team developed in this FX heavy, gory ‘80s shocker. The pre-credits intro is more or less the component that is primarily adapted from Lovecraft’s ultra-short, seven page story, while the rest of the film continues on as an imagining of what could’ve happened had the original story not ended so abruptly. Whether or not Gordon got it spot-on is arguable, but Lovecraft’s ideas in From Beyond did have a lot of unexplored potential, and Gordon took liberties to explore this potential and, at the same time, do things his way, by including those far-out sexual elements á la Re-Animator (the Barbara Crampton escapades), some of the coolest grotesque interdimensional creatures and transformations since John Carpenter’s The Thing, and a face full of the good ol’ nauseating gore; most of which didn’t make it past the censors at the time of its initial release.

Due to the success of Re-Animator, Gordon wanted to do another Lovecraft film, and he wanted to reuse the key actors from Re-Animator, Jeffrey Combs and Barbara Crampton, who all ended up being extremely successful and welcome returns. However, I remember really wanting to see this when I found out that Ken Foree was in it, my favorite zombie killer (Dawn of the Dead). Here, Foree still has that likability he had as Peter in Romero’s film, but his character in From Beyond just wasn’t as skilled with handling interdimensional creatures, as Peter was with zombies, to make it all the way through this one.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Faceless (1987)

Faceless is a rather unscrupulous, but not entirely tasteless, splatter film from Jess Franco that is a loose addition to his long running Dr. Orloff series that began in 1962 with The Awful Dr. Orloff. It’s got a bigger budget than the usual Franco film, thanks to French producer Rene Chateau, and it shows. Being more a fan of Franco’s ‘no-budget’ erotic surrealist horror from the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, it was interesting for me to see him do the gory ‘80s thing rather adequately. The cast is also a treat for genre-fans, as it includes several fan favorites who are all great in their parts, like Helmut Berger, Brigitte Lahaie, Telly Savalas, Caroline Munro, Lina Romay, and Howard Vernon as Dr. Orloff, who, like Romay, is only here for a brief but memorable cameo.

Along with the copious gore candy, a major strength here is the addition of numerous well-acted villains. It’s like a gathering of abhorrent human monsters that are all a representation of the darker, evil side of human nature and therefore realistic, but there’s also a fantasy angle, too, with the beauty restoration operations and the youthful look of Dr. Orloff’s elderly wife (Romay) bringing Faceless into the realm of Cinema Fantastique. The surgical operations are the most gruesome element; the way the eyes still move from the still conscious, drugged victims after their faces have been surgically removed is extremely disturbing. The man in charge of the real dirty work of disposing the bodies of the captured girls, Gordon (Gérard Zalcberg), brings on the gore, too, and is also the most outwardly monstrous creation of the bunch (I can’t help wishing that he was called Morpho, to keep up with a Franco tradition for these types of characters).

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Living Dead Girl (1982)

The use of gore in a movie is generally meant as a gag to horrify, excite, or produce uncomfortable laughter, but rarely is it used to help convey emotion in a way that might make viewers have to pass around the tissue box. This is the case for Jean Rollin’s The Living Dead Girl, which, in addition to being Rollin’s goriest film, happens to be the most tragic; with a wave of emotion accompanying a blood splatter finale that’s become known for generating its fair share of teary eyed viewers. The film’s powerful aftereffect does owe a great deal to the all-or-nothing performance of its lead lady, Françoise Blanchard, but everything else, like the cinematography, the story, and the realistic gore FX by Benoît Lestang, come together to create a grand theatrical payoff that is made all the better for seguing into a quiet ending credit sequence.

With the central plot, Rollin carries over a characteristic theme he’s used frequently in his other films: two inseparable female companions who are like kindred souls with a sisterly connection. Sometimes they are lovers, twins, or, in this case, childhood friends with a bond made in blood, and the main emphasis is the tenderness and strength of this connection. With The Living Dead Girl, Rollin fantasizes about what would happen if death were to come between this unbreakable bond between the lead characters, Catherine (Blanchard) and Helene (Marina Pierro). There becomes this obsession with preserving the past that ends up being unhealthy and spiritually debilitating for all involved, as it seems more and more hopeless for Catherine to continue on the way she is; her hunger for blood causes her to suffer, and she comes to the realization that she is evil and regrets being a living dead girl. The conditions needed to satiate Catherine’s hunger ultimately corrupt Helene.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Top Ten Goriest Kill Scenes from Dario Argento

Today begins Blood Sucking Geek's Ultimate Gore-a-thon: A Splatterific Extravaganza, and to start things off, I thought I’d do something I’ve never done before: create a top ten list. 

I've decided to make a list about the man who is the main reason behind my love for the giallo film: Dario Argento. And since this is a gore-a-thon, I thought it best to base the list on the top ten kill scenes from this film-making god who’s delighted in bringing us some of the very best and groundbreaking kill scenes of all time.

So get cozy and prepare yourself for At the Mansion of Madness’s very first list:

Top Ten Goriest Kill Scenes from Dario Argento. Enjoy!