Category Archives: Might-See
Pieces (1982) | Juan Piquer Simón’s bonkers Spanish slasher gets a 4k restored limited edition Arrow release
Back in 2011 Arrow Video released Juan Piquer Simón’s 1982 splatter hatchet job Pieces uncut on DVD, with just a handful of fun extras. Now, they have gone further by creating a new 4k transfer from the original camera negative to present both the US theatrical version and the original director’s cut (Mil Gritos Tiene La Noche) with the original score (by Librado Pastor, who only ever composed four film scores) in a limited edition 3-disc dual format box-set loaded with bonus content.
These include archive interviews with the director and actor Paul L Smith (of Midnight Express fame), new interview with art director Gonzalo Gonzalo (Slugs), a fan appreciation featurette, and an audio interview with producer Steve Minasian (Don’t Open Till Christmas, Slaughter High). The alternate re-score by Umberto is also a special feature, while a separate disc features the original 16 track score. Podcasters The Hysteria Continues supply the well-informed audio commentary, while artist Marc Schoenbach has come up with the new artwork (way less gory than Jeff Zornow’s 2011 artwork), and a collector’s booklet is also included.
Best served as a splatter spoof than an exercise in excessive violence, Pieces is a real guilty pleasure despite its flaws (and there are many), and this new release from Arrow is a real step up from their 2011 DVD release. So, if crazy Spanish splatter is your bag, then I’d highly recommend adding it to your collection.
Variety has called The Eyes of My Mother ‘an exquisite waking nightmare’, and I must admit that while viewing Nicolas Pesce’s directorial debut, I was reminded of David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman and even 1974’s Deranged.
If you like your horror slow-burning and artfully shot, then Pesce’s American Gothic-fused tale of depravity and dread will draw you into its monochrome-lensed folk horror world, while also setting your nerves on edge with its extreme violence, that’s more often implied than actually shown.
In a remote rural setting, young Portuguese farm-girl Francisca (Olivia Bond) witnesses the horrific murder of her surgeon mother at the hands of a travelling salesman called Charlie (Will Brill). When her father (Paul Nazak) arrives home, he knocks Charlie out and holds him captive in the family’s barn where he removes his eyes and vocal cords.
Psychologically damaged by the traumatic experience, Francisca begins to see Charlie as her only friend and a plaything that she can torture using her mother’s surgical instruments. Fast forward a few years, the adult Francisca (Kika Magalhães) has isolated herself from the real world and constructed her own morbid morality – which leads her to commit her own atrocious acts of murder and dismemberment…
With her quirky Paula Rego-esque features, Kika Magalhães reminded me of the British actress Angela Pleasence, she of the elfin-like countenance who gave weirdly unsettingly performances in films like José Ramón Larraz’s cult horror Symptoms (1974).
Indeed, such is Magalhães’ strong and nuanced performance, that her Francisca belongs in that pantheon of movies featuring women descending into madness, alongside its ice maiden queen, Catherine Deneuve, as seen in Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965).
For me, its Zach Kuperstein’s monochrome photography that impresses the most – much more so than the story, which can be read as a nature vs nurture debate on the nature of evil – as his lighting and composition evokes the stark and sterile cinema of Ingmar Bergman and true crime films like The Honeymoon Killers (1970) and the Conrad Hall shot In Cold Blood (1967).
There’s also an exploitation vibe going on, recalling Alan Ormsby’s Ed Gein-inspired serial killer thriller Deranged (1974), while also paying homage to William Castle’s House on Haunted Hill featuring Vincent Price – which, along with Strait-Jacket, Psycho and Night of the Hunter, informs the film tonally. And there are other influences in there too, including Polanski and David Lynch, but also the extreme French horror cinema of the 2000s (Marytrs is one that comes to mind).
There are alot of ‘WTF?’ moments that will leave you in shock, but also baffle. Like, how does Francisca support herself when she’s clearly incapable of connecting with the outside world and can’t speak the local lingo? Having the film span decades also leaves questions unanswered, but if you take it that we are experiencing mere fragments of Francisca’s memory then it might help paper over the cracks.
Now, without going into detail, much of what happens in the second half will have you wondering what the hell you have you been watching – but those artfully conceived visuals, Magalhães brutal performance, and the nerve-wracking use of sound are saving graces. Oh, and thanks Pesce for making me never hear Amália Rodrigues the same way again. This is a brilliant, but bewildering debut.
The Eyes of My Mother is out in cinemas in the UK and Ireland from Friday 24 March from Park Circus
Having learned his trade from the likes of Joe D’Amato, Dario Argento and Terry Gilliam, Milan-born film-maker Michele Soavi went on to direct a quartet of Italian horrors in the late 1980s and early 1990s that have their fans and their critics.
1987’s Stage Fright was a well-executed slasher that paid homage to Argento; 1989’s supernatural shocker The Church looked great, but was a bit of a bore; 1991’s The Sect revisited Rosemary’s Baby theme with trippy results, and 1994’s Cemetery Man aka Dellamorte Dellamore combined black comedy and horror to great effect that it became the director’s finest hour.
Given Shameless’ lovingly-restored, re-mastered release of The Sect (which follows their release of The Church last year and Dellamorte Dellamore back in 2012), I thought it ripe to pay Soavi’s underrated horror a revisit…
Kelly Curtis (daughter of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, and sister to Jamie Lee) plays American schoolteacher Miriam based in Frankfurt, where a satanic cult is making headlines for a series of grisly murders being carried out across the German city.
When she knocks over the elderly Moebius (Herbert Lom), she takes him home to recuperate. But her good deed results in her being drugged with some ominous-looking fluid.
Kelly then finds herself in a waking nightmare involving a dark well and a giant demonic bird that are all linked to the Charles Manson-like cult leader Damon (Thomas Arana) – who is seen in the film’s 1970’s-set prologue in which he is promised a child born from the seed of Lucifer himself…
The Sect is certainly as imaginative as Soavi’s other features, and it benefits from some surreal visuals and hazy cinematography (by Raffaele Mertes who’d go on to do Argento’s Trauma), as well as another cool score from Pino Donaggio (Don’t Look Now, Carrie, The Howling), and, as you follow Kelly’s modern-day Alice down the rabbit hole, the film plays like a really weird acid trip – which is made all the more insane by the runaway script (in which Argento had a hand in writing).
Rosemary’s Baby and The Omen are certainly major influences, both in regards to the storyline and the themes (the Satanic Panic phenomenon was in full swing when this film was made), but Soavi does conjure up the odd cool ideas – like the demonic bird. In the end, however, it’s the score and those visuals that help paper over the cracks, while Curtis makes for an engaging heroine.
For me, however, the big highlight was Herbert Lom. Hearing his elegant gravelled tones and seeing him give a really honest and restrained performance as the mysterious Moebious was a real treat, and it was great to see him back in the genre that knew him best one last time (he retired after 1993’s Son of the Pink Panther).
THE SHAMELESS UK RELEASE
The new UK Blu-ray and DVD release from Shameless features a new 2K scan from the original negative with a running time of 117-min. It also includes the original English language audio, as well as Italian in stereo LPCM or 5.1 audio with new English subtitles.
The main extra here is Beauty and Terror, a 29-minute interview with director Michele Soavi, who discusses his association with Lucio Fulci and Joe D’Amato and the making of The Sect. Also included are trailers for The Church, Dellamorte Dellamore, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet.
In the US, Scorpion Releasing are scheduled to release The Sect along with The Church later this year.
US short’s director Jackson Stewart makes his directorial debut with Beyond the Gates, a nostalgic tribute to 1980’s horror films and board games that’s like The Big Bang Theory meets Jumanji and Fright Night.
Seven months after their drunken dad’s latest disappearance, estranged brothers Gordon (Tales of Halloween’s Graham Skipper) and John (The Guest’s Chase Williamson) have the task of clearing out his video store. Coming across a vintage VHS board game, the brothers decide to play the game for laughs, but are shocked to learn from its mysterious host Evelyn (Re-Animator‘s Barbara Crampton) that it is in fact a portal to an inter-dimensional world where their father’s soul has been trapped. With the help of Gordon’s girlfriend Margot (Dexter’s Brea Grant), the trio set out to save him…
The DVD cover art makes this indie shocker look on par to Stranger Things. But while it can’t touch the thrilling heights of that Netflix sensation, it’s still an enjoyable ride. Now, not much actually happens when the trio are lured into the board game, but suspense and a sense of dread seem to be the name of the game here. And apart from an exploding head, there’s not that much in the way of gore.
Despite the lack of all-out shocks and action, I was drawn in by the story (which is basically about two geeky chalk-n-cheese brothers reconnecting) and the solid performances of the cast, especially Williamson as the moody John (he’s my one to watch, by the way) and everyone’s favourite scream queen Crampton as the spooky black-eyed host.
The shots of Crampton staring immobile, waiting for the lads to play their next move, really sent a chill up my spine, while her breaking the fourth wall inside the TV reminded me of 1986’s Escapes, in which an elderly Vincent Price played a similarly sinister role. The cool synth score is by Wojciech Golczewski, who also did Crampton’s 2015 horror We Are Still Here.
‘I loved this film. It takes over our waking thoughts, like a recurring dream we try to forget,
because we are fearful of finding out it may be a memory.’
Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity)
‘We Are the Flesh is a very personal, very powerful film that deeply impressed me.’
Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu (The Revenant)
From Mexico comes writer/director Emiliano Rocha Minter’s surreal fantasy horror feature debut We Are The Flesh (aka Tenemos la carne), which gets a UK Blu-ray and DVD release from Arrow Video.
Stumbling on the filthy lair of hermit Mariano (Noé Hernánedez), homeless brother and sister, Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) and Fauna (María Evoli), are given shelter in return for helping Mariano to create a womb-like structure out of scrap, and are then forced the siblings into having sex with each other. But incest isn’t the only taboo that the youngsters face as they are propelled towards self-awakening…
With its graphic displays of unsimulated fellatio, masturbation and menstrual blood licking, this is not for the faint-hearted, and most viewers (who do last the distance) will simply cast it off as pervy arthouse porn, but devotees of transgressive cinema will be primal screaming with delight as Emiliano Rocha Minter’s powerful head-fuck hums to the transformative beat of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s magick cinema and the unrestrained morality of the Marquis de Sade. Death, rebirth and the liberation of the soul is at the dark heart of the surreal journey which culminates in a cannibalistic orgy and a gender-blending metamorphosis.
Beautifully shot, with a haunting drone-like score and featuring an utterly compelling physical performance from multi-award winning Noé Hernánedez (Miss Bala) as the prophesying hermit, We Are the Flesh is a visceral cinematic experience like no other.
Highly recommended (after watching the film) is author Virginie Sélavy’s illuminating video essay on Minter’s theatre of cruelty, which puts the director’s vision in perspective and certainly made me revisit this surreal surprise a second time.
• High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) & High Definition digital transfer (DVD), with 5.1 surround and uncompressed stereo 2.0 audio options, and optional English subtitles
• Video essay by critic Virginie Sélavy
• Interviews with director Emiliano Rocha Minter and cast members Noé Hernández, María Evoli and Diego Gamaliel
• Two short films by Emiliano Rocha Minter; Dentro and Videohome
• Illustrated collector’s booklet
Best known for her roles in the 1960s classics, Women in Love and Dr Who & the Daleks, British actress Jennie Linden made her big-screen debut in Hammer’s 1964’s Nightmare, which get its first-ever UK Blu-ray release from Final Cut Entertainment.
Aged just 23 at the time, Sussex-born Linden was hand-picked by Hammer’s producers to replace Julie Christie for the role of troubled teenager Janet ,who is haunted by memories of witnessing her mother killing her father when she was a child.
Expelled from boarding school, Janet is sent home to High Towers, a vast country mansion, to live with her guardian Henry Baxter (David Knight). But when the nightmares persist, Janet starts to loose her mind…
Originally given a title that gave away the film’s shock reveal 45-minutes into the story, Nightmare was Hammer’s fourth psychological thriller to be written by Jimmy Sangster, who wanted to move away from the Gothic horrors he was best known for.
Like 1961’s Scream of Fear, 1962’s Paranoiac and 1963’s The Maniac, Nightmare shares its DNA with Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Les Diaboliques and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, while returning director Freddie Francis and Hammer’s in-house production crew imbues the gripping mystery with lashings of atmosphere, especially those initial 45-minutes, where the film’s Grand Guignol horror tropes come out to play.
The film’s second half, which plays like a straightforward whodunnit, may not be as polished as those early scenes in which an excellent Linden brings pathos and hysteria to the fore, but it does give Moira Redmond, playing Janet’s nurse with a hidden agenda, a chance to strut her stuff.
Keen eyed fans might recognise actress Clytie Jessop, who plays David Knight’s scarred wife – she was the spectral Miss Jessel in The Innocents.
This cracking little chiller originally went out in a double-bill with The Evil of Frankenstein, but has remained in the shadows of its better known siblings, like Paranoiac! This new Blu-ray release, however, which looks and sounds superb, is the perfect opportunity to pay it a revisit, and hopefully gain a new appreciation. It also benefits from three insightful extras.
• Madhouse: Inside Hammers Nightmare: A 13-minute look at production with insights from The Hammer Story author Kevin Barnes, English Gothic author Jonathan Rigby and others.
• Nightmare in the Making (26min): Hammer historian Wayne Kinsey retraces the history of the thriller from concept to release, and includes archive interviews with screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, art director Don Mingaye and actress Jennie Linden (using elements not used in her own interview).
Available from Amazon
A hit at Cannes, director Matteo Garrone’s Tale of Tales (Il racconto dei racconti) is a sumptuous and seductive take on Neapolitan poet and courtier Giambattista Basile’s pioneering 17th-century fairy tale collection Pentamerone, where famous fables like Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella originated.
Shot in English, the Italian-French-British co-production interweaves three tales – La Cerva Fatata (The Enchanted Doe), La Pulce (The Flea), La Vecchia Scorticata (The Flayed Old Lady) – and features a stellar cast including Salma Hayek, playing a Queen whose desire for a child has deadly results; Toby Jones as a King who rues the day he inadvertently married his daughter off to an ogre; and Vincent Cassell as a lecherous nobleman who marries an old crone disguised as a beautiful maiden.
This glossy feast has been likened to the works of Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam, but it also echoes classy Euro anthologies like 1967’s Spirits of the Dead and The Witches, which gave legendary Italian directors Lucino Visconti, Vittoria de Sica and Federico Fellini the chance to show off their trademarks styles; and also Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Trilogy of Life films, especially 1971’s The Decameron, which drew on the stories of Italian Renaissance humanist Giovanni Boccaccio.
Now, while this glorious tableaux made not have the gravitas and depth of those cinematic classics, it certainly bewitches with its sumptuous style and macabre imagery that includes a flea that grows to the size of a calf, a sea dragon whose cooked heart adds the birth of albino twins, a fearsome winged bat creature, a monstrous ogre that looks straight out of a 1960s peplum, and a wizened old maid who turns into a bloody mess when she has her skin flayed in a bid to look young again.
If there’s one criticism it’s with the endings of each story that tend to fizzle rather than pop – thus the moral of each tale is lost and overshadowed by the film’s inherent beauty. Still, this is a dream world worth exploring and one that makes me want to revisit those bygone Euro anthologies all over again as well as Basile’s original takles.
Tale of Tales is available on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK from Curzon Artifical Eye, and includes interviews with director Garrone, and stars Salma Hayek and Toby Jones, as well as the theatrical trailer.
Evan (Fran Kanz) is in a rut. He’s over-worked in a soul-destroying sales job and he’s just been dumped by his girlfriend and HR manager Amanda (Emma Fitzpatrick). To add insult to injury, his boss Ted (Mad Men‘s Joel Murray) has given his college nemesis Max (Pedro Pascal) the promotion due to him.
When his work colleagues start acting weird, Evan discovers Max is a vampire intent on replacing the entire staff with bloodsuckers. With the help of his slacker best friend Tim (Joey Kern), Evan then sets off to rescue Amanda and save his career…
Hailed as The Office of the horror genre,with elements of Buffy and Shaun of the Dead thrown into the mix, Bloodsucking Bosses is a gory hoot and a half with a sharp script and some hilarious turns from Cabin Fever’s Joey Kern and The Cabin in the Woods’ Fran Kanz. This makes for perfect Friday night viewing after a couple of drinks down the pub.
Out now on DVD in the UK from Entertainment One
Iggy Pop is one the greatest performers on the planet. Having recently performed at London’s Royal Albert Hall (check out his stage dive below), his energy on stage – at the ripe age of 69 – continues to be electric, and his mere presence verges on the reverential and the messianic.
For the sun-drenched psychological thriller Blood Orange, the rock legend brings his sleazy sex lizard image to the role of terminally ill rock star, Bill, taking some time out in a desert paradise with his hot young trophy wife Isabelle (former Grange Hill actress Kacey Clarke – nee Barnfield).
But their bohemian existence is soon rocked by the arrival of Isabelle’s stepson Lucas (The White Queen’s Ben Lamb), who demands an inheritance that’s been stolen from him. Power games and secret agendas soon unfold, resulting in betrayal and murder…
While Iggy is undoubtedly the master of the concert arena, as an actor, he’s still learning the ropes. But in playing this version of himself he’s certainly scored, as he dresses his character in his trademark craggy complexion and grizzled leathered skin, iconic growling voice and awkward gait (something that was borne of a twisted spine caused by on-stage injuries and famously informed Andy Serkis’ Gollum in The Lord of the Rings). These physical characteristics not only match the sun-drenched landscape in which his Bill exists, they also help give his world-weary philosophical character an almost mythical quality. Its a character that’s certainly fit for purpose.
If Bill were a desert-dwelling creature, he’d be a camel spider, which feeds opportunistically on small animals – with the little critter in question being Ben Lamb’s unlikeable upper-class twit Lucas. And joining Bill in trapping his prey is Kacey Clarke’s sexually-voracious Isabelle, who is also every inch the Lady Macbeth in that she can’t be trusted – especially with the pool boy.
Using just a handful of characters in single setting (all shot in a modernist villa in the rocky hills of Ibiza) British writer/director Toby Tobias has done a pretty fair job at bringing his debut feature to searing noirish life, and it’s one that echoes René Clemént’s Plein Soleil, Polanski’s Cul de Sac (1966), and even Philip Ridley’s The Passion of Darkly Noon (1995).
Now it may not reach the heady height of those classics of the genre, and could have done with less words and more suspense, Blood Orange is an engrossing experience nevertheless – and one that’s made all the more rewarding with the presence of that wild man of rock ‘n’ roll.
IGGY’S STAGE DIVE AT LONDON’S ROYAL ALBERT HALL