I made a video last night taking about the Tampa Bay Screams Convention & The Hara-Kiri Extreme Asian Films Fanzine. There is a reason I don’t really do videos anymore, you’ll see!
If you follow this blog, you know I was doing a film event for extreme Asian films in the month of July. The end result was to be a printed fanzine with all of the reviews that were written in it. I have completed that phase of it. There will be few printed by me, mostly for the contributors and for conventions that I will be attending this month. You can download the PDF for free and print as many as you want (or just read it on screen…). Please spread the link around so all can see it! Download it today!
ABC’s Of Death 2.5 (2016) film thoughts… (Way) back in 2013, the people creating the ABC’s of Death 2, opened a short film competition for a director to be the letter “M” in the film. They received hundreds of entries, opening it up to open voting and a jury pool to decide the “M” for the movie. The winning choice of “M is for Masticate” for me, was a weak pick considering some of the stronger entries. Thankfully, they had the idea to put together another film to showcase some of the other very strong short films.
Since I was following the entries at the time, I did see some of them and “M is for Mailbox” by Dante Vescio & Rodrigo Gasparini & “M is for Matador” by Gigi Saul Guerrero were ones people really liked at the time. Some of my favorite entries here that I didn’t see before are “M is for Marriage” by Todd E. Freeman, “M is for Marauder” by Steve Daniels and “M is for Malnutrition” by Peter Czikrai. I am actually mind blown though that one of my favorites of the competition, “M is for Music” by L Gustavo Cooper, didn’t make it in here. Overall, the only short here I didn’t feel belonged was the first one, “M is for Magnetic Tape” by Tim Rutherford & Cody Kennedy (not that it was low quality, it was just not serious enough for me).
The ABC’s of Death 2.5 is a solid horror anthology that is currently only available on Vimeo for purchase or rent. I do hope they get this out on disc as I would love to own the physical copy & put it next to volume 2 (I didn’t care for the first collection, thought it was way too jokey and will never own it). I really feel that competition breeds excellence, gets you out there to do your best and create something interesting. I can’t imagine the turmoil that the producers had to go through to pick only 26 shorts out of 500+ to include in this film. It had to be tough, there is plenty of talent here. We definitely need more anthologies like this to promote film makers.
Organ (1996) film thoughts… Another one of those films I “heard” about but never was able to see. Thankfully, I was able to find one online new for a few bucks. To try and even explain most of what is going on would be a disservice to everyone. It begins with a couple of plainclothes cops infiltrating a illegal organ harvesting operation. One dies and his body is stolen by a biologist who is conducting weird experiments between plants and humans (he also seems to like his young female High School students to die for progress…) The main story is the cop who survived looking for his partner’s body and to eliminate the rest of the organ harvesters. Believe me, much, much more goes on….
Right off the bat, I loved this film especially the choppy editing and use of blown out film stock. It’s gory, gooey, has loads of extreme violence and sex (many times together) & has many artistic moments throughout…all need to be seen to be believed. The score is strange because it has a light feel, it hits you most when you are watching scenes of utter depravity. Death is a luxury in Organ.
I don’t have much else to say but to see it. It’s a perfect combination of art house and gore which many Japanese directors are well know for. This one will stay with you for a bit.
[121 minutes. Unrated. Director: Kinji Fukasaku]
You gotta hand it to Asian schoolkids: they could be the most resilient, adaptable human beings walking the Earth today.
Seriously: Sin City notwithstanding, how often do you see bodies riddled with a dozen bullets at close range, that somehow bounce back to fight some more (even delivering profound parting words before shuffling off this mortal coil)?
When SkyNet was considering its design for Terminators, the tech department probably had Battle Royale streaming on an endless loop.
While all of Internet Geekdom has caught fire lately with nit-picking, ultimately meaningless “chicken-or-the-egg” arguments comparing the adaptation of a certain popular young-adult novel to this rip-roaring, fire-on-all-cylinders Japanese import, the Bottom Line is this:
Battle Royale is an astonishing piece of cinema. And The Hunger Games, for all its derivative elements, remains a compelling read.
And this is coming from someone who finds most offerings of Asian cinema slow, dry, and preoccupied with style over substance. Sure, the films may be postcard-pretty to look at, or plumb depths of imaginative horror that Americans are tone-deaf toward…but 9 times out of 10, the feeling I’m left with is one of alienation, something that may well be the result of my own cultural background.
In any case: Battle Royale is still an astonishing piece of cinema, and easily refutes some of the above paragraph.
If you can discern the tongue-in-cheek satire piercing the violent hard edges of Paul Verhoeven’s films (think Robocop and Starship Troopers), you will be right at home here.
The setup is ingenious, done in rapid-fire voice-over during the opening credits, cutting right to the chase: it’s The Future. Unemployment is at an all-time high. Youth are rebelling against the educational establishment. The Government decides to subsidize a macabre televised contest where a class of 42 high-school students is set loose on a deserted island.
The objective? Kill or be killed. With room for only a single winner, Battle Royale is a free-for-all hybrid of “The Most Dangerous Game,” Lord of the Flies, and an elaborate Monty Python sketch (I tend to say that about any movie that takes the bloodletting to comical extremes; I really have to find a new comparison).
And what the hell: let’s throw in some John Hughes-style teen angst and romance!
I had always been aware of the film’s cult reputation, but was never curious enough to actually view it until recently. The experience was therefore untainted by spoilers or anything beyond a basic plot outline.
And by the time I got to the end credits, I was so glad.
Battle Royale is a grueling, visceral experience that caught me in its spell from start to finish. The less said about the actual plot and character turns, the better, but for a film that daringly juggles disparate tones, emotions, and stylistic flourishes, I couldn’t help but wonder how this all didn’t go disastrously wrong.
I laughed. I thrilled. My emotions stirred. I was left in aural rapture by well-known classical pieces used in painfully ironic and dramatic ways. And I was ultimately shaken to my foundations. Battle Royale is an absurd, spot-on metaphor for the battleground that is High School.
And so much more.
Just see it.
Jonny Numb’s Rating: 8.5 out of 10
(This is a slightly revised version of a review that was originally uploaded to my blog, Numbviews (numbviews.livejournal.com) on April 4, 2012.)
Directed By Takashi Miike
Novel Written By Shimako Iwai
Masters Of Horror Volume I
In doing my part to help celebrate the contributions in Asian genre cinema this month, I’m honored to share the love I have for one hell of a prolific Director, Takashi Miike, and his movie IMPRINT. This particular title can be found within the first volume of Mick Garris’ brainchild, The Masters Of Horror, which is an impressive collection of film submissions from some of the most revered names in Horror. Volume I of The Masters Of Horror boasted names such as Dario Argento, Joe Dante, John Carpenter, John Landis, and obviously Takashi Miike, each film includes loads of bonus materials sure to appeal to the genre geeks of the world.
IMPRINT is merely one of Miike’s approximately 100 productions he has sat in the directors chair for, easily earning him the title of one of the most productive filmmakers out there. At this years famed Fantasia Film Festival, Takashi was awarded the remarkable honor of a Lifetime Achievement Award. He’s fearless, genre bending, and quite unique. It’s almost as if Miike is an acquired taste, because I’ve come to see either people love him or hate him, never really encountering a passive opinion of his work. Miike’s catalog of films is eccentric and eclectic, including the legendary and violent gorefest of his motion picture adaptation to the Japanese Manga Ichi The Killer, following the exploits of a troubled, twisted, and unwell young man named Ichi and a sadomasochistic Yakuza soldier in search for his missing boss. The level of brash, unapologetic violence in Ichi The Killer is downright astounding to some movie fans, alienating a large number of the films audience and rightfully taking its place among my list of ‘Incredibly Difficult Films To Watch’. When the movie you’re about to watch has the opening credits emerge from semen, courtesy of masturbation initiated by taking sexual gratification watching a woman being mercilessly assaulted, you know you’re in for one controversial flick! Takashi Miike epitomizes extreme Japanese cinema with Ichi The Killer as well as Audition, Visitor Q, and 13 Assassins.
IMPRINT is honestly one of my favorites from the Director, with the story holding true his trademark gore and penchant for the extremely unusual. Showtime ended up banning this addition to The Masters Of Horror episodes, deciding not to air it shortly before the scheduled premiere on U.S. television. Every time I show IMPRINT to someone for the first time, the words “what the fuck did you make me watch?” or something alike are uttered to me. It’s great! The movie may be viewed as slow starting to some, but immediately a weird and ominous tone is established, with introductions to some unforgettable characters such as the intensely unconventional looking actor Billy Drago ( The Untouchables, The Hills Have Eyes – 2006 ) . IMPRINT opens with us learning just why this American traveller named Christopher is eager to roam the number of unpleasant whore mongering establishments in rural 1800s Japan, in search of one specific young woman. Separated from this staggeringly beautiful woman, the traveler is determined to locate his lost love Komomo ( Michie ) and return to America with her, giving her all she deserved and desired, to ask for her hand in marriage. In his quest, he meets a being that is the unnatural mashup of the ‘dream midget’ from David Lynch and Mark Frosts iconic television series Twin Peaks, and the bird like entity who sits atop the head of one of the epic mazes checkpoints in Jim Henson’s timeless Labyrinth. To top off the creepy factor, this little fucker has a large chunk missing from his nose which is almost impossible to look away from as he speaks cryptically to the American man. Encouraged by the mini monstrosity he most recently met, Christopher is directed to seek out a whore who is facially deformed. This prostitute knew the woman he so desperately was trying to reunite with, and may have news of her whereabouts. Simply referred to as The Woman, and impeccably portrayed by Yuki Kudo ( Rush Hour 3, Mystery Train ), the deformed prostitute is tracked down by Christopher within a strict, unfriendly, unfair whore house operated by a tyrannical House Mother ( Toshie Negishi ) and her psychotic assistant ( Shimako Iwai, author of the novel ).
A common factor within Miikes productions are the presence of some really awful women who enjoy partaking in acts that demonstrate exactly how devoid of any humanistic traits they really have. IMPRINT is no different with the likes of the Madam and her sidekick. Upon meeting and procuring the services of the attractive yet physically altered Woman, he receives a warm and sympathetic welcome from her. They sit, drink Saki and converse. The Woman opens up to the traveler, revealing she did yes in fact know Komomo, she was there also working. Komomo was the only one who befriended the outcast and bullied girl. She shared her story of how she was to become a Daughter of Joy and how it was a living hell to be one. The Woman tells of her chronically ill father, and devoted and loving mother, a Buddhist priest who took it upon himself to show her friendship which was in stark contrast to what the fellow children of the village gave her. Her father ended up succumbing to his illness, dying in the river which ran beside their poor homestead. The mother of the deformed child, with no means to provide for her, sold her a freaky side show, thus beginning her life of being sold from one owner to another. Eventually ending up on the Island of Whores and meeting Komomo.
The tale of Komomos demise is graphic and intense. The young and beautiful, good natured Komomo was set up for a theft she did not commit which resulted in a most brutal and prolonged torture session at the hands of the House Mother and her sadistic assistant. Steel pins are placed underneath every one of her fingernails as well as strategically placed within her mouth, in the gums. Its a horrendous sight, as Komomo is also hog tied and strung up by the ceiling. Underneath her armpits, a large handful of lit incense sticks are used to inflict excruciating pain in a most sensitive area. The petite and demure beauty is no more as the torture ensues, both authority figures of the whore house looking on in satisfaction. Not being able to take the pain, the abandonment of her American lover and not knowing he was searching for her, Komomo hangs herself. Christopher is of course beside himself with grief and guilt, spewing curses and crying drunkenly. And this is where Miike’s love of the weird and unusual take focus. The Woman and her behavior, her demeanor quickly fade into something darker. As if she couldn’t wait to shed the act of awkward, abused, and fragile, the Woman morphs into a vile representation of evil. If you’ve never seen IMPRINT I wish to not take away your right to enjoy the surprises at the end, for they are unforgettable and beautifully captured. That is something I’ve always loved about this film, is yes it is grotesque with everything from floating baby fetus’ in the river to incest, but it is meticulously shot with great attention to colors and tones. It plays upon so many shared fears and worries we all have such as guilt, shame, denial, and lost loves. How a life of constant neglect and abuse can systematically shut down what makes us human to only give life to something that wants to destroy life and it’s pleasures. A cautionary tale to some perhaps, but a magnificent source of Japanese genre cinema to all.
Also known as BANQUET OF THE BEASTS, the movie is based upon the Asama-Sanso Incident. During a ten-day siege in 1972 at Karuizawa, members of the United Red Army (URA) turned against themselves, resulting in a blood bath. And in KICHIKU DAI ENKAI, the blood bath’s ultimately explored at great lengths.
Some may trash Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s film as a slow moving student project, but that’s overly harsh. The movie is slow in a very arthouse sort of way, and what sometimes seems to be an homage to David Lynch, yet this does not mean the characters are any less compelling, even if the story lacks a bit of substance.
In KICHIKU DAI ENKAI, a political group waits for their leader’s triumphant return from prison. In the meantime, his girlfriend, played by Sumiko Mikami in her only film role, keeps the home fires burning by having sex with the guys in the crew and bullying them. Ultimately, she snaps, which leads to torture, blood, muck, rape, penal removal, and even more carnage.
The acting’s strong, the special makeup effects are quite impressive, and the film certainly ends up fittingly in the category of “extreme horror” and “disturbing cinema” – thanks to a few compelling scenes, especially one involving Mikami at the mercy of a fellow cohort and a ready to blast shotgun.
In a way, much like George Lucas’s THX 1138 (1971), KICHIKU DAI ENKAI attracted others upon Kumakiri’s graduation from film school, and he has gone on to helm eighteen more feature film projects. Granted, he’s not a multi-millionaire out to destroy his original work, but this film brought the young director much recognition in his native Japan.
Before I had learned about the link to the aforementioned URA incident, I was enamored on a thematic level, and thought Kumakiri chose to comment on his generation and its lack of vision thanks to an overwhelming sense of apathy and a general disdain for the status quo. With the climax, it seemed to be a comment that the disintegration of intellectual youth would lead to a bloody end to the great island nation. Then again, even without the tie in to actual events, the themes hold up, as well as the director’s fear for Japan’s future.
KICHIKU DAI ENKAI may not be perfect, mostly due to pace and some issues regarding narrative structure, but the movie will not disappoint those who enjoy violence and gore – or want to see one of those films labeled as “forbidden fruit” by the masses.