Such a disaster of watching a couple of Jean Rollin films for the first time (The Living Dead Girl & The Grapes of Death) and recent The Other Side of the Door (2016)…almost made me forget I actually have seen some pretty good films as of late…
1) Intent To Kill (1992) Picked up on a whim, the cover of the DVD just has Traci Lords holding a revolver. Usually that wouldn’t make me get excited about a film but saw that Yaphet Kotto was in it…sold. I must have missed this one in the olde VHS days because I don’t remember it. Traci Lords is a detective on the beat in early 90’s LA, living with her cheating boyfriend of 7 years (also a detective). One night trying to lure a drug dealer in via prostitution, it goes south leaving many cops dead. They recover 50 million dollars worth of cocaine but she gets pulled off the case. There is lots of double crossings with both the drug dealers, the mobs and the police and she doesn’t know who to trust.
The film, is surprisingly solid, with a decent script and some classic low budget gun violence. Lords still has that soft and sweet look and holds her own through the picture. The stereotypes are hilarious though. The DVD is full frame, I think at the time it was filmed that way for home video but I could be wrong. If you like Cannon produced action/cop films from the late 1980’s (which this definitely has that feel), then Intent To Kill is for you. I liked it.
2) Dark (2016) I have been wanting to see this Elias (of Gut and soon to be released Ayla fame) written film and directed by Nick Basile. The plot is during the big NYC blackout of 2003 (which was all over the Northeast really), a lady is alone in her apartment with feelings of paranoia which leads to really bad results. Whitney Able, who plays the lead, is actually a fine actress who portrays “losing one’s mind” very well. The trouble is…I really didn’t care. I really disliked her character throughout the story. I didn’t even think having it set during the blackout helped, it could have been set “at night” with the same results in my opinion, especially since, due to budget limitations, you do not get the feeling anything is really amiss. Kudos for the film makers trying to be accurate with the times, the phones and laptops used were vintage 2003 but this film kinda just falls flat for me.
The big gripe I have though is with the marketing. It is really important to put on the cover “From executive producer Joe Dante, the twisted mind that brought you Gremlins and The Howling”? How the hell is that relevant? Both of those films came out over 30 years ago. The front cover of the DVD should have “A Film by Nick Basile” whose name is on the back in such small letters I had to look up the film on IMDB just to make sure I had the spelling right for this review…
3) Eating Raoul (1982) Somehow in all my years on this earth, I still have never seen this long considered classic of indie film making. Mary Voronov and Paul Bartel play a very strange married couple who want to open a restaurant but…they have no money. With bill collectors moving in on them, a accidental murder brings them to the realization they can “take out” people they find to be deviants & rob them at the same time. They will have the money in no time right? Enter Raoul, a small time thief who makes a deal with them to score big as long as he gets his cut. Guess who gets it in the end?
I picked up the Criterion DVD during the past sale because I was tired of waiting to see this one. I loved it and I am not a comedy guy, but this has that droll polish and situations that I tend to find funny. It was weird, the whole time I was watching the film, I kept thinking “Raoul looks familiar”. I really couldn’t place it but when the credits hit, I was like, “Oh that is Chakotay from Voyager!” Wow…I’m really dumb. Eating Raoul was great across the board, very weird but a must see.
4) Dancing at the Blue Iguana (2000) While it’s definitely not a first viewing, I only recently picked up the DVD at Grindhouse Video in Tampa, FL after never seeing it in the wild. Since I only had this one on VHS many moons ago, this would be my first time seeing the film letterboxed. There is kind of a plot running through the film, which is about a few dancers at strip club in the film’s title. There is drama and some humor here, all the actresses (Daryl Hannah, Charlotte Ayanna, Sandra OH, Sheila Kelley and Jennifer Tilly) all get equal time here and show it off nicely. Clearly defined characters, great cinematography and scripting…This one will be seen many times by me for sure. I love it.
5) Hit Me (1996) This is a film which I just never heard of before and is a blind buy. The back has a blurb referring to a modern film noir and it stars Elias Koteas…sold. Koteas stars as Sonny, a pretty much down on his luck hotel worker (run down hotel which has seen much better days), who is a very minor criminal on the side. He lives with his mental challenged brother, which there “living” situation is a sight to behold. One day, he has to give room service to a beautiful but very odd woman. Sonny is obviously attracted to her but can’t see how to make the move. A day or so later, he doesn’t have to worry about that as she puts the moves on him. This all leads to an awkward sexual tryst which after which she starts for some insane reason…screaming. Everything after this moment is a downward spiral for our “hero”…
Saying this is a “modern” film noir is an understatement. It’s not even Neo-Noir, it’s like they took a 1940’s plot and slammed it into the 1990’s. Elias Koteas was an indie actor that came of age in the 1990’s and I have to say this is the best film/work I have seen him do. You know for the opening frames, that his character is doomed to the bottom but you will love the ride taking the trip down with him. Forget the cover with William H. Macy being 3rd billed, he is only in one scene. Trying to sell the film on that does the film a disservice. Overall Hit Me is a 9 out of 10 for me. I just don’t know how I never heard of it previously.
6) Der Samurai (2014) Picked this up after hearing a bit about it and it’s on Art Exploitation Films, a label which consistently puts out quality titles. The film’s plot follows a very young policeman in a very small town. He is trying to capture a wolf, which has been causing trouble, tearing up garbage cans, etc. On a lead one evening, he stumbles upon a strange man, dressed in a white dress, after receiving calls at the police station and having a package sent there. The package absurdly enough is addressed to the man in white, who opens it and reveals the contents…a samurai sword. Is this the “wolf” he is looking for? Is it all in his mind? Once the carnage starts, our policeman is faced with many dilemmas that he has to solve quickly or lose his mind…
Probably one of the strangest films I have seen as of late outside of some of the Asian films I watched last month. The plot is relatively simple for an “art house” type horror film but has moments that I know “mean” something, I am just not smart enough to know. Loads of gore, as the villain’s method of killing in decapitation, though some of it is done it an “artsy” manner. I am still trying to figure out the ending, which focuses on our policeman’s journey in life. It would be a recommend for horror film fans who are looking for something outside the norm and look to Europe for their horror fix.
7) Cell Count (2016) Todd E. Freeman is a film director I met online through others. I was following this film he was working on for a bit but then after it was completed, I didn’t hear much about it. Was it available? After communicating with him after seeing ABC’s Of Death 2.5 (2016), I found out that yes, you could buy it on DVD. So I hit the “buy” button and in a few days, it was in my DVD player. In an undisclosed time but surely the future, a strange disease is going around. One man’s wife has it and after he is told there is no hope, a strange doctor pulls him aside and tells him there might just be a chance. It’s seems he is working with the government on an experimental cure. They would have to go with him to a secret facility to have it applied and chances are, she would live. The facility they are taken to is a place of complete lock down. They and the other residents/patients they meet can move freely about the facility but cannot leave once inside. “It’s just too dangerous…” They are introduced to the cure…but there is some nasty side effects. Did I mention that there is also some “prisoners” here?
I have to say I have somewhat mixed feelings about the film and it’s execution. Todd E. Freeman is obviously a talented director and gives Cell Count a nice high tech shine. The acting is good, the effects are great (some decent CGI and practical ones) but the main problem is he didn’t seem to have an ending. And that “ending” has a more famous actor in it as a cameo and it’s pretty cheap. There are some cool ideas throughout and it looks great though when we got to the credits, I was kinda dumbstruck. (and what the heck was it with the WW2 era weapons???) Well, it’s still a recommend. I would like people to see it for themselves and make up their own minds, it wouldn’t be fair to say otherwise in this case.