“Cunt” is about the last word possessing any power to shock, especially here in America. While the rest of George Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television” list from 1972 – shit, piss, fuck, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits – are now, to various extents (and particularly on cable) part of the public vocabulary, you’ll still rarely find the c-word used.
This does, of course, only apply in America. A lot of the time, it just doesn’t sound right when Americans use it, such as the line in Way of the Gun: “Shut that cunt’s mouth or I’ll come over there and fuckstart her head!” or when Bill tells the Bride in Kill Bill, “Every once in a while, you can be a real cunt.” These examples is like children, who know a bad word or two, but have no concept of how to use them correctly, only that they shock adults. That’s a sad waste of the power inherent in “cunt”.
When you do hear it used correctly, there’s often a Brit involved, either as actor, writer or director, perhaps because the word doesn’t have quite the same impact there. It has been used on broadcast TV in the UK since at least 1970, and its use in a film is not necessarily a ticket to an adults-only rating e.g. the Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, which was rated 15, despite dropping several C-bombs. That’s understandable, given there were street-names such as Gropecunt Lane as far back as 1230. At that point, the word was not considered obscene, though it had drifted into so being, by the time of Shakespeare, who alluded to it more than once in various plays.
There are suggestions that its use is inherently derogatory to woman. Obviously, when aimed at a woman, it’s pretty much the worst single word you can use, but I’m less convinced of this being the case in general usage – indeed, calling someone a “clever cunt” is a compliment, albeit a coarse one. And as a counter-argument to some feminists, no-one ever complains about the similarly “anti-male” aspects of insults such as prick, dick or knobhead. And when was the last time you heard anyone call somebody out for talking a load of ovaries? Not all women object to it: when they started filming Closer, Natalie Portman gave Julia Roberts a necklace that said “cunt”, because of their characters’ foul mouths. When shooting ended, Julia Roberts returned the favour, giving Portman a necklace reading “lil’ cunt”.
It’s not a word I use a lot, personally, simply because I’m a big believer that the less you swear, the more effective it is – I still recall the first time I heard my mother swear, and it was something relatively mild. My 15-year old jaw dropped, and I can tell you, whatever it was I was doing wrong – and I forget that aspect – I stopped. We do use it, semi-facetiously, when referring to those who use the HOV lane when they shouldn’t. Or Hummer drivers. That works too. But there have been some epic uses of the word in cinema. Here are ten of my favourites; I’ve stuck to film, but give an honourable mention to Kenny Powers’ from cable TV’s’s Eastbound and Down: “There is no I in team, but there is a U in cunt.”
10. Monty Python: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
Albatross Woman: Of course you don’t getting fucking wafers with it, you cunt. It’s a fucking albatross, isn’t it?
Why it works: Because it’s the only time the words “cunt” and “albatross” have ever been used in the same five-word stretch.
Natalie: You know what one of the reasons for short term memory loss is? Venereal disease. Maybe your cunt of a fucking wife sucked one too many diseased cocks and turned you into a fucking retard.
Why it works: One of the rare uses by a woman, though it does occasionally happen e.g. in Bridesmaids. But the venom on view is unsurpassed, and the quote also appreciates the use of “cunt”, not just on its own, but in combination with other expletives.
8. Silence of the Lambs
Hannibal Lecter: Now then, tell me. What did Miggs say to you? Multiple Miggs in the next cell. He hissed at you. What did he say? Clarice Starling: He said, “I can smell your cunt.” Hannibal Lecter: I see. I, myself, can not. You use Evian skin cream, and sometimes you wear L’Air du Temps, but not today.
Why it works: It’s all part of the power-play between Starling and Lecter. The good Doctor knew very well what Miggs said – but wanted to make Starling say it. Unfazed, Starling does so, and Lecter then responds on an entirely factual basis. Academy Awards all round!
7. Blade: Trinity
Hannibal King: That’s atomized colloidal silver. It’s being pumped through the building’s air conditioning system, you cock-juggling thundercunt!
Why it works: Writer/director David S. Goyer is American, as is actor Ryan Reynolds who plays the character. But if you can hear the phrase, “cock-juggling thundercunt” without smirking, you’re a better person than I. Every time we see Parker Posey – to whose vampiric character the line was addressed – we have to use it. Hopefully, we never meet Ms. Posey in real life, or we’ll have some ‘splainin’ to do…
Brick Top: Do you know what nemesis means? A righteous infliction of retribution manifested by an appropriate agent, personified in this case by a ‘orrible cunt. Me.
Why it works: Contrast. What starts off as a dictionary definition, suddenly mutates at the end into something self-referential and a good deal more sinister. The rest of the film leaves no doubt that it’s an entirely accurate description.
5. Shaun of the Dead.
Ed: Can I get… any of you cunts… a drink?
Why it works: It’s addressed to Ed’s best friend, whose girlfriend is attempting to engage him in a meaningful conversation about their future, and why Ed should play no part in it. Case closed. Another case where a film was rated only ’15’ in the UK, despite its use of the word, likely due to the entirely non-sexual context.
4. Saturday Night Fever
Tony Manero: Look, what are you anyway? Are you a nice girl or are you a cunt? Annette: I don’t know – both? Tony: You can’t be both. That’s the thing, a girl’s gotta decide early on. You gotta decide if you’re gonna be a nice girl or a cunt.
Why it works: It’s easy to forgot what a harsh movie Saturday Night Fever was, full of violence, racism and – as the above illustrates – outright misogyny. Perhaps the most offensive use of the word – and, yet, Annette isn’t bothered by the philosophical dichotomy so eloquently expressed by Tony.
3. Sexy Beast
Don: Not this time, Gal. Not this time. Not this fucking time. No. No no no no no no no no no! No! No no no no no no no no no no no no no! No! Not this fucking time! No fucking way! No fucking way, no fucking way, no fucking way! You’ve made me look a right cunt!
Why it works: Rhythm. Listen to the audio clip below. Despite the limited vocabulary, it’s poetic, almost to the level of a Shakespearean sonnet. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but “cunt” becomes the exclamation point on the end of the tirade. How could you possibly respond to that? Plus, it’s said by the guy who played Gandhi.
Hit Girl: Okay you cunts… Let’s see what you can do now!
Why it works: If having a woman say the word is a palpable shock, what about this approach?
Step 1. Have it said by an 11-year old girl – oh, and she’s about to kill most of the people in the room, while accompanied by The Dickies’ cover of the Banana Splits theme.
Step 2: receive loads of free publicitydiscussion, mostly complaining about how irresponsible the film-makers are to put such appalling language in the mouth of an adorable poppet like Chloe Moretz (who, ironically, wasn’t technically able to see the film in which she played such an integral part).
Step 3: Profit! Masterful.
1. In Bruges
Ken: Harry, let’s face it. And I’m not being funny. I mean no disrespect, but you’re a cunt. You’re a cunt now, and you’ve always been a cunt. And the only thing that’s going to change is that you’re going to be an even bigger cunt. Maybe have some more cunt kids. Harry: Leave my kids fucking out of it! What have they done? You fucking retract that bit about my cunt fucking kids! Ken: I retract that bit about your cunt fucking kids. Harry: Insult my fucking kids? That’s going overboard, mate! Ken: I retracted it, didn’t I?
Why it works: Figure it out for yourself, you smart cunt.
Women in prison films are a cornerstone of trash cinema, but are one whose appeal is difficult to explain. Chris typically sidles her way out of the room when they’re on, looking at me strangely; I think she’s slightly concerned about the sadomasochistic overtones. But, to me, that’s like being concerned about the homosexual overtones of pro wrestling – which is, after all, well-muscled men in skimpy costumes getting all sweaty and grappling each other. Indeed, pro wrestling and WiP films have other aspects in common: both are disparaged critically, packed with larger than life characters, and contain certain standard plot-devices that are almost de riguer for the genre, showing up time after time.
It’s a universal construct too. Not just Hollywood, but anywhere with a low-budget movie industry, the odds are the genre has been mined. Italy? Hong Kong? Japan? Done. The problem comes when censorship or other restrictions limit your ability to deliver on expectations. A decade ago, back when I shared a house with Steve and Abigail, I tried one of their vegan sausages. It wasn’t bad actually – but something less like a real sausage, is hard to imagine. Which brings us to Final Detention, the vegan sausage of women-in-prison films. While not without its entertainment value, something less like a real women-in-prison film than this Thai entry in the genre, is hard to imagine.
It opens with the heroine escaping, for reasons never explained, from two men with guns on a dock. She does so by diving in to the water and clambering onto a nearby boat. Unfortunately, this turns out to be transporting death-row inmates to a remote prison. Its lightly-clad passengers are apparently Al Qaeda terrorists, judging by the fact that they are guarded by an entire posse of men in ski-masks, wielding automatic weapons. Okay, if I was in this film, I’d likely demand anonymity too. Remarkably, the guards are entirely unconcerned by the sudden appearance of an unscheduled, dripping addition to the manifest, and sail on regardless.
On arrival, the women are dumped off-shore, and forced to wade to the beach, which would be a good excuse for their clothes to turn transparent. Not here though. Instead, when they hit the beach, two try to run away, only to find themselves losing a quick game of Minesweeper. Impressively, they appear to evaporate entirely after detonation. Taken to the camp by the traditional queen bitch guard, they pass the equally traditional guard tower – now, this is just a guess, but I’m predicting, here and now, that it will explode by the end of the movie, hurling the guard to the ground. They also pass a row of women tied to crosses (below). “What the hell is this?” asks one inmate – about two seconds after the viewer wonders the same thing. “Hell is what this is,” replies Queen Bitch, which may be the finest moment in the history of translation.
Turns out, this is one of the forms of punishment if you break the rules. The alternative apparently involves being forced to…er, stir the warden’s herbal bath. “You know you are on death row forever?” he says, which would seem to negate the point of death row somewhat. Similarly, Queen Bitch tells the new meat, “We’re here so we can correct your behavior. You’ll all be perfect women.” It’s nice to see Thailand adopt a kinder, gentler approach to capital punishment, aimed at rehabilitating the condemned before presumably killing them. The new inmates are taken to the showers. While a fire-hose is involved, the kinder, gentler guard lets them keep their clothes on.
The prison uniforms are pretty neat: little midriff-baring combos, appropriate for a safari excursion – or death row- causing Top Dog Inmate to drool quietly over the new arrivals. This concerns her current pals, who have their worries dismissed with “You’re too talkative. Keep on massaging.” I swear, I will work this line in to my next corporate meeting somehow. 16 minutes in, we finally learn the names of two characters, both called after desperation late moves from a Words With Friends game. “Am” is a new arrival – I sense this could cause grammatical issues later on – while Wan is an Old Hand in the prison.
Security is kinda lax here. And by “lax”, I mean “entirely on the honour system”. An inmate asks the guard to go to the bathroom, and that’s all she needs to do, in order to sneak out and snog her boyfriend. The guard appears incredibly surprised when she doesn’t come back. Top Dog makes a play for Am, but Wan stops her, causing Top Dog to storm off in a huff. We also learn that those who try to escape are buried in the ground up to their neck, while the new inmates do aerobics and clamber through what appears to be a Women of Ninja Warrior course.
It’s all too much for one, who is taken to the infirmary. Turns out she’s a drug addict who’s going through cold turkey. The treatment for this deserves quoting in full:
“Tie her up in the water and give her some herbs.” “Isn’t that a bit dangerous, sir?” “What choice do we have?”
Er, not tying her up in the water and giving her some herbs? Just a suggestion. Top Dog still has her eye on Am, but Wan has her back, and a slap-fight ensues, until Queen Bitch breaks it up, and orders the new inmates to sleep outside for the night. There, they bond over touching stories, such as:
“Is your sister addicted to drugs too?” “No. She went insane after she got raped.” “Terrible. Men that rape women should be killed, and rot in hell.” “I cut their dicks off.” “Yeah! Great! They deserved it.”
Um, about that “rehabilitation”… We discover the island is run by Commander Chart. He is apparently, “an ex-soldier, a dictator and some say insane.” Any of those would certainly explain his hobby of shooting buried women in the head, accompanied by overwrought, sepia flashbacks to his time in the army. But he has to answer to Madam Pornpimol, even if her oversight consists of a 30-second video phone-call inquiring politely about progress, and telling him, “Keep healing them. Don’t use violence. It may affect my votes.” Politicians, eh? They’re all the same.
Top Dog is unhappy with the food, and asks for more. Impressively, the response is, “You won’t finish it. If you want more, come back for it.” Say what you like about Thai prisons, the all-you-can-eat buffet approach is certainly novel. When she tries to sit next to Am and Wan, another fight occurs, and this one has to be broken up by the Commander and Queen Bitch. He rounds up the troublemakers, takes them outside and yells at them through an entirely unnecessary megaphone – they’re maybe 25 feet away – “If you can’t get along then fight! Fight to the death! Fight until one of you dies!”
So much for “Don’t use violence,” I guess. Admittedly, given the combat skills on display, old age is probably a bigger threat to life and limb for the combatants, even after every other prisoner joins in, apparently realizing this could take a while. For variety, the Commander turns a fire-hose on them, perhaps hoping one will accidentally drown. It doesn’t help, and he has to commute the death-match sentence to “Let them sleep here.”
The inmates hard labour consists largely of prodding rocks unenthusiastically with tools. Madam calls up requesting “well-behaved” inmates for a press conference. This rules out the one who embeds a pick-axe in the back of a guard, triggering an escape attempt. “Hunt them down!” snarls the Commander during his chat with Madam, forgetting that this thing is indeed on, and provides the Worst Explanation Ever of what he meant: “Hunt is just the word we use. It encourages prisoners to work happily. It’s not a real hunt.” Maybe all that’s needed to prevent escapes is to point out to the inmates that this is a remote island? It would certainly save the need to build the elaborate pits and other traps into which the escapees manage to stumble (as shown below, right).
These executions are the final straw for the inmates, who begin to plot a revolt while tied to the crosses: “The only thing here is death – we have to get out.” The next day, the women wander the island and see one of their co-inmates being held upside down by two guards, while another two beat the soles of her feet. In what may be the understatement of the year, their sole reaction is, “It’s very strange here, isn’t it?” No shit, sister. A slightly-better planned escape is planned, scheduled to coincide with the monthly return of the boat.
The plan appears to be to distract the Commander with a fully-clothed table-dance to Stardust’s Music Sounds Better With You. One wonders whether the band gave permission for this; I’m thinking not. Somehow, this succeeds, and the others overpower the guards at the arms storehouse so easily, you have to ask why they didn’t try earlier. They blow up the guard-dogs(!), which loses them the element of surprise, and a largely bloodless battle commences. As predicted, the guard towers explode, though in a startling deviation from convention, there is no guard seen falling through the air and out of shot.
The Commander vows to hunt down all the survivors, who easily take the boat, thanks to the ski-mask clad guards falling for the old “underwear-sporting woman running towards you” ploy. However, the Commander blows it up with a contender for the worst digital explosion ever, though he himself is shot by an inmate, who is then shot too. Basically, just about everyone dies. I trust I haven’t spoiled it for you. But here’s the last ten minutes, in all its unsubbed, insane glory, which will demonstrate its Incredibly Bad credentials, much better than my 1,700 words ever could.
Dir: Scott Patrick Star: Sarah Lavrisa, Matthew Rogers, Mark Courneyea, Shelley-Jean Harrison.
“If you love Twilight, you’ll love Blood Red Moon.” There’s the pull-quote on the DVD sleeve from the apparently untraceable “Gates of Gore,” which is exactly the kind of line you couldn’t buy. Now, I can’t speak conclusively for those whose love Twilight, but I suspect they would probably react to BRM by forming a mob with torches and storming Canada, for this carefully-calculated insult to everything they hold dear – like fundamentalist Muslims shown a sock-puppet re-enactment of the life of Mohammed. Those of us who didn’t really like Twilight much, on the other hand, will find this a no-budget, micro-talent rip-off, which is less homage or satire than shameless rip-off. It’s so painfully close Stephenie Meyer should sue – except even if awarded the entire production cost and revenue, it would likely not even cover the cost of the phone-call to her lawyer.
It starts off with a farmer drinking on his porch, when something attacks his cattle – though the way it’s edited, and with the lack of any actual cattle save a cheesy sound-effect, for one glorious moment, I hoped we were going to be getting vampire cows. No such luck. Instead, it’s on to new girl in school Megan (Lavrisa) – or Meagan, the film can’t seem to make up its mind on the tiny detail of the lead character’s frickin’ name – who has gone from Toronto to Inbredhicksville, population 23, where everyone hates her for her daring fashion sense, e.g. wearing black.
But there is brooding recluse Victor (Rogers), whom no-one can get a handle on, but has a habit of being able to appear and disappear at will. Which might be more impressive, if said disappearances clearly consist of nothing more than him simply walking out of the frame. He goes through the whole “It’s not you, it’s me,” thing, before revealing his true nature to Megan, and offering to climb a tree with her. She demurs, citing her fear of heights, although the poverty-row production values are far more important in that decision. And, really, what is it with the trees? I know it’s shot in Canada, but there is more pointless footage of forest than I’ve ever seen. Felt like I was watching Monty Python: “How to recognize different trees from quite a long way away. Number 1. The larch. The larch.”
As for Edward Victor, imagine the young Adam Sandler circa The Waterboy, trying to pass himself off as coolly eternal. To say it doesn’t work, would be a grave dis-service to non-working things, not least because he possesses the dress sense of Stevie Wonder in a fire-bombed thrift store. Mind you, he’s not alone there: the film takes place over quite some time, but just about everyone – most notably Megan’s mother – wears exactly the same clothes for the entire movie. I guess this film could only have been made in Canada, where roll-on deodorant is cheap.
And, ye gods, the continuity. Witness, in particular, Megan’s bag as she meanders through the forest with Jacob. Or not. For one second it’s across her shoulder; the next, it’s nowhere to be seen. It’s astonishing that no-one appears to have noticed this, at any point in proceedings. Cheapness doesn’t necessarily have to mean slapdash film-making; indeed, you should be taking greater care over the little things, when those are all you have. As someone else noted [I’ve lost the link], this feels less like a movie, than a piece of course-work, with the aim merely being to get a passing grade.
It all builds to a devastating fist-fight between Victor and the local sheriff, who turns out to be the one responsible for the local killings. Meanwhile, the teacher who gave Megan detention turns out to be the one responsible for making Victor a vampire. Because, of course, if I had eternal life and superpowers, I too would choose to be a high-school teacher in a small Canadian town. It is ended by the deus ex machina of the farmer showing up, blasting Victor with a shotgun, and then vanishing without further role or explanation. Oops. I’ve spoiled it for you. No, the film did that by itself: here are some of the other cringeworthy aspects of this shot-on-video stinker.
The establishing shot of Megan’s house, which appears to be used for every scene in it.
The detention sequence, where absolutely nothing happens. Seriously. Nothing.
Dreadful day-for-night shooting.
The incredibly-slow credit crawl, including two credits for each cast member, obviously done to boost the running time of the actual movie from a mercifully-brief 61 minutes.
It’s the kind of movie I was tempted to do as a drinking game, e.g. take a chug every time you notice something stolen from Twilight, or when you spot a continuity error. That way, however, lies alcohol poisoning, and a [now missing from the Internet] interview with writer Kevin J. Lindenmuth shows where the problem at the core of the film lies:
Why don’t you think Twilight works? Twilight works very, very well if you’ve never seen a vampire movie before, which is probably true of its core audience–teenagers. What, they’ve probably seen a handful of vampire movies? So, for me, the movie was kind of boring and stereotypical. They had the good vampire/bad vampire, the good vampire who only drinks animal blood, the turning into a vampire via a type of venom… yawn. What is Blood Red Moon about? It’s exactly what Twilight is about.
Ding! Ding! Ding! We have a winner folks. The problems of Twilight, freely acknowledged by the writer, are faithfully reproduced in Blood Red Moon – only, exacerbated a hundred times by the lack of production values. If he had had the guts to go in the different directions occasionally hinted at e.g. how vampirism is an STD, there might have been some hope. Instead, Lindenmuth claims the difference is “sarcasm,” but it’s almost impossible to find any trace of this. There may have been irony in the intent, but there is more to irony than the shameless repeating of someone else’s bad work.
If you don’t know who Uwe Boll is, a Google search will enlighten you. After the obligatory IMDB, Wikipedia and Rotten Tomatoes pages, the next links go to a New York Times article, which opens, “Uwe Boll is often referred to as the worst filmmaker in the world,” the now-defunct StopUweBoll.org, an online petition against the man with over 350,000 signatures, and an unpleasant exchange of emails with Wired over their unfavourable review of Postal. If you need more, both House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark are firmly ensconced in the IMDB bottom 100.
It’s no coincidence that both these are video-game adaptations. as are most of Boll’s most critically-panned works, e.g. Bloodrayne and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. Hell hath no fury like a video-game geek irked, and they’re usually tech-savvy enough to shriek endlessly about their nerdrage online, to other video-game geeks. And actually getting a reaction from him puffs up their egos: he’s a lot more accessible and open about his feelings than. say. Michael Bay. Boll doesn’t seem to mind criticism, per se: in interviews, what he has railed against is hypocrisy – those who tell him to his face they like his movies, then bash it – or those who pre-judge his work. And I can see his latter point in particular: Bloodrayne made it into the IMDB bottom 100 before it was even released, thanks to the work of those I call “the Boll weevils”.
Mind you, I can see his enemies’ point too. While I enjoyed both House of the Dead and Bloodrayne more than most, I wouldn’t call either “good”, while Bloodrayne 2 is pretty close to unwatchable, and Far Cry isn’t much better, even with the godlike presence of Udo Kier. Basic rule of thumb: when Boll makes movies based on video-games, the results are likely to be uneven, and that’s putting it mildly. While those represent his bread-and-butter, his career his covered other territory too. We previously reviewed Heart of America, which is unspectacular but certainly not deserving of vitriol, and below, we look at some of Boll’s recent output, both in and outside of the genre for which he is best-known.
Star: David O’Hara, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Noah Danby, Sammy Sheik
TC Top 10 Film: 2011. This is an extraordinarily fucked-up film, but then, it is about an extraordinarily fucked-up situation. While you’ve probably heard about the situation in Darfur, it’s something that is vaguely “over there”. The harsh reality is that it’s one of the nastiest civil conflicts of recent times, with the Sudanese government supporting, covertly and otherwise, militias who operate against the local independence groups. Both groups are Muslim, but the conflict is loosely between ‘Arab’ and ‘African’ factions, and has lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, both directly through fighting, and of disease, starvation, etc. It’s an unholy mess, which I knew little about, until the film provoked me to look into the background – managing that is a rarity, and gives you an idea of its impact.
A group of Western journalists join an African Union patrol of “observers” as they head off to a remote village; on the way, they stumble across a mass grave, evidence of the ethnic cleansing carried out by the Janjaweed militia. While the village inhabitants are poor, and some have horrific tales to tell, they don’t seem in danger – but when the convoy is leaving, a cloud of dust in the distance alerts them to the Janjaweed forces, making a bee-line for the locals. Hoping the presence of cameras and the press will dissuade the militiamen from further atrocities, they head back to the village for a face-off. It doesn’t go as well as they hope.
The DVD sleeve – which also re-titles the film Attack on Darfur, since obviously no-one in America knows what a “Darfur” might be – does the film a massive disservice. Where in the movie are the helicopters it shows? In this case, an accurate depiction would be a massive turn-off, and I can forgive the deception, if it fools a few people into getting their eyes opened. For this is grim viewing, that has a sense of impending tragedy from the opening, and delivers it in full, to the point of being tough to watch. Rape, cold-blooded murder, babies on spikes… No, seriously: babies on spikes. I refer you to my previous, “extraordinarily fucked-up” comment. Kudos to the leads, who handle the largely improvised dialogue with aplomb, and also regular Boll collaborator Jessica de Rooij, who produces a fine, haunting score.
What doesn’t work? Most obviously, the hand-held camera. Yes, it’s done to create a documentary “feel,” even if most actual documentaries these days are much less wobbly. Here, it does more to take the viewer out of the moment, as they’re thinking “Why is the camera shaking so much?” Or, in Chris’s case, have to leave the room entirely due to motion sickness [Dear Uwe; please make a good film with a static camera, so my wife can watch it. KTHXBAI]. The ‘celebrity’ presence as the journos is also somewhat distracting, as you’re forever seeing Max Headroom, Bloodrayne or the kid from T2 in the background.
I am also somewhat uneasy about Boll’s use of genuine Sudanese refugees to play the villagers, who consequently get to relive situations similar to those that drove them out of their country to begin with. At best, it can’t have been much fun, and at worst, it’s exploitation. I’m assuming they weren’t paid standard SAG rates, though the simple retelling of their stories is part of what creates the looming sense of doom. Overall, however, even if the “entertainment” value here is low, there’s no denying this packs an immense wallop, and it should be Exhibit A for those who still associate Boll with nothing more than video-game spin-offs.
The Final Storm
Star: Steve Bacic, Lauren Holly, Luke Perry, Cole Heppell
I’m a sucker for a good religious apocalypse film. Hell, as my love for The Omega Code will attest, I’m even more of a sucker for a bad religious apocalypse film. This leans more towards the former; both the religious and apocalyptic elements are significant, yet not overpowering: it certainly isn’t 2012-styled disaster porn. Tom (Bacic) and Gillian (Holly) live on an isolated farm with their son, Graham (Heppell), and watch with some discomfort on TV as the cities descend into chaos and the weather goes insane, too. Their concern is disrupted by the arrival on their doorstep during a storm, of a stranger on the verge of collapse.
He is Silas Hendershot (Perry), a polite, well-spoken young man with a fondness for Biblical scripture. Gillian takes to him, and insists he stays until things blow over, but Tom is less impressed, believing there’s something not quite right with their new visitor. However, concerns there have to go on the back-burner, as their neighbours have vanished. And when the family makes it into town, it is almost completely deserted too. Was there an evacuation and they missed it? Or is there something more apocalyptic happening?
Used as I am to Uwe’s more action-oriented works, this was a lot more restrained, especially once you get past the fairly gratuitous sex-scene near the start. If you missed the opening credits, this could be completely unrecognizable as an entry in the Boll filmography. Perry’s performance is solid, and pitched at the right level; while it was clear to me that Silas is a fruit-cake, I tend to think that of anyone who quotes the Bible. Rural isolation + religious fundamentalism = a particularly bad idea, as you’ll know if you’ve seen The Passion of Darkly Noon or Roman’s Bride.
However, I can see why his hosts are somewhat distracted, though I do have some questions, such as regarding the lack of cars in the town? If it’s some kind of rapture-esque event, did everyone have to drive to heaven? I did like that the script didn’t lay everything out for the viewer in simplistic terms, and except at the very end, it’s less about the apocalypse than how people would react to it. Much as in Night of the Living Dead, a theme is that, in the event of an external threat, that might not be the biggest peril – others facing the same threat may be a greater danger. Even an an agnostic, I appreciate the even-handed treatment of religion: both Tom and Seth have faith, in their own ways.
There’s a nice sense of escalation towards the ending, though I wasn’t quite as satisfied with that final reel. Things seem to get a little out of hand, and the movie is at its best exuding quiet menace, not shouting at you as the world goes down the plughole. which, while the jury may be out on whether it works (or even makes sense), is certainly one you’ll remember.
1968 Tunnel Rats
Star: Nate Parker, Erik Eidem, Jane Le, Jeffrey Christopher Todd
In the Vietnam War, the Viet Cong set up and used a massive network of underground tunnels and chambers as bases, from which they could mount attacks on enemy forces. When discovered, the Americans would send in their “tunnel rats”: small of stature, lightly-armed soldiers to kill any lurking Viet Cong, and plant explosives to destroy the tunnels. Needless to say, this was a job fraught with peril, and subject to a high turnover. The latest batch of arrivals in the jungle from America have only a brief time to get to know each other, before going into action: the Viet Cong fight back, both above and below the dirt.
The film is at its best depicting the utterly claustrophobic nightmare of the underground battle, where the enemy might be about to attack from any angle, with booby-traps and flooding other hazards to contend with. The movie also doesn’t just treat the Vietnamese as “the enemy,” but does make some effort to show life from their side as well. For example, after Vo Mai (Le) takes out one of the soldiers with a sharpened bamboo stake [an impressively FM!RT! moment], she goes back into the tunnels and throws up. The final sequence, where she ends up having to team up with one of the Americans after a cave-in, is surprisingly poignant and effective.
The lack of any real “names” in the cast works for it – Boll regular Michael Paré, playing the squad commander, is the only recognizable face, making it harder to pick out obvious survivors. However, the characterization of the US soldiers is badly-handled, perhaps a result of the improvisation used in lieu of a script. The night of their arrival largely consists of them trading cliches with each other about what they’re going to do when they go home, how much they miss their mom’s cooking, and other activities which, from watching numerous war movies, we know are signing their death warrants. And once they get into the tunnels, it’s basically impossible to tell them apart.
It might have been wise if Boll had also not divided our attention between events beneath and on the surface. The latter provide s little we haven’t seen in every other ‘Nam flick, though the horror of an air-strike which arrives at about the worst moment possible is effective. From then on, perhaps because the high mortality rate has winnowed down the characters, the film is a great deal better, and I have to think that sticking with one or character, giving him proper depth, would probably been more effective and memorable.
Star: Zack Ward, Dave Foley, Chris Coppola, Jackie Tohn
Whoever said Germans have no sense of humour? Must be someone who’d watched this largely dreadful exercise in bad taste. It opens with the 9/11 hijackers debating the number of virgins they get after dying, and when they call Osama and are disappointed with the answer, decide to fly to the Bahamas instead – until the passengers charge into the cockpit, causing the plane to crash into the Twin Towers. Oh, hold my aching sides. About the only thing going for it is no-one will accuse the script of being prejudiced: it hates everyone. Rednecks, Muslims, even Germans – it’s nothing if not an equal-opportunity offender.
The story, such as it is, centres on a nameless guy (Ward), who lives in a trailer park with his immense, unfaithful wife, and has a generally wretched life. He goes to see his Uncle Dave (Foley), who is running a scam religion, but needs $1.7 million immediately, to fend off the IRS. They decide to steal a shipment of highly collectible penis-shaped dolls from the Little Germany theme-park, at an event where the special guest is Verne Troyer (a.k.a. Mini Me), unaware that Al Qaeda are intent on using the same dolls as part of a terrorist plot.
I laughed twice. I don’t mind broad humour – hell, I come from the land of pantomime and Carry On films – but this is juvenile to a painful degree; and, worse, just not funny. It’s crude parody, and is so patently trying to be offensive, that it largely fails to do so – for example, Foley straining, at length, to take a dump, while the hero watches and listens, embarrassed, nearby. The yawning gulf between this and truly scathing cinematic satire, such as Mike Judge or the South Park guys, is obvious in almost every sequence.
But, for the record, let me detail the two occasions on which I laughed out loud – and, admittedly, that’s more than some Hollywood comedies. The first was when Boll himself, as the owner of Little Germany, told someone critical of his venue, that his grandfather died in Auschwitz – he fell from a guard tower. Yes, it’s a very old joke, but hearing it told by am actual German, with obvious relish, enhances the shock value immeasurably. The other was a throwaway moment, where the hero uses a Persian cat as an impromptu silencer – though no cats were harmed in that particular scene. Even Uwe has his limits, it would appear.
Star: Brendan Fletcher, Lynda Boyd, Matt Frewer, Shaun Sipos
Boll’s most critically-approved movie is currently scoring a 6.4 on the IMDB, though not everyone was impressed – I particularly liked the review there which said the film, “WALLOWS LIKE A FILTH ENCRUSTED SWINE DROWNING IN ITS OWN FECES.” And, yes, it was in all-caps. I’m going to use that line one of these days, but it won’t be here, as the film deserves praise for a relentless and unflinching portrayal of a one-man killing spree in a small town. It’s carried out by Bill Williamson (Fletcher), a 23-year old mechanic who has some issues – but, perhaps more interestingly, has a meticulous plan, both for the carnage and how it’s all going to end. He starts of by taking out the local police station, using a van packed with explosives, then picking off the remaining cops nearby, and only then turns his attention to the local civilians…
The film is only peripherally interested in the motivations for his actions. Bill doesn’t have a particularly bad life: he’s not bullied, the biggest problem in his life is his parents (politely) getting him to move out, and he doesn’t even appear to have the obvious cheap cop-out of playing violent video games or whatever. That may actually be one of the movie’s strengths, as any such explanation would inevitably fall short of the mark, so it’s perhaps best not even to bother. His ‘normality’ also makes the slaughter all the more uncomfortable, as there’s nothing obvious to separate and distance the killer from the viewer. Instead, he’s just like us – it’s a bit like Falling Down in that respect, particularly in the ‘bad service’ scene both films share.
Beyond that, however, it does lack much satirical edge, despite a delightful scene where Bill arrives in a local bingo-hall and… things don’t unfold as you’d expect. Mind you, having played that game, what transpires did have me nodding in acknowledgment of its plausibility and pitch-black humour. In contrast, the sequence in the beauty parlour is simply wrong – as an aside, it’s definitely worth hunting down the uncut version of the movie, which runs about five minutes longer, a good chunk of which seems to happen in the parlour. Having seen that scene in both versions, the uncut packs about ten times the wallop: I believe the ending may also be different.
Speaking of which, does the ending, with its twist, ring entirely plausible? No, though I can’t get into dissecting it in depth, for reasons of spoilage. Still, that, along with the overuse of not-very-Steadicam, are probably the biggest weaknesses; at least the shakycam doesn’t have the brutal force multiplier of frenetic editing, to make things even worse. [Chris still declined to view this one] But overall, this goes into a place that not many films have ventured, and contains more than enough scenes which will stick in your mind. It’ll be a while before we can pluck up the courage to suggest that our son moves out…
Star: Michael Paré, Will Sanderson, Ralf Möller, Andrew Jackson
While the DVD came with a copy of a PC video-game, this does not appear to have been based on a game. Still, this closeness may help explain the uneven nature here. There are two highly-memorable scenes – though as we’ll see, not necessarily in a good way – but these are countered by a muddled script that has little logic, even by the light standards of the “serial killers from beyond the grave” genre, and an approach to cinematography too often apparently reliant on a pack of Swan Vestas for lighting.
The villain is Max Seed (Sanderson), a killer responsible for the deaths of over six hundred people in a six-year period. He taunts police by sending them time-lapse footage of the decomposing bodies of his victims, from cockroaches to babies, but is eventually caught by Detective Matt Bishop (Paré). Sentenced to death by electric chair, Seed survives three attempts – according to state law, he can’t be executed again, so Bishop pretends Seed is dead and has him buried in the prison grounds anyway. When the killer digs his way out of the earth and resumes his spree, Bishop has to find the “copy-cat” before Seed takes very personal revenge on the man who sent him to a premature grave.
The flaws in the plot are almost too numerous to list, but here are a sample: * How does Seed have time to take multiple, lengthy time-lapse videos, which must take months to shoot, and still kill about one person every three days? * Why is he allowed to keep his serial-killing mask on, right up until execution? * The guy kills over 600 people – and a “copy-cat” another 60-odd – and Bishop is apparently the only guy investigating? * The “three strikes and you’re free” rule claimed to be “state law” at the start of the film, is complete BS. * Cops will split up, and go off entirely on their own when searching a pitch-black serial killer’s house. And that’s aside from the whole unkillable killer thing; you’d think having his eyes pop thanks to the application of 15,000 Volts might slow you down a bit. Apparently not.
The scenes in the house seem to go on for hours, and you’ll be forgiven if you fall to sleep during these. The film only comes to life and claws its way back from the dead when Seed does. There is one scene which is simply brutal: he has tied up a woman and starts off tapping her with a hammer, but it escalates to an utterly savage bludgeoning – all done, apparently, in one shot. You keep expecting the camera to cut away – but it doesn’t. It goes on. And on. “The point for me was to make a movie that is completely uncompromising,” Boll told Fangoria in October 2006. For that shot at least, it’s a success – qualified only by the fact that we don’t know who the victim is, which limits the emotional attachment. However, the ending is so completely bleak, it also backs up the intent.
The first shot, however… For Boll has used footage of 100% genuine animal cruelty. Sure, he obtained it from PETA themselves, but I really think the justification for it here is pretty slim. Especially as an opening gambit, the result comes across nothing more than a cheap attempt to shock. Albeit a successful one, since the footage is pretty difficult to watch, even if I’m more a cat person, shall we say. But if you’re going to do this, you need to have a clear purpose; simply having your psycho watching it, as here, isn’t enough.
Star: Edward Furlong, Sam Levinson, Steffen Mennekes, Shaun Sipos
There’s something about this which feels like a stage production, more or less being one set and four characters. The set is a jail cell; the characters, inmates who start off playing poker. Then a harmless joke bet, to eat a tube of toothpaste, is reneged on by its instigator, Mitch (Sipos). The other three force him to carry out his obligation, and things then quickly escalate from there, particularly after Mitch makes a break for the alarm buttons and tries to alert the guards. Retribution is swift and terrible. Leading the instigation is German skinhead and arsonist Jack (Mennekes), along with scrawny, psychopathic armed robber Harry (Furlong). Reluctantly going along – mostly for fear they’ll turn on him – is the final cellmate, Peter (Levinson), who comes up with the idea of faking Mitch’s death and making it look like suicide…
Boll seems adept at pushing Chris’s buttons: the scene where Mitch is forced to eat his own vomit got her scurrying out of the room this time. A lot of this is certainly difficult to watch, although one wonders what kind of jail it is, where the guards apparently never check on the inmates. The performances are solid, with Levinson coming out best, though Furlong certainly isn’t someone with whom I’d like to be locked up; it appears the dialogue was mostly improvised, and it certainly has a natural flow. While Boll breaks out the hand-held cameras again, at least this time, they aren’t being waved around like Leatherface wielding his saw, and I don’t think this had much to do with my wife’s early exit.
The main problem is that I don’t quite get what the point is intended to be here. People in jail do unpleasant things? Peer pressure is bad? Whatever it was, and even though this was based on a true story from a German juvenile detention facility, the end seems to fall some way short of justifying the sight of Mitch getting a broom handle shoved up…well, his end. It did provoke a discussion with Chris about what we might do in a similar situation, where you are forced to participate, or risk becoming the next victim. While it’s a topic that certainly merits some contemplation, much the same ground was covered, to better effect, in Shellter. The main thought I take away from this, is that I probably wouldn’t do very well in prison.
What do we have? A mixture. Some good films, some bad: from terri-boll to lauda-boll [what, you expect me to get through 4,000 words without a Boll joke?] In other words, pretty much what every other director has produced, from David Cronenberg to Fred Olen Ray, and objective evidence for him being the 21st-century Ed Wood is kinda slim. What I certainly did see, was a director who – particularly when he isn’t adapting video-games – is stretching out beyond the genres with which he is associated, and seems to be making perceptible progress as a film-maker. That’s certainly a great deal more than you can say about many working in Hollywood.
Take his upcoming movies: it’d be hard to find a more diverse bunch. He’s going back to the video-game well (sigh…) for Bloodrayne: Third Reich, doing a comedy about a fat superheroine, Blubberella…and then there’s Auschwitz, which seems to be exactly what it sounds like. He shot that back to back with Bloodrayne, since he already had the sets and uniforms, and according to Boll, “It was an opportunity to make something that nobody would ever finance, but is necessary to make.” After the guard-tower crack in Postal, I wasn’t sure Boll was the right person to do a serious movie, but having subsequently seen Darfur, I’m a good deal more certain he might be able to handle it. There is a big step, however, from a genocide that, unfortunately, few care about, to The Big One. Will Boll be able to make the leap? Stay tuned.
If it weren’t for the expected heady delights of Zach Snyder’s Sucker Punch, it would be quite feasible to imagine a 2011 where I don’t bother going to the movies. We all but abandoned that this year, the previous issues of increasing cost, decreasing quality of cinematic experience and the rise of alternatives, all combining to work against it. With a broad seam of “treasures” from previous years waiting to mined from sites like Cinemageddon, why bother with new movies? The does make the creation of a list like this difficult, since the number of films which qualified as “2010” was probably an all-time low, even with a deliberately-vague rule on what counts. Next year “of” may be be replaced by “watched in”.
The split of how the ten were obtained is interesting. One was seen at the cinema; two were DVD screeners; two were part of our film festival; and the other five were… Well, for legal reasons, let’s just go with “not”, shall we, and I won’t say which was which. As an aside, I note that the most-pirated movie of 2010 was Avatar…which was also the most-bought DVD of 2010, with sales numbers basically the same as the most-bought DVD of 2009. And, even if you reckon every single one of those downloads personally cost Jim Cameron $10, the total amount lost was less than 6% of the film’s worldwide gross. Yeah, piracy really is bankrupting the movie-industry, isn’t it? </rant> And with that, let’s move on, shall we?
Here’s the list of my ten favorites from the year just past. Links go to the appropriate review: titles marked with a * are over on GirlsWithGuns.org, so those reviews will pop open in a new window.
10. The Shadow Within I said this quietly understated horror flick “reminded me of Sapphire & Steel,” but I probably should have clarified, to avoid any confusion, that this was a good thing. Most low-budget horror films tend to go for the basics, like slashers, so it was nice to see one that had a spot of invention to give the viewer. Summary: “Managed to overcome the obstacles and deliver something that’s generally successful and occasionally quite chilling.”
9. Harry Brown This Michael Caine vehicle likely got some quality rub-off from having watched Get Carter earlier in the year, as it feels like an unofficial sequel: Jack Carter, forty years on, now an OAP, yet still capable of being an ultimate bad-ass when necessary. Caine is always a pleasure to watch; like Sean Connery, he is now such an iconic figure, he really doesn’t need to bother. But, unlike Connery, Caine still does. Summary: “Shallow, fearmongering exploitation with a heart”.
8. Inception The jury is still someone out on this one: when I get round to seeing it again, it’s possible the film could move up the list, if I appreciate its depths, or drop off entirely, as I realize it is pretentious bollocks. It was certainly nice to see a full-on Hollywood blockbuster that spends $200 million to fuck with the audience’s head. David Cronenberg is wondering where he went wrong. Summary: “Nolan is playing with chess pieces, shuffling them around a board of dreams.”
7. Mutant Girls Squad* Part of the new wave of uber-splatter that has been coming out of Japan: this and last year’s top-10 entry, Machine Girl, share a similar gleeful level of completely mad inventiveness, painted with a firehose of arterial spray. This one plays like a Pythonesque version of X-Men, featuring a hiddem race possessing powers that are largely utterly ludicrous e.g. a chainsaw that comes out of your butt. Summary: “Impossible to take any of it seriously, even as it is played completely straight-faced.”
6. The Countess The most unexpected surprise of 2010 came on the heels of the sub-mediocre Bathory, covering the same historical biography. The difference is that Julie Delpy nailed it with her performance, playing a character often depicted before, but never really portrayed. One of the biggest serial killers of all time becomes almost sympathetic, which is quite an impressive feat. Summary: “While not exactly soft-pedalling the brutality, it’s more of a tragic love-story than anything else.”
5. SexyKiller* And speaking of amiable serial-killers, here comes Barbara, part-time bubble-headed student of medicine and dedicated follower of fashion, part-time cold-hearted psychopath. But just when we’re getting used to that, the whole thing becomes a zombie film, in what must be the most abrupt right-turn since From Dusk Till Dawn. Summary: “I just loved the unashamed nature of it all: Barbara is perfectly comfortable with who she is, and is in no need of redemption.”
4. La Horde The zombie movie truly is international, and this French entry got back to basics: a bunch of ill-fitting companions, thrown together in a confined space, thanks to and having to deal with the presence of ravenous hordes of undead. If slightly too derivative of Romero’s original [especially at the end], I thoroughly appreciated the stripped-down approach. Summary: “Drawing the characters efficiently, in a few short brush strokes, and then getting on with the horror and action.”
3. You, the Living One of those films which largely defies description, this makes Inception look like two hours of webcam footage, in terms of interconnected narrative. Scenes start in the middle, stop in the middle, and link into each other with the kind of logic that only appears in dreams. It should be enormously irritating as a result, yet there’s a genuine sense of human warmth pervading it. Summary: “When it works, it works beautifully, with a deadpan sense of dark humour that feels similar to Aki Kaurismäki
2. Bitch Slap* Chris bailed entirely on this, 20 minutes of sarcasm e.g. “Would you rather watch this alone?”, into this grindhouse beat-em-up, with the throttle stuck open. It’s closer to Faster Pussycat than anything else, as three women head out to the desert for a stash of treasure, only for their relationship to fall apart in brawls and treachery. Summary: “Alcohol will probably help the neurons go in the correct direction, as will an encyclopaedic knowledge of pop culture, and tolerance for trash at an industrial concentration.”
1. Shellter If you look at our number ones for the past couple of years – Martyrs in 2009, and 2008’s Sick Girl – you’ll notice both are hardcore horror with a philosophy, and Shellter is cut from much the same cloth. It doesn’t pull its punches and is often difficult to watch; yet it forces you to confront uncomfortable realities about humanity in general, and yourself in particular. How far would you go? Summary: “It’s probably no coincidence that the director has a master’s degree in psychology – and that’s why I say the film has a philosophy. This is what lifts it up above its retarded cinematic cousins.”