Lords of Chaos (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Lords of Chaos (2018)

Film: In addition to collecting movies, and books, and toys, and comics, I am also, stupidly, a record collector. This is an expensive hobby that is wonderful and a money pot if you allow it to be. As I am a movie lover, I predominantly own soundtracks to films, but I also have a fair bit of new wave, synth wave and heavy metal.

Now I understand that within the sub-genres of metal there is some quite opposed to each other, but I just don’t know why we can’t just all get along. Thematically, I do tend to lean more towards the harder, darker side of metal when I listen to it, though seeing as how my significant other is a country and western fan, I listen to it by myself. I also have read many biographies about musical artists and amongst those is a book by Didrik Søderlind and Michael Moynihan called Lords of Chaos, whose popularity is probably WHY this film was made as it is a fascinating story, and to paraphrase an old saying, the truth is almost always stranger than fiction.

Lords of Chaos tells the tale of Øystein Aarseth aka Euronymous (Rory Culkin), from whose point of view the entire tale is told, and the inception of a musical sub genre called Norwegian Black Metal.

Euronymous has a band called Mayhem which is looking for a new singer, which they find in a young man from Norway nicknamed ‘Dead’ (Jack Kilmer) who has a severe case of depression and a suicidal nature.

Euronymous has an ‘inner circle’ of devout followers to whom he preached the bands themes of destruction and rebellion, but it wasn’t until he met a young man named Varg Vikernes (Emory Cohen) that someone actually decided to act upon them.

Varg’s yearning for acceptance means he is willing to take Euronymous’ word as gospel, and eventually it seems Varg is more of a believer than Euronymous…. and this competition can only end in bloodshed.

Apparently, those who have survived this story, which has a subtext of ‘based on truth… and lies… ‘ have been critical of the accuracy of the film but a good filmmaker doesn’t always let the truth get in the way of a good story: the film ‘24 Hour Party People’ is a good example of this, where even within the confines of the film itself, the real people the film is representing appear to deny claims made about them, which makes for a seriously meta experience. Varg Vikernes was one who apparently particularly made commentary about the lack of accuracy within the film with reference to his character, and also it’s apparently not true that Euronymous had a girlfriend during some of the events of this film, but any excuse to see Sky Ferreira (from Eli Roth’s Green Inferno) is a good one, right?

As for the quality of the film itself, it’s completely engaging and the cast are a likeable bunch of teenage miscreants and Rory Culkin certainly makes the film his own and he controls every scene he is in even if he’s not the focus at that moment. The subtleties of his performance really makes ring true.

The director, Jonas Åkerlund certainly gets the best out of all the actors and his re-telling of some scenes from different points of view really makes this film tragic as well as just a fun ‘let’s make a band’ film. What’s also amazing, and this might be a result of his Swedish heritage, he really knows how to make places look cold, and the bleakness of the environment reflects the attitudes the characters have towards each other… well initially.

Another choice that was made to make this film more agreeable with an audience not into the music is that it doesn’t actually appear on the soundtrack too frequently. This was a wise decision and the music is only really present during performances so the story of the people and the scene, which is what the movie is about takes precedence over the music.

From the amazing cinematography to great acting and sublime direction, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this film and really think anyone who is into music biopics should look into it, even if they aren’t into the music.

Score: ****1/2

Format: The film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release and is presented in a thoroughly decent 1.85:1 image with a matching 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: When one considers this is based on a true story, it’s a shame they couldn’t find any extras. There is a couple of cool interviews on the Arrow Bluray release so if extras are important to you, that might be an option.

Score: 0

WISIA: This is one of those films that the filmmaker has been so careful in creating subtleties in the mise-en-scène that it really does take a couple of watches to take it all in. Make SURE you watch it more than once!

Kill Bill Volume 1

One from the rewatch pile…

Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003)

Film: Quentin Tarantino is one of those writer/ directors whose films are either loved or loathed. QT is regularly accused of plagiarism and being unoriginal on one hand, and on the other hand, he almost single handed lay brought back the popularity of some exploitation and international films into the limelight. It is unfair to call QT a plagiarist, as he freely acknowledges his influences, and ha always worn them on his sleeve. This film, Kill Bill Volume 1, was conceived during the filming of Pulp Fiction, where GT could see a potential in Uma Thurman to be a great female action lead, and decided to write an entire film around her.

As the title suggests, Kill Bill Volume 1 tells the first part of a revenge tale. ‘The Bride’ (Uma Thurman) was thought to have been murdered by a squad of killers she was once a part of, The Deadly Viper Assassin Squad, a group led by the mysterious Bill (David Carradine). She cuts a swath of violence in this film to get to her intended victims: O-ren Iishi (Lucy Lui) , Elle Driver (Darryl Hannah), Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), Budd (Michael Madsen), but will she get to them all? Will she survive countless battles so that she can finally Kill Bill? Mmmm…I guess you shall have to watch Volume 2.

So, what is your pleasure? Wuxia? Got it! Exploitation? Yeah, got that too. What about gangster flicks? Yep, there’s a little of that as well. We even have a little bit of anime!! Some of the dialogue in this film suffers from ‘Lucas’ Romantic Scene Disorder’, where the lines seem to have trouble coming out of the actors mouths, and feel as awkward as a contestant on Young Talent Time. Tarantino’s plotting talents however should keep you interested enough that it is only a minor bother.

As usual, QT’s supporting characters are just as interesting as the main cast, and the plot, disjointed though it may be (like Pulp Fiction), moves along at a great pace. A fan of the type of cinema QT has interests in could really spend hours with a group of like-minded friends spotting the massive amounts of nods to other films.

With influences ranging from Tobe Hooper to the Shaw Brothers, and even sometimes borrowing from his own films, Kill Bill Volume 1 could have easily been takeaway crap, but instead it is a fresh dine-in meal with all the trimming… though the dessert has been saved for a Kill Bill Volume 2.

Score: ****

Format: Kill Bill Volume 1 was reviewed with the Australian release Bluray, which is presented in a 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen which is clean and perfect. The reds are SO red, the yellows are SO yellow and the black and white is… well, contrasting! This film is in Dolby 5.1 and is a kick ass track. The sounds of blood spraying and swords clanging together will ring in your lounge room long after the film has finished. There is some great use of musical cues that really make full use of the 5.1 sound stage as well.

Score: ****

Extras: The Making of Kill Bill should have been a three hour extravaganza where QT goes through everything that influenced this film and his career, but instead we get a 22 minute fluff piece that admittedly has a lot of interviews but ultimately leaves you unsatisfied.

There are two music clips from the 5,6,7,8’s, ‘Walk like Jayne Mansfield’ and “I’m Blue’. Is it surf music, is it pink? Who cares, it’s awesome!

There is also two trailers for Kill Bill Volume 1: a teaser trailer and a‘ bootleg’ trailer, which weirdly contains some footage from Volume 2!

Score: **1/2

WISIA: Oh HELL yeah I’ll watch this again!

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

One from the re watch pile…

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

Film: You have to love the way some people think. When director Bo Arne Vibenius’ 1969 family film flopped, he did what any good director would do: he got straight back on the horse and made what was to become one of the most un-family oriented mainstream releases ever made (albeit under the pseudonym Alex Fridolinski). This film, Thriller – En Grym Film, in its original Swedish title, has gone by many names: Hookers Revenge and They Call Her One Eye to name a few, and has been released in more running times, due to censorship laws in various countries, than you would find at the Olympics. Notorious to its core, this version, Thriller: A Cruel Picture, is unrated and with the unnecessary hardcore sex and (apparent) actual corpse mutilation in lieu of special effects. Synapse released both the hardcore and no-core versions on DVD, the Red cover, with the subtitle ‘A Cruel Picture’ is the XXX one where as the yellow cover, with the subtitle ‘They Call Her One-Eye’ is the non-awkward porn version.

Thriller: A Cruel Picture tells the tale of young Frigga (Christina Lindberg), who lost the ability to speak after being raped at a very young age. Her mother and father regularly send her to various doctors in the hopes that she will regain her voice. One day, after missing the bus to one of her appointments, she accepts a lift from Tony (Heinz Hopf) who dopes her and within ten days has her hooked on heroin and working for him as a prostitute. After she attacks a client, Tony cuts one of her eyes out. Eventually the pressure of all her woes gets to her, and she decides to fight back…with a vengeance! (Cue zoom in and stabbing strings)

The first thing to say about this movie is hubba hubba: even with one eye covered, Christina Lindberg oozes a sweet sexuality that would be slipped on if you stepped in it. It is unsurprising however that Vibenius had little success with his previous film, as he is an extraordinarily BORING filmmaker. His action scenes are suitable enough, although the use of slo-mo is somewhat excessive. The dialogue or ’emotive’ scenes are done with such extreme close ups of the actors faces that instead of looking sad or friendly, they just all looked ominous. Also of particular note are how badly the cars must be made in Sweden: even the slightest bump during the car chase scene causes these pieces of rubbish to explode. Having said all that though, it was kind of like watching a train wreck; you just couldn’t take your eyes off its grizzly allure.

The hardcore scenes in this film also deserve a mention, as the ‘stunt actors’ in them are quite obviously not Lindberg and her fellow cast mates.

This film never quite fits a certain genre. It’s sometimes arthouse, grindhouse and porno-house all mixed in one. Even though the hardcore parts were obviously tacked-on and felt completely out of place, they didn’t really effect my overall enjoyment of the film (although there was one bit of going-in-dry footage that made me cringe). This is one of those must see oddities. You have heard a lot about it, especially in the wake of the Kill Bill films, but few will probably enjoy it. I was one who thoroughly did, and it will become a regular rotation… although I might fast forward through some of the hairy nut parts, or watch the alternate release, Thriller: They Call Her One Eye.

Score: ****

Format: The picture quality is all over the shop. Grain, cigarette burns… you name an artefact, and this film has it. I will say though, the image is still clear enough to be watchable, and judging by the amount of bootlegs there are around of this film, it is probably the best it has looked in years. To be brutally honest, the slightly off image just adds to the sleaziness of the entire proceedings, and is probably reminiscent of those old grind house cinemas that exploitation stuff like this used to get shown in. The film is presented in an anamorphic 1.66:1 aspect ratio, even though the package states it’s 1.78:1. Presented in spectacular 1.0! This is a fairly clear mono track, but to fully appreciate this film you need to watch it both in English, and then with the subtitles…they are almost a different story! Even the main character’s name goes from Frigga (English dub) to Madeline (English subtitle). Keep your ear out for sound effects straight out of Scooby Doo cartoons, especially during the car chase scenes

Score: **

Extras: There are 4 theatrical trailers on this disc: the TV spot (for They Call Her One Eye), the theatrical trailer (for They Call Her One Eye), the Double Feature trailer (a grind house double feature trailer where the film is called the Hooker’s Revenge and is accompanied by The Photographer’s Model) and the Thriller trailer.

Outtake Reel is a few short outtakes, all in complete silence.

Alternate Harbor Fight is a reconstructed version of the harbor fight sequence using pieces of thought to be lost footage, which is then put together with some actual film footage to make a ‘new’ version of the fight.

Movie in Pictures (38 seconds) is the entire movie shown with a single shot from each scene…why? It’s like a crappy View Master version of the film.

There are 5 stills galleries: In Bed with Christina, a series of nude shots of Lindberg. Behind the Scenes, which is a collection of BTS footage, mainly of Lindberg, but dressed this time. Advertising and Promotion shows the posters and other advertising paraphernalia for the film. Deleted Fight Scene shows the still pics from a scene omitted from the final film, and Production photos are on set photos taken during the production of this feature.

There are also text filmographies for Lindberg and Vibenius.

Score: ***

WISIA: This film is such a weirdo watch, I actually can’t resist it, and have watched it several times.