Lords of Salem (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Lords of Salem (2012)

Film: He’s one of us, that Rob Zombie guy. He’s a music lovin’, horror and comic nerd who is doing what most of us wish we could be doing: making money doing what he loves most. Thankfully, one of those things is making horror flicks that pay tribute to horror and exploitation film history with cameos and homages galore. I loved House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and his remake of Halloween, and I’ll even forgive him the hiccup that is Halloween 2, especially if he continues to produce quality horror like this, The Lords of Salem.

Recovering addict Heidi LaRoq (Sheri Moon Zombie) is a DJ who works with ‘Whitey’ Salvador (Jeffrey Daniel Phillips) and Herman Jackson (Ken Foree) as part of popular radio show The H Squad on Radio WIQZ in Salem, Massachusetts. One day, the station is sent a record, packed in a wooden box, by a group called ‘The Lords’ whose song, when played, puts the women of Salem in a trance, and being addressed to Heidi, it seems to be specifically focused on her. Over the course of a week we watch Heidi slowly succumb to the record, and as a live performance by The Lords looms closer, things get more and more surreal…

As is typical with Zombie’s films, and his borrowing from cult/horror/exploitation greats, you get a familiar vibe: I myself got a mild Suspiria/Inferno feel off this one. There are a few occasional clunky moments in the script, but they are never bad enough to detract from the overall feel of the film.

Zombie’s directorial style has become more matured over the years, and even though his frenetic video clip style does appear in various fantastic sequences, his ‘straight’ film sections are well filmed and are a pleasure to watch. Actually, this restraint probably makes the dream sequences seem far even wackier than they actually are.

Again, one of Zombie’s signatures is his ability to find legendary actors, although in this case legendary could perhaps mean ‘forgotten’. We have star turns from 10 Rillington Place’s Judy Geeson, The Howling’s Dee Wallace, They Live’s Meg Foster, Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Patricia Quinn and Dawn of the Dead’s Ken Foree, Willard’s Bruce Davison and cameos from genre legends Michael Berryman, Sid Haig, Billy Drago and Barbara Crampton. Special mention has to go to Torsten Voges from 8mm as the Norwegian (?) Death Metaller Count Gorgann, and Sheri Moon Zombie proves herself quite capable in a lead role I previously assumed she would have either been too annoying to carry off, or flat out incapable of.

So even over and above all this typical fan service there lies a very creepy story once you stop saying things like ‘is that the chick that played Frank N. Furter’s maid?’ This creepiness is made even more… um…. Creepy by an amazing score that sits on your chest and pushes its way into your head. I watched this for the first time by myself quite late at night, and admit to being made somewhat uneasy by it, and when I watched it the second time, in the middle of the day with others around, I still felt the same about it.

Sure, it features the usual Rob Zombie faire of 70s rock, fan-service cameos from genre ‘legends’ and the finely tuned bottom of Sheri Moon Zombie, but The Lords of Salem also shows a restraint and maturity not seen in his previous outings. I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope Zombie pursues more films of this ilk.

Score: *****

Format: There is certainly no faulting the image of the film on the disc which is presented in it’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio with 16:9 enhancement, but it tends to look a little messy, but that could be Zombie attempting to get an authentic ‘old’ film look to it. The audio sounds amazing with some great ambient sound provided by guitarist John 5 and DJ Griffin Boice. Don’t let the ‘DJ’ part deter you though; this isn’t a Korn meets Skrillex- type affair but instead a subtle goosebumps-inducing soundscape. This movie was reviewed using the UK DVD release.

Score: ***

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for three films: The Facility, Dark Skies and The Bay. They all looked pretty good, actually, and I might have to check them all out, which is something I can do with the time I have spare seeing how this disc has no extras other than a trailer for The Lords of Salem. I find this a stunning choice as Zombie’s previous outings have has some great extras.

Score: *

WISIA: Oh yeah! I’m totally on board for another ride in the Dragula, that’s for sure!

Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood (2019)

Film: I am an unabashed Quentin Tarantino fan. Not just of his movies, but also of a gift he gave to me, and that gift was that he introduced me to a whole pile of genres of films I probably would never have watched if not for him either riffing on them in his films, or talking about them in one of his hundreds of interviews. I mean, I thought I loved film before Tarantino, but he opened me up to so many more, and I reckon I’m not the only one, and that a whole pile of Eurotrash film distribution companies owe their entire existence to the fact that did just that. I’ll just point out that I’d seen some of those films, but not necessarily realised that they were anything outside of being ‘action’ or ‘horror’.

One of the beautiful thing about Tarantino is that he doesn’t hide that love either. So many of his films either name drop, are influenced by or flat out emulate other films that you really can’t watch one of his films without stopping and thinking ‘ I now need to check out *insert name here’.

Like his ‘remake’ of Enzo G. Casteralli’s, Inglorious Bastards, One Upon A Time… In Hollywood considers itself an alternate history of actual events, tweaked ever so slightly to make the result shocking, and fun.

In this film, it is 1969, and former star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), is finding it difficult to maintain his stardom in Hollywood, which is a machine chews up and spits out actors as quick as it can.

Rick maintains his Hollywood lifestyle as much as he can, and has his former stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), a man who was once accused of killing his wife, in his employ, and it’s an employment of convenience in so much as that Cliff drives and does odd jobs for Rick, but realistically he’s just being paid to continue their friendship. Rick lives in a beautiful part of the Hollywood Hills, and right next to the newly married Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) and his wife Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie).

In a chance meeting with Marvin Schwarzs (Al Pacino), Rick all of the sudden has a crisis of confidence as Schwarzs explains to him that stars start to fall when they end up as the ‘heavies’ in TV shows. He offers him an opportunity in Italy, which Rick turns down, not wanting to appear in Italian films.

Whilst Rick is working on various jobs, Cliff has a few small adventures himself, including meeting Pussycat (Margaret Qualley), a member of the Manson Family, of whom their leader has been skulking around the Polanski residence. He takes her ‘home’ to former Hollywood backlot ‘Spahn’s Ranch’, only to find the Family have completely taken over, and have owner George (Bruce Dern) not as a prisoner, but certainly, due to his being blind, stuck.

Of course, all these events eventually ties together, as one night, four of the Manson Family, Tex (Austin Butler), Sadie (Mikey Madison), Katie (Madison Beaty) and Flower Child (Maya Hawke) go to murder the occupants of the Polanski household… but perhaps redemption is in the cards for Rick and Cliff?

For the most part liked this movie, but as two separate entities. The story of a has-been actor finding himself at a loose end and maybe having to go to Italy to continue his career fascinating, and would have been compelling by itself, but I reckon that you could comfortably excise every single bit of the Sharon Tate/ Manson plot and still have an interesting about the Hollywood machine.

Now that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy Robbie’s performance, no quite the contrary, but I feel that the film suffered from her subplot which seems like it solely existed to have the violent outcome at the end of the film. Even the stuff with Cliff meeting the Manson Family didn’t really need to be in their except to feed the last 15 minutes… mind you, his torture of the man he was ‘convincing’ to repair his car was an interesting reflection into his psyche, and that the rumours about him and his wife’s death may not have been unfounded.

In actual fact, all the casting was fabulous. So many faces appear in this film that I didn’t expect to see: Zoe Bell, Kurt Russell, Rebecca Gayheart, Danielle Harris, Harley Quinn Smith, Lena Durham, Michael Madisen, Timothy Olyphant, Luke Perry… I could go on! In researching the film for this very interview I have discovered that I now have to watch it again as I did even realise some of the actors were who they were!

The filming is just gorgeous as well. Tarantino’s eye is on point as usual as the camera’s seating is always totally within the film. Of course, ladies feet feature prominently, and I have to say that no one has ever filmed Robbie’s natural beauty so well.

As usual, the soundtrack is magnificent, but knew would expect no less from a Tarantino film. Also, the script itself is amazing. At no time do I find myself in any way bored by what the cast are saying. All in all, except for the weird disjointed storyline that I found distracting, I did actually like this film, but it’s not going to be a regular rewatcher for me, like Inglourious Basterds, Death Proof or Pulp Fiction are.

Score: ***1/3

Format: This review was done with the Bluray of the film and looks and sounds awesome! The vision is is 2.39:1 and the audio is in DTS-HD MD 5.1.

Score: *****

Extras: There’s a few decent extras on this disc but alas, I must also make a boast about my copy of this disc.

I was lucky enough to manage to get my hands on this brilliant 4K edition (even though I have reviewed the Blu-ray Disc that also comes in this package as I don’t yet have a 4K player) that feels like it is just made for Tarantino fans. Not only does this disc sport a bunch of extras (reviews to follow), it also has a cool bunch of ‘relics’ from this history that doesn’t exist.

This package contains a poster of one of the ‘Italian’ films that never existed, a Mad Magazine that parodies one of Rick’s films, and a single, on blue vinyl

The extras on the disc are pretty cool.

Surprisingly, there are a bunch of deleted scenes, which I am grateful were excused from the film. Honestly, and other 20 to 30 minutes worth could have gone too!

Quentin Tarantino’s Love Letter to Hollywood is a fascinating look at why Tarantino picked 1969 to set this film, which surprisingly was not JUST because of the Manson Murders.

Bob Richardson – For the Love of Film sees Tarantino talk about his love of Bob Richardson’s cinematography.

Shop Talk – the Cars of 1969 takes us into the beautiful vehicles used in the film. It’s essentially car porn.

Restoring Hollywood – the Production Design of Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, and The Fashion of 1969 both talk about the film getting the look of the year correct, both from a scenery point of view, and the fashions as well.

These extras were all really cool, but I can help but wish they were longer.

Score: ****

WISIA: As I said earlier, I like the film, but it doesn’t get the rewatching score that other films of his do.

Maniac (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

Maniac (2012)

Film: Maniac is a loose remake of Bill Lustig’s classic 1980 horror film of the same name starring Joe Spinell and Caroline Monroe. He it’s retooled by Alexander Aja (who also remade The Hills Have Eyes and Piranha 3D) and Gregory Levasseur and directed by P2’s Franck Khalfoun, the updated story goes like this:

Mannequin restorer Frank (Sin City’s Elijah Wood) has a few problems: no friends, migraines, Oedipus Complex and a penchant for murdering and scalping women, and then using their removed hair as wigs for his shop dummies.

His life may be changing though as he has met a young photographer Anna (Safe House’s Nora Arnezeder), with whom he strikes up a friendship, but will his deadly urges allow this friendship to flourish?

The most remarkable aspect of this film is the POV aspect in which it is shot. This isn’t Blair Witch Project, shaky-cam stuff either; this is genuine, internet-porn styled POV that takes place from the standpoint of the antagonist, rather than the stock standard ‘found footage’ style which requires the addition of a hamfistedly inserted video camera. In this film, you are IN the murderers head, and seeing from his eyes, not as a witness, but as the perpetrator. In seeing his life through his eyes, we also see his mental point of view, and the way his unhinged brain interprets events. This device adds a touch of realism to the film, and the style is like the third person writing seen in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho which tells you everything that YOU DO. It was so effective that New Zealand’s censors banned the film saying a wider release would be ‘injurious to the public good’.

Now THAT’S the type of notoriety horror movie makers used to enjoy!

The soundtrack has some impressive subtleties to it as well. First I have to praise the synth score that occasionally kicks in which felt like a nice nod to the original. The real treat comes from Wood’s performance combined with the sound engineers. Listen closely when he is arguing with himself and you’ll hear an ‘extra’ voice coming trough the speakers. The combination of this and Wood’s POV performance makes for a disturbing yet sympathetic lead man.

Speaking of the 80s, there are a few other nice nods to the original: a description of an online sleeve bag that may fit Joe Spinell’s appearance may have been a little offensive, but in one scene the killer sees a reflection of himself in a car door, and it emulates the original ‘erection’ poster nicely.

Wood’s performance as Frank is amazing too. When you consider he is really only seen in reflections or in flashbacks or on occasion to show time lapse or to see the release he gets from Murder, he has a genuine presence in this film. Even when he isn’t seen, he is generally heard, as there is a constant sound of his breathing which weighs heavily in every scene. It seems he was made for this role as his sudden acts of violence, which won’t disappoint gore fans, are completely offset by his almost child-like looks and mannerisms.

When this came out I thought this was an effective thriller that was given a greater identity with its unusual way of telling the story.

Score: ****

Format: Its impossible to fault the picture and sound quality of this bluray. The 2.35:1 image is crystal clear and the lossless 5.1 DTS-HD audio is immersive a necessary for the effectiveness of the film.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc starts with trailers for Lovely Molly, Come Out and Play and Room 237. Extras offered include a series of interviews with Kalfoun, Aja, Woods and Arnedezer which reveal some of the ideas behind the remaking of the 80s classic.

Disappointingly there is no documentary revealing the way the film was made, which I would have liked to have seen

Score: **

WISIA: Whilst it is a good movie, I can’t see me watching it again.