Archive for extreme cinema

The Herd: Brutal new horror with a purpose.

Posted in British cinema, extreme cinema, films, horror, Short film with tags , , , , on Monday, 7 April, 2014 by Ed

Starring Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman, Filth) and featuring a score by Laurent Bernard of Gallows, THE HERD is a study into the most unimaginable human suffering, yet it depicts a violence that is perpetrated every day on a massive scale.

THE HERD is written by Ed Pope (Transgressive Cinema) and directed by Melanie Light, and features the additional acting talents of Victoria Broom (ABCs of Death 2, Stalled), Jon Campling (Sleeping Dogs, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows) and Charlotte Hunter (Dungeons and Dragons, Vitality).

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Imprisoned within inhuman squalor with other women; Paula’s existence and human function is abused as a resource by her captors.

Escape, on any level, is hopeless as the women are condemned to a life of enforced servitude at the whims of their imprisoners for one reason only – their milk.

Enslaved, inseminated and abused – every facet of their life is violated. At first the premise seems exaggerated and absurd; but is, in fact, disgusting in its stark normality.

Deliberately avoiding the lack of finesse associated with “torture porn” and sexploitation, THE HERD eschews these in favour of a vicarious descent into the visceral nightmare of relinquishing the most innate rights of existence.

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Existing principally as a dark and transgressive horror short; THE HERD also asks questions as to how we approach the sentiency of other beings and the importance of the concept of individual freedoms in modern society.

Advocates of high quality independent horror cinema can find out more about the film and, should they wish, how to support it here: http://www.sponsume.com/project/herd

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The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence).

Posted in extreme cinema, horror with tags , , , , , , , , on Tuesday, 8 May, 2012 by Ed

Human Centipede 2 Full SequenceShot in black and white and with a lead character who doesn’t utter a single word during the entire movie – The Human Centipede 2 feels very different to its predecessor but is exactly the film that many incorrectly assumed that Tom Six had made with the original installment.

Like the first movie no one can fault the casting selection. In the original film Dieter Laser was a masterful choice as the deranged scientist who envisaged the concept of a “human centipede” – yet in the second offering this has been surpassed. Laurence R Harvey – who plays the socially inept and mentally deranged Martin – portrays his character with a significant physical presence; with a toad-like appearance he elicits simultaneous pity and disgust.

Martin lives with his vile mother and works a night shift monitoring CCTV in a car park. This solitary employment allows him to indulge his obsession with the first Human Centipede movie. He watches it endlessly, documents it and even pleasures himself with sandpaper whilst watching it. Eventually Martin decides to make his own bigger and better Human Centipede with twelve people instead of just the three. Thus he sets about the logistics of his task and collecting the necessary human components.

There is some interest in Martin’s character and story – and no one could fault the acting of the limited cast. Martin’s relationship with his mother develops to a crescendo which becomes a horrendous “Psycho” image for the Saw generation. The film does leave an unanswered question in the viewer’s mind, but not one that lingers for too long.

To assess a movie like this from a point of high-brow smugness is to miss the point completely. The concept of the Human Centipede First Sequence was fairly innovative and on this basis alone should be praised and encouraged – as there is a paucity of originality in the modern genre. In this Full Sequence Tom Six spares no detail and pushes any boundary he sees fit. Although this style delivers nothing new in these days of ultra-gory horror it at least fulfills its brief – and anyone sitting down to watch a film such as this has only themselves to blame if such content bores or offends them.

The monochrome style, which serves to make the graphic gore less sensational but no less repulsive, and the curious antagonist make this a more interesting film than the previous one. Ultimately such a movie will always revolve around its very basic premise – accept this before proceeding and enjoy being grossed out for 90 minutes, otherwise don’t be shocked if you are disappointed.

Salo (or The 120 Days Of Sodom)

Posted in extreme cinema, horror with tags , , , , , , , on Monday, 15 August, 2011 by Ed

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo (or The 120 Days Of Sodom) from 1975 is a truly transgressive work. Even by today’s standard it is both shocking and controversial. For the avoidance of doubt, Pasonlini is unflinching in his portrayal of the writings of the Marquis de Sade transposed into the fascist Italy of 1944. Thus, Salo is not for the easily offended; if you are hesitant about viewing it, you may wish to follow your instinct.

Without doubt an auteur, and driven by a sense of fairness resulting from the poverty he had witnessed, Pasolini’s left-leaning sympathies dominated many of his works; and here, in Salo, we endure a vision of the extreme rightwing and its desire to dominate and persecute. Pasolini was murdered before the first theatrical release of Salo, and well-founded speculation suggests a political motivation for his death.

Salo opens to aristocratic Italian fascists selecting a handful of young men and women by a process of examining their naked bodies and assessing their family lineage. These youths are then absconded to a large country house, decorated in the art deco style. Here the rules of their captivity are explained. It is stated that they are “weak chained creatures, destined for our [the fascist’s] pleasures”. In an interesting juxtaposition, the captives are never chained in any manner; they are prisoners of the fascist institution and as such escape is impossible, so it is never mentioned and binding them is unnecessary. The futility of their plight hangs heavily over this film from the onset, and it is impossible to avoid the comparison to anyone living under a repressive regime.

What then follows is an orgy of indulgence for the fascist’s sadistic perversions. Be very clear, this is a commentary about fascist ideology – not political Nazism. There are no swastikas, no iron eagles, no goose stepping, and no mention of Hitler’s Nazi party is ever made. Whilst Salo could be described as exploitation cinema, it is not anything like the glut of Nazi exploitation flicks that formed their own sub-genre in the 1970’s, which were misogynist and purely designed to titillate.

Indeed, despite graphic nudity of both genders featuring in nearly every scene, Salo is never once arousing. Pasolini appears to have been meticulous in ensuring that the film’s theme – the inhumanity of fascism – is never lost behind cheap thrills of that nature. Presumably it is for this reason that many censors around the world (such as the British Board of Film Classification), have eventually passed Salo uncut.

After the initial set-up, Salo is divided into three chapters: “The Circle Of Manias”, “The Circle Of Shit” and “The Circle of Blood”. In each Circle a female Fascist, dressed in formal wear, holds court next to a piano. The scene is that of any pre-war ball room, where a lady might entertain polite company with a story or song. Here, however, each story is delivered with a rapturous smile as the respective lady of each Circle recalls their own sexual abuse, usually as a child. The remaining fascists are mingled with the captives, and as the tale arouses them in the manner it is intended, they willingly and easily give in to their perversions – each of which stem from a desire to degrade, defile and humiliate.

During the “Circle Of Manias” the captives are stripped and forced to act like dogs – begging for food and eating scraps without using their hands. One girl is fed food with nails in it and forced to chew. A male is viciously whipped – his tormentor stating with glee “I rejoice when I see others degraded!” At dinner, a servant is raped.

The “Circle Of Shit” is one of the more difficult cinematic experiences. Pasolini conducts the subject matter in a manner which, in any lesser hands, would have been puerile and exploitative, but here it was psychologically disturbing. Again, a female fascist tells a lurid tale with an unfittingly pleasant delivery; this one is strongly coprophilic in nature. During the performance, a sobbing captive is punished by a male fascist making a delivery on the floor, one in keeping with the theme of the tale; he offers her a spoon and forces her to eat. Pasolini demonstrates his genius here with a camera shot that focuses sharply on an adjacent table which causes the girl in the scene to be just out of focus, so that the viewer cannot see the full details of her consumption. Once lulled into a false sense of security, the audience is exposed to a crystal-clear head shot of the poor girl – mouth open and crying.

Later a same sex wedding takes place between a male captive and captor – the former resplendent in a full wedding gown. In 1975, this would have been taboo and the attitude to homosexuality is the only aspect of this film that has a diminished impact on the modern viewer. None-the-less, the wedding dinner – attended by all – is comprised entirely of faeces, devoured with enthusiasm by the fascists; and the modern viewer is returned to the same state of disgust as their movie-going cousins of 36 years ago.

Until this point, Pasolini has assaulted the sensibilities with every available tool except violence. This is redressed in the third and final chapter: “The Circle Of Blood”. After some more cross-dressing and sodomy, a tale of torture and abuse is told – with the same charismatic contrast to the subject matter as the previous circles. The plot is developed during this, as the captives are marked according to their compliance.

Eventually the fascists give in to their most base desires, and an orgy of torture is meted out in a courtyard, overlooked by the captor’s rooms. A rampage of violence, which includes sexual burning, tongue slicing, scalping, branding and a particularly nasty eye gouging, is enough to disturb the most hardened viewer – but the most perturbing aspect is the enjoyment, even sexual pleasure, that the captors, who are non-participatory observers, gain from watching. They spectate from seats behind large windows, suggesting that even though the events are of their bidding and done for their enjoyment they may still justify their humanity by remaining somehow separated from the torture and killing. Pasolini inflicts this sense of voyeurism on the viewer (after all, we are watching it too) by having the fascists view the killing through binoculars, and the shots are framed with the outline of the lenses – moving from detail to detail with a deliberate relish.

By the end of the film the use of costume creates ambiguity as to who are the guards, who are the fascists and who are the victims. Maybe this speaks of the compliance and complicit nature of mass apathy or inaction. People may not agree with an immoral agenda, and may not be an active part of it themselves, but still they do nothing to stop it – especially if it is not victimising them personally. Perhaps Pasolini feels they are then as culpable as the fascists; and questions whether they too could become victims themselves?

Is Salo a “horror film” in the conventional sense? No, not really. However, it deals with humankind’s ability to degrade, torture and exterminate its own kind. It shows us that through a few barely tangible ideological or ego-based theories, we are capable of detaching ourselves from any form of empathy or consideration for others if it suits us to. On this basis Salo, more than most, is truly worthy of a place in the horror genre.

Cradle Of Fear

Posted in British cinema, extreme cinema, horror with tags , , , , , , on Wednesday, 15 June, 2011 by Ed

The first thing you need to know about Alex Chandon’s 2001 low-budget horror is that it has many imperfections – however like any treasured possession these can, and should, be overlooked. What lies beneath the odd shortcoming is a dark and twisted tale guaranteed to churn the stomach and shred the nerves. Let’s get the negatives out of the way and forgotten about from the start…

The acting is good in places but a bit wooden in others, however it is never terrible and certainly never bad enough to spoil a scene and take the viewer out of their immersion in the film. The texture of the film takes a bit of getting used to; the way it is shot looks from time to time like a cheap commercial – as do a few of the sets. Finally there is one piece of very ill-advised CGI that never fails to raise a smile, such is its cheapness. However none of these issues matter and the film has a sense that it is aware of its failings and doesn’t care. It knows where its strengths lie and sticks to those. With that out of the way, on with the important stuff:

Cradle Of Fear oozes with enthusiasm for horror. It is clearly made by people who love the genre and are not afraid to push the boundaries; in fact there is an obvious relish for doing so. The film consists of four separate vignettes which are tied together by a central story line concerning an incarcerated serial killer and cannibal, called Kemper, and his desire for vengeance on those involved with his murder trial and subsequent imprisonment. He does so using the rites of black magic from his cell in a lunatic asylum and the service of his supernaturally murderous son, known as The Man, played by Dani Filth of goth-metal band Cradle Of Filth.

As soon as the movie opens to graphically depict a disemboweled girl on a bed, the viewer is left in no doubt as to what they are about to let themselves in for. Herein lies Cradle Of Fear’s strongest card and why it is to be adored by lovers of true horror film-making: the special make-up effects are sensational. It is an irony that the film proves beyond a doubt why physical effects are scary and CGI effects are not. This is an ultra-gory film and is very violent, however it is also held together by a solid narrative and storyline with pacing delivered in a manner which is likely to engage those not usually predisposed to enjoying excessive gore.

The aforementioned gutless young lady provides the starting point of the first of the quartets of terror that Cradle Of Fear inflicts on its audience. Starring British B-Movie scream queen favorite Emily Booth as a beautiful goth out on a drug fueled night of clubbing, it quickly descends into terror involving demon rape, vile and genuinely frightening hallucinations and a conclusion that literally turns the stomach.

Next, two girls are introduced who intend to break into an elderly mans house and steal the money he keeps in a tin. Lessons are learned about the nature of greed, and how far some people are prepared to go for money. Bloody, violent lessons – naturally.

The next tale begins with a husband a wife snorting cocaine whilst speeding through the streets of London in an open-top sports car. When they run over and kill a tramp, they are relived that the car is not damaged and continue on their way home. After a bout of amputee sex (the husband is missing a leg) is ended prematurely by impotence, the distraught man goes about finding a corrupt doctor and brand new limb.

Finally Richard, an IT worker, is introduced who is obsessed with violent websites, and eventually stumbles on a difficult to access members-only site called The Sick Room. Here webcams can be viewed showing abducted individuals. The user can pay to select the criteria and level of abuse which is then enacted on the person onscreen. This becomes so compulsive that Richard loses his job, possessions and house until he decides to track down the operators of the website for some firsthand action.

The story of Kemper is entwined throughout these stories and the evil gothic presence of The Man is present in each. The film then proceeds towards its ending with more blood and guts until the screen is dripping red and few acts of violence imaginable have not been depicted.

The realism of the special make-up effects is what will turn horror addicts on and repulse all others in equal measure. During the course of the movie we see, amongst many other atrocities, disembowelment, razors slashed across a face, a broken bottle smashed into an eye socket and a leg hacked off. What separates this from run-of-the-mill physical horror is the skill with which it is executed. So brilliantly is each effect constructed the camera can linger for a long time, possibly too long, until the viewer is squirming in their seat and in some cases averting their gaze. This sense of realism is not avoided by the director either, if a limb is being severed with nothing but a knife – it takes a long time and is a messy job, with extra effort being required to get through the tough bone. Make no mistake, this film is horrific and where other films fail because the gore is too over-the-top to the point of humour – Cradle Of Fear manages to keep the mood repulsive and sinister.

The physical effects are not the only strength of this low budget shocker though. The whole atmosphere of the film is dark, gothic and ominous. Alex Chandon does not lose sight of the main plot point which is that Kemper is a baby murdering cannibal who uses black magic and the assistance of his demonic son (who is suitably clad in industrial goth fashion) to exact revenge on those he feels have wronged him. Large parts of the film feel like a very bad acid trip or a nightmare that only the most deranged of minds would be capable of conceiving. This leads to a very effective fluctuation between the heightened tension of fear and the powerful revulsion to the grotesque imagery.

If the viewer is able to overlook the obvious failings of Cradle Of Fear, and appreciate it for what it is, and for refusing to pretend to be something it is not, then the horror fan will find a grim treat. More than most, this feels like a film for horror fans made by horror fans and it does not care if film-snobs and mainstream audiences hate it. It is a film with an uncompromising attitude, viewers with a similar nature will find it rewarding.

Mum & Dad

Posted in extreme cinema, horror with tags , , , , , on Thursday, 12 May, 2011 by Ed

Mum & Dad is an independent British horror film set amongst the austere backdrop of London’s Heathrow Airport and the constant drone of jet engines. The area is bleak and characterized by fences topped with razor wire and depressing homogenized rows of terraced houses which have depleted as the airport grew up around them. Each abode is the same as the next – but one of them hides a pair of serial killers: Mum and Dad.

Lena is a polish girl who works as a cleaner at the airport. She shares a shift with Birdie, who despite being light-fingered and a gossip, seems likable enough. Birdie introduces Lena to Elbie, her “adopted brother” who is a mute and also works at the airport. At the end of one shift Birdie orchestrates a situation whereby Lena misses the last bus, and insists that Lena comes with her so that her Dad can give her a ride home. Of course this never comes to pass, and after arriving at Birdies house, Lena is bludgeoned and drugged – awakening some time later to the start of a hellish surreal nightmare that she may never survive.

At this early stage in the film’s progression, the viewer could be forgiven for thinking that the plot is setting up a scenario seen regularly in copy-cat films since the success of movies such as Saw and Hostel. Whilst Mum & Dad does not shy away from extremely sadistic and nasty violence, it is not a gore film and instead relies upon creating a horrifically bizarre environment which is ruled over by the most deranged of minds. The fear comes from our empathy with Lena, and our vicarious terror is ratcheted up with every scene in this terrible scenario.

This empathy comes from Lena being a brilliantly written and acted character. For all the budget constraints involved with British independent film-making, it usually excels at the fundamentals – such as writing, acting and characterization. Lena is smart but still bound by realistic human character traits. She does what the viewer would do in many situations, or at least she does not do anything distractingly unbelievable – it’s a nice change from the idiots some mainstream horror would usually have us cheer for, or indeed the heroines who suddenly become almost superhuman when under threat.

Lena is awoken from her drug-induced stupor by terrified howls of pain coming from the adjacent room – several loud thuds later and the screaming stops. The door bursts open and an over-weight man with glasses and mole-like features enters, he is wearing underpants and a vest, clutching a hammer and is covered in blood. A moment later and a tall, thin, well-presented woman with angular features enters through a second door. All three stare at each other intently, until the woman strides over to Lena and states “I’m Mum. He’s Dad. You live with us now!”

It is made abundantly clear that Mum and Dad are serial killers – but very different to each other in their psychopathic tendencies. Dad is a violent sexual predator who likes to murder in fits of rage, whereas Mum is a true sadist who likes to torture with finesse for the physical delight it brings her. Dad enjoys to hack and bludgeon, Mum favors the use of spikes and knives – they are both homicidal lunatics.

Lunatics they are beyond doubt, but within the fortress of their own home they have created a world where their manner of living is completely normal. They acquire “children” and this is why Lena finds herself captive. Her “adopted” brother and sister (Birdie and Elbie) have become totally immersed in this culture and accept it as a standard existence. In one scene the rest of his family patiently wait for Dad to finish pleasuring himself into a hacked off chunk of human flesh before they introduce him to Lena; once he is done, Dad tells her that “family is everything”.

Family breakfast’s see dismembered body-parts brought out for disposal whilst people eat toast. Pornographic movies play on the TV and Dad inappropriately kisses and gropes Birdie (who reciprocates) before settling down with the morning paper. Every aspect of this film superimposes the normal with the deranged, and this unhinged atmosphere is the signature of the movie. This is aided by the stand-out aspect of the production – Perry Benson’s performance as Dad. Benson is a stalwart British actor and carries the film with both his appearance and the portrayal of his character. His hateful, twisted and completely unbalanced delivery is terrifying to behold.

The writer and director of Mum & Dad (Steven Sheil) describes it as “a fucked-up-family film”. Succinct as this summary is, it doesn’t even begin to do justice to the horror of this movie. Lena is completely at the mercy of a matriarch and patriarch whose lunacy now controls her entire existence, if she fits in and does not cause a problem she is told that she will be fine – if not there will be Dad to answer to. “Fine”, of course, in this instance is relative!

The unsettling torment of Lena’s predicament is sharply focused in the knife-edge balance of her captor’s insanity. Using the language of a normal parental unit, the actions of Mum and Dad are starkly juxtaposed. Calling Lena “her angel, sent from heaven” mum inserts spikes through her skin and lacerates her with a scalpel – all the while telling her to keep Mum happy so as not to upset Dad.

Playing it smart and trying to stay on the good side of Mum and Dad until a suitable chance of escape or rescue presents itself, Lena incurs the increasingly bitter resentment of Birdie who dreads the inevitable result of not being Mum and Dad’s favorite anymore. Lena now has to fear her new parents as well as some particularly twisted sibling rivalry as the tension reaches stratospheric levels towards the film’s conclusion.

Mum & Dad was made under Film London’s “Microwave” project, where the budget is capped at a maximum of £100,000. This is a miniscule amount of money on which to shoot a feature and it is to the credit of all involved that what was produced looks and feels like it was shot on ten-times that budget. Moreover, the result was a gripping and terrifying film that exemplifies all that is good about British independent horror cinema. If you want a well crafted horror film that is brilliantly acted, full of threat and tension, claustrophobic, violent and completely deranged – Mum & Dad comes highly recommended.

Ichi The Killer

Posted in Asian Cinema, extreme cinema, horror with tags , , , , , , , on Wednesday, 30 March, 2011 by Ed

Ichi The Killer deals predominantly with the theme of sadism, but in a fun way! This classic from Takashi Miike is extremely violent, but on the whole it is akin to reading a graphic novel more than watching extreme cinema, perhaps telling of its origins in Manga.

Produced around the beginning of the boom period for Asian Cinema (especially, at the time, for Japanese Cinema) the basis of the plot can be condensed down to the following: one gang of Yakuza has their boss kidnapped and will stop at nothing to get him back. Of course being Japanese the film has subplots, bizarre character arcs and a small measure of surrealism thrown into the mix.

At the forefront of the story is Kakihara, leading the charge to find his estranged boss. He does so with an enthusiasm fuelled by his hyper-defined sense of sadism – he has turned the enjoyment of other peoples suffering into an art form. The calm relish with which he absorbs as pleasure the pain he inflicts verges on an addiction.

Kakihara is not without his honour, and is not afraid to embrace the masochism antithesis of his love of sadism. Having tortured the wrong individual for information (a prolonged scene which involves giant fishing hooks and ladles of boiling oil) he volunteers to permanently remove his own ability to indulge his love of sweet food – and does so, graphically – with a sword.

Eventually the titular Ichi enters the fray – murdering the Yakuza as he goes along. He is a repressed, unassuming character which conceals his psychotic mind, martial arts prowess and customised shoes with blades in them! The film twists and coils around bizarre and horrendous scenes towards the final showdown between the sadistic Kakihara and Ichi The Killer!

There can be no doubt that the violence in Ichi The Killer is for the most part cartoonish, albeit graphic and horrific. However Miike does not let the viewer off that easily. There are scenes of disturbing brutality which brings the shock aspect of the film into sharp focus. Even from the very beginning a woman being beaten and abused forces the viewer to question why some portrayals of violence will illicit disgusted laughter – and others a cold, shocked silence.

Perhaps this is commentary on modern society, and if it is specifically on Japanese society it will be difficult for the Western audience to fully comprehend – certainly there were parts of the film that seemed to contain aspects that were elusive. However, it was clear that the influence of sex and violence on society were strong messages – especially the sadism of Kakihara speaking of the enjoyment of violence. Also interesting is the character of Karen – not only given a Western name but also random parts of her dialogue were in English, clearly speaking of the influence (Miike does not suggest for good or for bad) of Western culture and it’s infiltration of Japanese society.

When compared to Takashi Miike’s other offerings, Ichi The Killer is the most enjoyable and satisfying. It contains elements of the bizarre seen in Visitor Q and the sadism in the pay-off in Audition – but blended in a more standard narrative format which is well paced and entertaining. Ichi The Killer is a modern classic, not just of Asian Cinema, but a true cinematic great which will continue to be referenced for its originality and accomplishment for decades to come.

A Note About Censored Films and Spoilers.

Posted in extreme cinema, horror with tags , , , , , on Wednesday, 30 March, 2011 by Ed

It is the view of Transgressive Cinema that films should be viewed in the manner in which the director intended, fully uncut for an adult audience. For this reason all the reviews and articles here relate to the uncut versions in every instance, unless otherwise stated. This is not always easy, and it often means importing discs from abroad – but it is hoped that the readership appreciates the commentary from the uncut source material rather than what is left after the censors have taken their scissors to a movie.

The issue of “Spoilers” is a contentious one. Transgressive Cinema will not become littered with spoiler warnings. Care is always taken to avoid potentially divulging too much information for readers who have yet to view the film being discussed. The policy used is based on a number of factors (which are individually evaluated for each film), such as the age of the movie and the information already available on promotional material and DVD blurbs. The ending or plot twists will never be divulged. Hopefully this common sense approach is proving acceptable, but please do leave comments on this subject if you have a view on it.

It is the intention of Transgressive Cinema to inform and aid the cinematic experience, not to spoil it – so it is important to get the balance right.