Tim & Eric - Father and Son
Every time I think this genius comedy duo must surely be winding down, they come up with a new, mind-blowing slice of pure Ameri-hatred. With no holds barred by the FCC restrictions pinned on their basic-cable Awesome Show, Tim and Eric spun this über-disturbing extended sketch for the HBO comedy program Funny or Die. This is just the kind of content I'm referring to on my personal blog when I employ the phrase, "the horrors of everyday life." Tim plays a widowed slacker Dad, a pizza delivery man, who's inherited Eric, as an overgrown and socially beat-down stepson who plays with toy "whirlybirds." T & E make the viewer squirm without flinching, and even toss in one of their jarring mock commercials for some much-needed comic relief at the very end. A mini-masterpiece.
Handheld POV-camera films having become a horror subgenre unto themselves, the criteria bar is set continually higher for scares, acting, and creepy concepts, and Home Movie delivers like few others of its ilk. A jackass, ugly-American Dad insists on filming every holiday in the household, so caught up in his own bullshit that he's oblivious to the progressive creepiness (and relative silence) of his twin boy and girl. I've always believed obliviousness to be one of life's bigger crimes, and Mom and Dad pay for theirs here in disturbing spades.
Again, more everyday life-horror, not a genre film in the slightest, Crimson Gold is a heartbreaking drama that follows a sad-sack Irani throughout his daily routine of delivering gourmet mini-pizzas to a Whitman's sampler of distressing character types. In a desperate move to raise his station and offer a better life to his fiancée, our lumpy hero courts tragedy and ultimately disaster with an ill-planned heist, in this unforgettable downer of a movie with strong anti-state content, for which the director remains in real-life trouble with Irani lawmakers.
Messiah of Evil
When I think I've pored over every obscure, one-off bizarro horror film Hollywood has produced over the decades, a remarkably off gem like 1973's Messiah of Evil bubbles gloomily to the surface. Eerie synthesizer score-check; normal folks going suddenly mad with bloodlust-check; a Black Albino truck driver that will make your skin crawl-check; weird dialogue and sexual relationships-check; dreamlike, colorful, and haunting set pieces-check, check, check. Messiah of Evil will singlehandedly restore one's faith in obsessive horror-genre caching. The film enjoyed a brief art-house revival this year, and an excellent treatment on DVD reissue.
A discomfiting, high-bar Japanese captivity-and-torture scenario that scores points (with me, at least) for rising above the so-called "torture porn" films, to having an actual point to its existence, coupled with interesting characters, and the requisite high shocks genre films of this type demand. See this post from July, when the film was still very fresh in my mind. Thanks to Eric Ringer of sfindie's Another Hole in the Head film festival for the screener.
This super-satisfying revenge drama (which screened at Hole in the Head 2009) is an instant classic of the genre, following a distressed Australian Dad, a grieving small businessman, on the outback trail, in search of some porn filmmakers who've used his only daughter in one of their grimy productions, and tossed her away to die a slow and degrading death. The Horseman is Soderbergh's The Limey, with power tools, broken bones and buckets more blood.
Another non-genre picture, Gang Tapes (2001) is a handheld POV-camera entry that goes where the camera goes, from hand to hand (and Crip to Crip) until finally winding up in the possession of a young, amateur documentarian (and gang initiate) who breaks up the footage of their gruesome street crimes with loving meditations on his mother. This is pretty much a perfect film (save for the predictable, and perhaps unnecessary ending) that will leave you drained, frightened, depressed and outraged.
Unearthed on DVD by Wild Eye Releasing, Crawlspace (1972) concerns an odd, passively aggressive young man, a gas company employee, who moves in uninvited on a retired couple, who much to our surprise invite him to stay. This household horror/drama, thematically similar to the more well-known Bad Ronald (which it preceded by two years) deals with topics like social psychoses and prevailing loneliness, perhaps surprisingly sensitive for the made-for-TV fare of the era. Brought to you by John Newland, the director that created my favorite made-for-TV horror film, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (which also finally received its long-deserved re-release on DVD in late 2009), Crawlspace reads more like a stage play, and gentle menace hovers, until things go inevitably very wrong with the makeshift family.
I've always thought 1982's Basket Case was a little too silly, too camp and not scary enough for my taste, but Bad Biology, Frank Henenlotter's triumphant 2008 return to features, is a Basket Case-ian take on intense, uncontrollable sexual desire, where the director proves that the ridiculous can still make a grown man shuffle uncomfortably in his seat. The fantastical burdens of being born with multiple clitorises, or a gigantic penis that can't be reined in and eventually detaches itself to take care of business, are addressed here in grisly, latex-effect detail. It's a laugh, to be sure, but one that somehow leaves the viewer feeling dirty and down.
House of Whipcord
The Englishman Pete Walker, like Henenlotter, is another director I've always been iffy on, his signature film Frightmare being an often goofy, gross-out cannibal tale, whose claim-to-fame scene is that of an old woman's withered, hairy lips foaming with human blood. But his House of Whipcord, from 1974, is an outright oddity, a disturbing incarceration-and-torture drama that's as bizarre as the day is long. Marketed deceptively as a titillating sex film in its day, Whipcord deals instead with a band of justice-obsessed rejects, who capture young women, and torture and murder them in an isolated, abandoned prison. The jailers are a very entertaining collection of weirdos, including a humorless, popstar-like androgyne who's used to lure the girls to their fate, a towering matron with sadistic lesbian tendencies, and a blind and bumbling disbarred judge who still believes, at least at first, that he's doing The Queen's (and therefore God's) will. Nicely filmed with a Hammeresque color palette.
alternate --- Paranormal Entity
Yet another handheld-camera documentation of family horror, Paranormal Entity delivers genuine scares and good ideas where its much-hyped and similarly titled cousin gave us cheesy digital effects and tedious, seemingly endless minutes where not much happens. Still grieving over the loss of their father a year earlier, a mother, brother and sister become gradually overtaken by a malevolent, unseen force that enters their lives when Mom tries to communicate with Dad through spirit-writing. The demonic entity has very ill intentions for the family's ripened teenage daughter, and bumps in the night, bloodlettings, and incidents of bizarre sleepwalking abound. Cool and clever where Paranormal Activity was cold and forgettable.
My Castle of Quiet Best of 2010 Music List ---
Grinning Death's Head - No Afterlife | Tinsel Teeth - Trash As the Trophy | T.O.M.B. - Macabre Noize Royale | Octagon - assorted releases | Fluorescent Vibes - GBM | Starving Weirdos - The Path of Lightning 2LP | Haare - assorted releases | OPPONENTS - I Swarm With a Thousand Bees & Psychic Blast Police | Jabladav - Trostlosigkeit & Communion with Mother and Machine | Nurture Abuse - untitled tape | K.P./Dust Belt - assorted tapes | Excepter - Equinox & Presidence | Epileptinomicon - Changeling House Summer | Drunkdriver - s/t LP | Raw Nerve - s/t LP | Vile Gash - s/t 7" | Total Abuse - Mutt | Cornucopia - Ultima | Family Treasures - Altars of Ashes | Enslaved by Owls - VI | Flesh Coffin - Veil of Snakes | Much Worse - Proper Execute 7" | Nonhorse - Subtle Revenge | Slasher Risk - Chillers | C. Lavender - Body Heat | Anthony Saunders/EID - My Castle of Quiet session | Diablo - Hollow Body ltd. CDr | Telecult Powers - Orgone Freakout: A Happening With The Telecult Powers | Decapitated Hed - Isolation Pulse | Sensible Nectar + Gaybomb - Blue Tongue | Bee Mask - Canzoni dal Laboratorio del Silenzio Cosmico | Panther Modern - Last Judgment Machine | Veins - s/t | The Communion - 2010 One Dollar Sampler | Cluster & Farnbauer - Live in Vienna 1980 | Isa Christ - Behold the Man | Kyle Clyde - Beyond the Meniscus | Physical Demon - live in vancouver / 5 / 6 | AIDS Wolf - March to the Sea | Husere Grav - s/t tape on Stunned | Grasshopper - Classic Jazz Moods & A Peaceful Warrior's Guide to Daily Living | Årabrot - Revenge | Village of Dead Roads - Desolation Will Destroy You | Brobdingnagian - s/t CD | aslis/Bob Blaize/Jeph Jerman - Polyphemus | Sick Llama - assorted releases | York Factory Complaint - Sentiment