Friday, January 31, 2014

Accion Mutante (1993): Freaks in a Freak Nation

Accion Mutante (1993)
Dir: Alex de la Iglesia

First films are works of a weird passion. Accion Mutante is no exception. Alex de la Iglesia is a Spanish filmmaker that never quite made the jump from Spain to America due to his weird and culty sensibilities. He made one film in America, Perdita Durango, based off the third novel in the Sailor and Lulu series that began with Wild at Heart, brought to the screen by David Lynch. And, it was dismissed as being too Post-Tarantino.

Accion Mutante was produced by Pedro and Augustin Almodovar, who were in the middle of a weird kinky streak with Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, High Heels, and Kika. And, to top Iglesia's incestuous cult connection off, the special effects team of Accion Mutante had also worked on the special effects of the Jeunet and Caro cult classic, Delicatessan.

Why people haven't touted Iglesia is beyond my comprehension.

Accion Mutante is a genuinely weird film. It's a film made out of three different parts which feels like three different films smashed together. It isn't three films running concurrently, but three different movies one after the other.

The first act establishes the world of Earth, which has been taken up by obsession with looks. Everybody is beautiful, and obsessed with shallow things like clothing, drugs, music, and looks. Accion Mutante opens up with a botched kidnapping that turns to murder of a bodybuilder and his lover by a bunch of incompetent mutants, including a siamese twin, an idiot giant, and a guy with no legs who rides around in a hovering cart.

When their leader, Ramon, comes back out of jail, they attempt another kidnapping, this time of a donut heiress on her wedding day. This time, though the attempt goes haywire, they lose two of their members, and kill countless in the wedding party, they actually do manage to kidnap Patricia, the heiress.

The second act is a spaceship mutiny movie, where Ramon tells the crew the ransom is 10m, but really it is 100m. When the crew finds out the truth on the news, they confront Ramon, which manipulates them, then kills them one by one, as Patricia looks on with her mouth stapled shut.

The third act is a Mad Max rip off on a derelict mining planet, Axturiax, where the ransom exchange is going to take place. This section suddenly has three parallel journeys. One journey is Ramon and Patricia, who find their way to a house where 3 generations of female-starved men take them in, before tying up and raping Patricia while torturing Ramon. The second journey is Alex who is the siamese twin of Juan, who had been killed by Ramon. Alex and his dead twin brother come across a tour guide to take them to the location. The third is Patricia's husband and father who are planning on killing everybody on the planet.

Did I mention that it's a comedy?

The whole movie plays out like a cross between Troma and a Jeunet and Caro film. While the movie periodically has a political bent about looks and the cult of appearance, it never really sticks around long enough to say anything. But, who cares? It's riotous fun, and a lark. Sure, it's the equivalent to a garage band with little production values, and a first album without the polish. But, it is a fun film.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Killer Condom (1996): Gay Horror coming out of the closet

Killer Condom (1996)
dir: Martin Walz

In 1996, gay cinema was finally starting to come into the mainstream, having been led by the 1-2 drag punch of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Finally, emboldened by the success of these 2 drag movies, queer cinema was making its way out of the art house and into the world of the genre.

In America, we saw the release of Bound, and The Birdcage. And, in Germany, Martin Walz made the first gay horror comedy satire that also had origins in comic books, Killer Condom. Based off the comic book of the same title by Ralf Konig, Killer Condom sent up cop movie tropes and horror tropes in a manner not much seen outside of Grindhouses. That it was also a satire of American politics and moralities made it that much more delectable.

Killer Condom is actually a misnomer. The actual title is Kondom des Grauens of Condom of Horrors. The titular condom never kills anybody. It just bites off their cocks. And, the movie delivers on condom violence in the first scene, when a college professor is forcing a student to have sex in the seedy Hotel Quickie, when the condom he puts on bites off his johnson.

Turns out, there was a plague of johnson removal in the Hotel Quickie that night, with four guys getting their penii removed, mostly in front of prostitutes. Detective Mackeroni, a Sicilian gay man played by Udo Samel, a German edition of Bob Hoskins, is on the case as he's a frequent customer at Hotel Quickie, having a predilection for young rent boys. And, while investigating, he picks up a new conquest, Billy...and also has an encounter with the Killer Condom who bites off his right nut while going after his 12+" pecker.

What follows is a send up of every hardboiled cop cliche. Mackeroni can't convince his boss that this is actually all being done by a condom. The boss yells and screams at him. His partner is a mismatched tall, lanky, straight homophobe. Mackeroni has to deal with an old flame, Babette (formerly Bob), who is a drag queen that used to be a cop. Mackeroni also has the new romance with Billy to come to terms with since he has walled off his emotions due to the hard life of New York City. There's even a visiting politician, Dick McGovern, who is a hard right-wing conservative who has flings on his travels, and who loses his dick from a condom that uses a rubber ducky as a diving board.

Then there's the condom itself. A cute white condom that giggles, squeaks, and makes all sorts of adorably humorous sounds, until it turns into a tube with teeth and becomes a grotesque throat of violence. I would be neglect if I didn't mention that H.R. Giger was the Creative Consultant for the film. Yes, that H.R. Giger. Which makes the film kind of beautifully seedy.

What really sets this movie apart from it's usual horror movie is that the morality it espouses is the opposite of the usual horror movie conservative bent. Yes, gays and hookers are punished in the course of the movie, but those punishments are always seen as wrong. By the end, Killer Condom has a pro-gay, sex positive message in the form of a finale sermon. Not only that, it sets itself up against the Religious Right which had been given a voice by the Republicans since the 1980s. Truly, this is a movie that is intended to piss off the homophobes.

Sure, some of the jokes are well-worn, with a setup that recalls the satirical intentions of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. Some of the humor also comes from insider gay knowledge, as in an amazing use of the Hanky Code that heterosexuals may not understand the set up for. And, at 107 minutes it is a bit long in the tooth, even though it's always doing something interesting throughout the course of those 107 minutes. But, gay horror movies have rarely been this much campy fun. And, really, when was the last time you saw a horror movie about condoms that had 2 distinct Hitchcock references, and a scene that was like a more real life scene from Cruising. Fortunately, stateside, Troma was able to see that Killer Condom was actually releasable, and they still have it available.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986): Black Humor Takes Over

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986)
dir: Tobe Hooper

Poor Tobe Hooper. After directing The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he became a hot commodity and got the job directing Poltergeist with Steven Spielberg producing. But, many of the actors and people on set of Poltergeist had constantly accused Hooper of being drunk on set, and Poltergeist being the work of Steven Spielberg taking control.

In any case, Poltergeist was a success, and landed Hooper a 3-picture deal with Cannon, which included Lifeforce, Invader From Mars, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. None of these three were box office successes, especially not on the scale of Poltergeist. Which may have been the Poltergeist curse on Hooper.

In any case, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is Hooper pulling a Sam Raimi and making an explicitly darkly humorous horror movie after an original where the dark humor that was present was buried under oppressive layers of chaos and horror. Sam Raimi went with splatstick in his sequel Evil Dead 2, which was released the year after Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. But, Hooper led the way by making this movie's humor pitch pitch black. It should be telling when a scene where Leatherface uses a chainsaw as a surrogate penis, and he actually has an orgasm, is not the height of absurdity.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 takes place 13 years after the sequel, stating that Texas has been plagued by the chainsaw murders since the original murders took place, but the police, so far, haven't found anything and have disavowed knowledge of the murders. It turns out the family has been driven into an underground bunker in metro Dallas, and Pa is now a maker of the finest chili in Texas, made from human meat of course.

The film opens with a couple of kids wreaking havoc all over Texas' highways until they're killed by Leatherface in a truck. But, they were also harassing a local radio host, Stretch (Caroline Williams as a low-rent Laurie Metcalf), who apparently had no way of hanging up phone calls, who winds up recording their murder.

The case is being followed by Lieutenant Lefty, an ex Texas Ranger, whose nephew had gone missing, but never found. Lefty is played by Dennis Hopper who plays thinly veiled rage until he goes into full on Frank Booth mode by the end.

Lefty and Stretch team up for a game of cat and mouse, and find the lair in some elaborate underground habittrail of bone and wood. Lefty had already bought a pair of chainsaws, and decides to go chopping everything to pieces, while Stretch is romanced by Leatherface, then tortured and chased by the family.

Of course, this all leads to the climax...of DUELING CHAINSAWS!!!  In the '80s, dueling chainsaws were a Thing here in Z-movie land. They popped up in this movie, in Phantasm II, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, Motel Hell, and even Tiger On Beat, a Chow Yun-Fat film. In The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, Dennis Hopper goes up against Leatherface in a rather epic climactic centerpiece that's pure hilarity. I mean, dueling chainsaws with Dennis could you not want to see that.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a movie of two senses. It wants to appease the horror fans who would be turning out, especially if they were fans of the original. It wants to have moments of extreme violence and gore (even if it was severely cut for the original theatrical release) for the 80s, but then Hooper wanted to make a movie that appeased his sick sense of humor. One of the family is a Vietnam vet who has a metal plate in his head, damaged by a chainsaw. Pa rants about property taxes in a satire on what the blue staters think of rednecks. Everything about this film is almost a satire of itself.

Even when Stretch is attacked in the studio, there is a good long sequence of Leatherface sawing the hell out of a tub of ice and beer, before he decides he's in love with Stretch. Meanwhile, his brother won't stop ranting about nothing and everything and is newly exposed metal plate. It's a scene of pure absurd hilarity.

As such, Tobe Hooper was almost just trying to make a buck with this, but he failed in the end. It was wrongfully maligned by the critics, not seen by audiences, and generally ignored for the longest time. It's time for the post-Sam Raimi crowd to see it, and fall in love with the horror comedy edition of Leatherface, before he turned into a drag queen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988): When men gave women chainsaws

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988)
dir: Fred Olen Ray

How many times has it been complained that b-movies of the 80s were always about women getting killed in bloody, gruesome, graphic ways, and they always had a misogynistic point of view? There are always exceptions to that rule, and Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers was one of those very big exceptions.

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers was never a movie that was going to set the world on fire. This was a B-movie made for the grindhouses and VHS set that starred Linnea Quigley, a tiny scream queen. Sending up film noir tropes with self-referential winking, while also blending in horror and plenty of nudity, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers actually has developed a sizable cult following.

The story of Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers follows a hardboiled detective, Jack Chandler, who is looking for a lost teenager from backwoods America. Meanwhile, there is an ancient cult of chainsaw worshipping prostitutes who are killing their clients with wild abandon. And, that's about all there is to Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers. Hookers, nudity, chainsaws, murders, Fox Harris, overcooked hardboiled dialogue, and a climactic chainsaw duel!

When I mention that dialogue, Fred Olen Ray and T.L. Lankford didn't really scrimp on the quotables. "You could have knocked me over with a pubic hair." "The charge? Making McNuggets with a chainsaw." "Just what I need today, a private dick in my face." "Being a dick is a 24 hour a day job."

The dialogue is only matched by the set pieces. There is a chainsaw massacre scene that is all about Elvis. Elvis on the record player. A velvet Elvis painting covered by plastic wrap. A naked woman wearing nothing but a shower cap maniacally wielding a chainsaw chopping up a guy with body parts flying.

And, here's where Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is actually a different movie than most of the other 80s cult movies. The victims in Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers are all men. The killers are all women, though let by The Stranger (played by Gunner Hansen). And, the women are wielding the second-most phallic instrument of death seen on screen (the first being the long drill in Slumber Party Massacre).

By giving women gigantic heavy cocks to penetrate men with, Fred Olen Ray is answering the feminist charges that all horror movies actually are intended to make women out to be victims. Now, the movie is still half a male story, with Jack Chandler taking a good half of the screen time, and being the hero. And, the killers are all under the power of another man, The Stranger, who is the leader of the cult. But, the women aren't the victims in this movie. They're the cock-wielding killers that is normally reserved for men.

Fred Olen Ray is a b-movie director, who works in the same realms as Jim Wynorski and David DeCoteau. Olen Ray even delved into the gay horror genre with the TV series The Lair, though he is straighter than straight. He also, at one point, had his own wrestling league, ACW, and was a wrestler in it. Olen Ray is a card, who knows how tongue-in-cheek his movies actually are. Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers is definitely his idea of satire and subversion, and it works. It pays off in spades.

Required Viewing.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Trapped Ashes (2006): When horror compendiums go wacky

Trapped Ashes (2006)
dir: Joe Dante, Ken Russell, Monte Hellman, John Gaeta, Sean S. Cunningham
wr: Dennis Bartok

This is one of the more peculiar passion projects that I think has ever existed. The movie has one writer, but five directors. And, that one writer was also a credited producer of this film.  The writer? Dennis Bartok. Uh...who?

Dennis Bartok is the son of LeAnn Bartok, who was a conceptual artist and avant-garde filmmaker, at least according to Dennis Bartok. Dennis Bartok is better known as being Head of Programming for the American Cinematheque in LA. He also occasionally appears on AMC's Behind the Scenes. I suspect he's one of those LA types who knows a lot of people and has a lot of stories to tell.

Trapped Ashes is Dennis Bartok's baby. He wrote a horror compendium, a la Tales From the Crypt, only centered everything about the trappings of Hollywood. Then, he hired an assortment of beloved filmmakers to direct each segment.

  • Joe Dante, of Gremlins and The 'burbs, got the wraparound segments. 
  • Ken Russell, Lisztomania, The Who's Tommy, and Gothic, got the first segment "The Girl with the Golden Breasts." 
  • Sean S Cunningham, Friday the 13th, took up the second segment "Jibaku"
  • Monte Hellman, Two-Lane Blacktop and Silent Night, Deadly Night 3, snagged the third segment, "Stanley's Girlfriend"
  • John Gaeta, who had been the visual effects supervisor for The Matrix, wrapped it up with "My Twin, the Worm"
Each and every one of these films had a style that was as diverse as the directors were, even though they were written by the same hand. And, sadly, that hand was ultimately the problem with the movie.

Joe Dante really tries his best with the framing device. The story of the frame is that there is a group of people on a lot tour with Henry Gibson as the tour guide. They enter a haunted house, that has a bunch of movie set tricks, only to discover that they are trapped in the center room, where they must tell their stories to pass the time. And, while I love watching Joe Dante play, he just isn't given enough meat to make the wraparound interesting. Get them trapped and get to the stories.

Ken Russell seems to be having the most fun with his segment, which is totally up his perverse aisle. "The Girl with the Golden Breasts" is about a semi-hot girl who's too old to play young and too young to play old, and too flat to be considered for anything, according to casting agents and her self-esteem. So, she gets new fangled breast implants made of actual meat instead of bags of gel. They are meant to look natural. Only, the breast implants have a problem: they're vampiric. Yes, this is a story about vampiric tits. Really. And, Ken Russell is having as much fun as he's had in years, at least since 1988's The Lair of the White Worm. The lurid tale is told in equally grotesque visuals with effects of particular note. The writing also is less misogynistic than anti-plastic surgery, focusing on the breast implants being evil, but the woman who got them is not. This is, to me, the most fun of the segments.

Sean S Cunningham went the farthest he's ever gone, and the farthest this movie has gone, with his segment "Jibaku." This is a movie that pretends to be steeped in Japanese culture about a married couple, where the wife totally gets it on with a monk who dies and takes her to hell. The husband has to rescue her. The visuals are kind of striking, and the segment delves into necrophilia, but overall Jibaku is little more than shock value and an attempt to use the J-Horror trend that was still hitting hard in 2006 (just before the remake bug would be hitting full force).

Monte Hellman's segment, "Stanley's Girlfriend" is about two friends, split apart by a girl who is a ghost, or something. They used to meet for chess all the time, but then one friend disappears. Or, something. It's a movie that is fascinated with itself, and fascinated with Hollywood. Anybody who is so fascinated with Hollywood that they fetishize it will love this segment, but the rest of us are probably bored stiff.

The final segment by John Gaeta is just a strange mood piece about some girl who gestated while her mother had a tapeworm, and she formed an emotional and psychic bond to the tapeworm. When she was abused, the tapeworm got revenge. Yeah. It's as weird as you think, and as worthless. 

If a movie is only as good as its weakest link, Trapped Ashes is god awful. The stories aren't really scary, and Masters of Horror had already been producing great episodes giving free reign to their horror directors. Joe Dante had great segments both seasons, which were plenty meatier than this work for hire (and, honestly, meatier than his latest full film The Hole). The writing is mediocre at best, in general, and not scary at all.

While Bartok was trying to create a sort of warning about the types of people that Hollyweird attracts, he fails by also including the Japanese segment which has nothing whatsoever to do with LA, it seems. He's also trying to explore the different types of horror, but it doesn't work as well as letting the director's play by themselves, as displayed by the Masters of Horror series (which I cannot recommend enough). In the end, Trapped Ashes becomes a frequently awful trifle.

But, "The Girl with the Golden Breasts" is amazing, and should be a short separated completely from the other movies. Luckily, they placed it first so that you can leave as soon as it is over. Ken Russell showed us his wit one final time.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mysterious Skin (2004): The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Mysterious Skin (2004)
dir: Gregg Araki

Gregg Araki was reeling from the flop of Splendor and a failed television pilot titled This Is How the World Ends. And, after the big cultural "huh?!" to the Teenage Apocalypse trilogy that preceded either, Araki had to redeem himself.

Enter Mysterious Skin, Araki's most mature movie to date. Yet, he did not sacrifice one iota of his confrontational nature to make this harrowing, haunting story of the long term effects of childhood sexual abuse.

Mysterious Skin concerns two young boys. Neil is already starting to become sexually aware at a very young age by discovering masturbation by himself, and by knowing he was already gay. Brian was always a reclusive, nerdy type who was a late bloomer.

At an early age, Neil was groomed to be abused by his baseball coach, and he thought he may have wanted it. Then, Neil and his coach groomed Brian to participate in the sexual play games as well.

Neil would become a colder, distant child who had a personality that would attract who he wanted. He would drink, smoke, do drugs, and participate in sex work in an attempt to fill the vacant hole that has been left in his soul. Brian repressed the whole event, and had blanked out the whole event, attributing it to alien abduction. As an adult, Brian would be searching for the answers to his great childhood mystery.

Brian and Neil circle around each other, until they finally reconnect and everything comes pouring out in a possibly-cathartic reveal of the truth between the boys. Are Brian's or Neil's demons exorcised by this final scene? Araki offers no answers. Whether the boys can figure out that they were damaged and move past it, or if they still retain the cars of too-early sexual experimentation, Gregg Araki doesn't offer any easy answers. He instead merely presents the damage that is done to the boys.

An aspect of the movie is the stories that we tell ourselves in order to function in the world. Neil tells himself, and later Brian, that he was Coach's special boy. He was the favorite, and he was chosen. He was the one who would be over the most frequently, and he participated in the grooming in order to remain the favorite. And, being the favorite special boy made everything better. Brian's brain couldn't handle the sexual nature of the play, and blacked it out, replacing it with a space alien motif. Brian ended up holding on the horror of sexual assault until he was old enough to deal with the ramifications of the assault. He told himself that being abducted by aliens was a better story, even though it was just as damaging and repressed.

Araki doesn't flinch. He doesn't revel in the child molestation as his form of confrontation. There is only one explicit sexual scene, and its a rape scene when Neil is an adult who is hooking in New York City. The child molestation is not meant to be the confrontational aspect of the movie. The post-abuse emotional trauma, however, is Araki's confrontational aspect. He brutes the audience with the internal wreckage that gets externalized throughout the movie. He earns it too.

Mysterious Skin results as Araki's most skilled movie to date. It's observant, touching, and honest. Instead of crafting a movie where the abuser is a demon, he crafts a movie full of humanity where abuse isn't nearly as baffling a concept from the boy's perspective as it usually is. Araki is saying abuse is bad, but he is also saying this is how it could actually happen. For its honesty. For its emotions. For its skill. Mysterious Skin is required viewing.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Beyond Hatred (2005): Removing the Core

The scene of the crime...maybe?
Beyond Hatred (2005)
dir: Olivier Meyrou

In American society, there has been a movement to eradicate the names of the criminals in order to focus on the crimes without creating a cult of celebrity. It challenges that the names of the various killers are more famous than the victims of the crimes, and that the fame that surrounds these claims makes being a criminal more desirable, as the crime will be forever attached to your name.

In Beyond Hatred, Olivier Meyrou has eliminated the last names of the criminals from the crime in order to focus more on the crime and the emotions of the aftermath.

The crime? Three French skinheads killed a gay guy in a park. They beat him severely, mostly in the face, then, thinking he was dead, threw him over a bridge into a pond. The victim was Francois Chenu, age 29.

Meyrou starts the story 2 years after the crime. He doesn't reveal what the crime is for a little while. He doesn't reveal who is speaking, ever. No names or titles are ever used in the film. And, the whole film is designed in order to focus on the family and the aftermath. Meyrou doesn't even focus on the victim, giving his life little more notice than stating he was out and proud, and called his attackers cowards as he was being beaten. There isn't much time for memories. Nor even who Francois Chenu was.

Meyrou nebulizes the case into a generic story in an attempt to make this about every homosexual and every Arab and every non-Skinhead who was ever attacked, beaten, or killed in France. Meyrou is attempting to show the emotional wreckage such a savage crime causes in a family.

Unfortunately, it is somewhat misguided as sometimes you wonder whether the cute guy sitting next to the woman who may be the lawyer is actually Francois' brother. Or, if you're listening to a reporter, a psychologist, or the prosecutor. Sometimes it takes very careful reading (listening if you know French) in order to discern who you are talking to at any given moment, which is completely disconcerting as you miss some of the conversation while you're trying to figure out why this person is talking, and how they fit in.

The crime seemed to be a generic crime. Three skinhead youth out looking for trouble and found it. But, Meyrou isn't concerned about the youth. Nor does he care about their life much, outside from they fell in with the wrong crowd, and one has a couple of terrible parents who also served time because of the crime. Meyrou doesn't care much about the whys of the crime, nor about its continuous proliferation in France.

Instead, Meyrou cares about the family. They tell the stories they have in their head of how the night went. Francois' sister talks about how she received 2 text messages from Francois the night of his death. She talks about how his boyfriend called her that night saying Francois never called, then never came home when he was going to a few days later. I don't think we ever meet the boyfriend either. His devastation is never known. Just the family of Francois.

The final product of Beyond Hatred is supposed to be cathartic and sad. There are several times, moreso early on, where Meyrou has let the long pauses play out to the point where the movie is almost dead. When the sister is describing the crime, there is a full minute where only five sentences are said. Short sentences. Then, there are the heavy handed cues of strings that happen in the first third of the movie that luckily don't carry over into the trial.

Beyond Hatred is a subject that deserves a defter, lighter, touch. How does a family go from losing their child in an act of violence and move past it? Even after the trial has sent away the criminals. Moving past is a necessity, but how? But, Meyrou barely even addresses that, jumping from the end of the trial to 6 months later with an open letter from the parents to the criminals. Of course, that may be because of the parents' wish to not be followed by cameras every few days or weeks, and to grieve in private. Understandable, but the final feature suffers greatly from it.

In the end, Beyond Hatred suffers from pacing problems, a lack of basic understanding on the rules of filmmaking, severe editing issues, talking head syndrome, and a confused focus that doesn't follow through on any of its topics. There are many different approaches one could have taken with Beyond Hatred, but hearing the stories third hand was not the best approach.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Act of Killing (2013): Propaganda vs Truth

The Act of Killing (2013)
(Theatrical Version)
dir: Joshua Oppenheimer, Cynthia Cynn, Anonymous

The art of weaving a believable story is key to holding control of your audience. Whether that be as small as a movie holding its audience, a video game over its players, or as large as a government over its citizens, the art of storytelling is key to controlling the minds of your subjects.

This has been in cultures as early as Egypt and the Mayans, where there was order and human sacrifices. Hitler used it to rally people behind him during his genocide of Jews, gays and dissidents. All western governments have used it constantly. And, in The Act of Killing, Indonesian leadership is using the art of storytelling to gloss over the two year genocide that resulted from military uprisings.

The initial coup that happened is a bit muddled. In The Act of Killing, the titles describe it as a militaristic overthrow of the government, in a full out series of assassinations and battles. But, Wiki describes it as a failed military coup. And, the reality might be a series of planned killings resulted in a more militaristic dictatorship, a la Hitler in Germany.

Regardless of who did what in the beginning, the next two years resulted in government sanctioned militaristic murders of all communists, Chinese-born people, and dissidents. The number killed during the period of cleansing ranged from 500,000 to 2.5m.

What the people ended up believing, though, is that the uprisers were the cruel sadistic ones who killed people in order to overthrow the government. In reality, the government used a group of people who behaved like gangsters and who named themselves after the American term, "Free Man." Oppenheimer has opted to replace all uses of this term with gangster in the subtitles.

The Act of Killing is ultimately storytelling about a story told by storytellers. The whole concept of The Act of Killing is to have the leaders of the killers direct a movie, or at least scenes, based on their participation of the murders. Which leads to scenes such as a heaven where dancers come out of the mouth of a giant fish, and later sing an ode to free men under a waterfall while a chubby guy in glamorous drag looks on. Or, fantasizing the murders as scenes from old gangster movies.

But, that's mainly the conceit that Oppenheimer and Cynn used to get the killers to talk about their favorite subject: their power. They talk about how they exploit their positions of power as leaders of extra-legal killing groups in order to steal from the citizens, and used them to make money. They also talk about how they get to write their own story as they were the victors in the cleansing, and thus they have the power of propaganda. Herman believes that he can get voted into government, become part of the housing commission, and exploit those rules in order to steal more money from the building owners.

The Act of Killing is not a movie about the murders themselves. There are few explicit facts about the whys and wherefores of the 1960s genocide. The Act of Killing is more about intimidation through storytelling. The killers believe they are above the law, and that their identity as killers strikes fear in their neighborhood citizens. Later, they believe that the end result of the film will be that the residents will discover that they were actually the sadistic and cruel killers, and they will revolt. Which, really, seems to be Oppenheimer's ultimate goal.

Did Oppenheimer manipulate anything?  Yes. Hell yes. There is editing choices, interview questions, and even subtitles where Oppenheimer has the chance to manipulate our emotions. By constantly having the killers refer to themselves as gangsters in the subtitles, Oppenheimer is spinning their fantasy into a negative aspect. This isn't to say I support or don't support the killers. This is to say that there are layers of storytelling that aren't even brought up by the documentary.

What is on the surface is deeply fascinating. Though, by the end it starts to feel like Oppenheimer is repeating himself, and the killers are repeating themselves, there is still a version that exists with 40 more minutes in it. The repetition may be due to Oppenheimer having made a 90 minute edition from the 167-minute Director's Cut version (removing 77 minutes!!), and then re-inserted 30 minutes. The editing down took 3 months, but the re-insertion took 3 weeks, and it kind of shows.

This is another form of storytelling manipulation. The 2 hour version is the version on Netflix, but the 2:47 version is only on the physical media edition of the movie. The process of choosing what to include makes the movie subject to Oppenheimer's hand.

The Act of Killing, in the theatrical edition, isn't nearly the masterful version that some people have seen. It is, however, intriguing and delving into the differences between propaganda and truth, and the implications that has around the world. This isn't a movie explicitly about killing, but about the stories about killing. It's that difference that causes The Act of Killing to transcend the traditional documentary format and into the realm of classic.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

eXistenZ (1999): Bleeding Reality

eXistenZ (1999)
dir: David Cronenberg

In Spring 1999, things were OK in America enough to be wondering whether reality was reality. Not that this hadn't been an idea for years, but in mainstream wide-release cinema, this idea hadn't been explored in such techno-garble as in this series of three months.

The first release was in March. It was an Asian-inspired, anime-tinged sci-fi action blockbuster from two guys who had only had one then-little-known film to their credit. Those guys? The Wachowskis. The film? The Matrix. The Matrix posited that people were being used as batteries, and were also being fed a false reality to live in. And there was a real reality where humans were trying to overthrow a computer/robot dictatorship who were harvesting humans. The Matrix was a mega-success, obviously.

The third release, in May, was a remake of sorts. The Thirteenth Floor was an adaptation of the novel Simulcron-3, which had been previously adapted as a German miniseries in 1973 as World on a Wire (original: Welt am Dracht). The Thirteenth Floor concerned a 1999 company who has created a simulation of 1937 Los Angeles. The people in the 1937 simulation figure out that they are a simulation, then the 1999 simulation discovers the same thing. Then it pops up to 2024, which may be a simulation as well. The Thirteenth Floor made a modest $15million.

In between the two was a little-advertised, wider released, art house movie from the director of The Fly, Videodrome, Naked Lunch, and the j.g. ballard adaptation Crash (not to be confused with the race-baiting Oscar-winning Crash). In April, David Cronenberg released eXistenZ, a movie about people who put themselves into alternate realities of other people's creations and lose track of their own. For a wide variety of reasons, eXistenZ made only $3m, but developed a cult following.

While the movies all deal with alternate, techno-realities bleeding into reality, and the question of what reality is anyways, ultimately they all have widely different approaches. The Matrix was all about humanity being forced into a techno-reality. eXistenZ is about people who willingly enter techno-realities in order to escape their real life. And, The Thirteenth Floor is about people who make techno-realities and techno-people in those techno-realities.

In eXistenZ, David Cronenberg begins the movie at a marketing event for a new game system, the titular eXistenZ. The game system is a fleshy pod monster with nobs you touch in certain ways to make it squirm and wiggle. The system is plugged directly into your body via umbilical cords that plug into bio-ports which have been inserted into the spine of the game players. Just as the game is beginning, a psychotic person from an underground Realist movement pulls out a gun made of flesh and bone, and shoots the game designer with a tooth.

From there, eXistenZ is a video game road trip with the game designer, Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and a marketing guy, Ted Pikul (Jude Law). Allegra insists she has to port into her pod with somebody friendly to make sure the game isn't damaged, but Ted doesn't have a bioport. They have a series of encounters trying to get Ted a working bio-port, and then enter eXistenZ, the game. eXistenZ, the game, is blatantly styled after a game, with characters going into game loops, terrible characterizations, and quirks like being able to pause the game.

This game of eXistenZ has a goal of either saving or destroying the plant where they make more game pods, and deciding who is double crossing who and whether you want to be part of a inside-a-game Realist movement.

Once the game of eXistenZ seems to be over, there is a war outside the chalet where Allegra and Ted had been plugged in, and she defeats an opposing manufacturer. And then we're popped out to a previously-unseen reality where all the actors in the film have been plugged into transCendenZ, a video game with reality-based hardware. Allegra and Ted were just playing a game, and then they shoot the marketers of transCendenZ, screaming the victory call of eXistenZ in the name of a realism movement, and then nobody knows if they're in reality or in another game.

Much has been made about how games with a high enough factor of realism causes somebody to lose track of their reality thinking the whole world is a game. Or, about how Cronenberg was making a movie that was very much about body parts, invasion, penetration, and anal sex (without there being any actual sex in the movie).

Another layer that Cronenberg added was that this was a post-modern critique of video game story lines, and of itself. There are hints all over the place, including the tooth gun, that this isn't reality. But, he hammers it home when Jude Law makes a pointed remark asking whether Allegra things they can get a bioport at midnight at the local Country Gas Station, and the next shot is of a full-service gas station with the name "Country Gas Station." This simultaneously points out the obvious mundanity of some of video games' naming tropes (latest example is in Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds, where a bee guy's house is marked by a gigantic fucking bee on the front of the house), while also poking fun at itself for doing the same.

Throughout, Allegra is making comments about the characters being flat, having terrible arcs, and what reality actually is. It is a movie as a video game commenting on video games as movies. Increasingly, in the world of video games, things were still being pushed for more and more cinematic stories and more and more realism. One could look at the Trilobyte or Tex Murphy or Phantasmagoria series of games where filmed actors were integrated into computer generated sets in order to give the game a more cinematic feel.

As with computer games, the victims trapped within the realities of transCendenZ are willing victims who are testing out their next purchases. They are willingly subjecting themselves to these bleeding realities created by other people, if only for 20 minutes, or a few hours, or several days. Unlike World on a Wire, The Matrix, The Thirteenth Floor, or even Inception, the society losing their grip on their reality in eXistenZ are paying to enter these alternate realities. The society of eXistenZ leads more naturally to the society of Her, where our dreams and alternate people are marketed to us. The consciousnesses of the OSes in Her could be compared to The Thirteenth Floor consciousnesses which have been created in the simulations. But the consumers who are also losing themselves with these non-people are willing to do it. What Cronenberg is positing is that we are willingly going to march ourselves into a world lacking in reality, even as our subconscious is trying to make non-organic things like video game systems into organic ones in order to ease our mind about losing reality.

Ultimately, eXistenZ is a niche movie aimed at a then-increasingly-less niche market. It criticizes as it indulges, and is as modern as one could get. Characters criticize on themselves, and the world around them, and they have non-sex with technology. eXistenZ may still be eons away, but as a critique on the world at large, it is an especially condemning one. That it does it in a wild style of suspense thrillers, makes it a hilariously easy pill to swallow.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Twixt (2012): Manipulating with Tragedy

Twixt (2012)
dir: Francis Ford Coppola

While I haven't seen every Francis Ford Coppola movie since Apocalypse Now, I still assert that Coppola lost his way after that movie. The film shoot caused him to sort of lose his mind, and he never made a movie deserving of the same level of accolades.

Twixt is no exception. Coppola has been seriously unbankable since his ill-timed The Rainmaker, which came after audiences had been burned by one-too-many terrible John Grisham movies, and also by Jack and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Since The Rainmaker in 1997, Coppola has made only 3 movies, all self-financed, low-budget, and completely self-indulgent.

Twixt is the latest of these trifles from Coppola. In Twixt, Coppola displays all of the skill of a low-budget first feature, with all of the passion of a dead fish. Twixt isn't just terrible. It's terribly mediocre. But, what's worse is that Coppola has decided to use his own personal tragedy as a dare to get anybody to say something bad about the movie. It feels emotionally manipulative and quite irritating.

The following review will concern spoilers in order to discuss the personal tragedy at hand, and show how manipulative it actually is.

Twixt concerns Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer), a novelist who is now flopping after a few best sellers. Early in the film, he's called a bargain basement Stephen King. Hall stops in to a town for a book signing, for some unknown reason, as they don't have a bookstore, and he apparently did not read that the name of his stop was a hardware store. Or, something. I guess hardware stores have signings of bargain basement authors?

Hall is now an alcoholic, following the death of his daughter in a boating accident. The nature of the accident is revealed in the climax, where the daughter couldn't rouse Hall after an evening of drinking. But, he allowed his daughter and her friend to go boating, though he claims he didn't know it was speedboating. During their boating adventure, the driver navigates between two slow boats, but notices there is a towline and is able to duck in time. But, the daughter is not so lucky and dies.

In reality, in 1986, Francis Ford Coppola lost his son Gian-Carlo Coppola in a similar accident. Except, Gian-Carlo was 22 at the time. The friend Gian-Carlo went boating with was Griffin O'Neal, son of Ryan O'Neal, and star of FFC's then-filming movie Gardens of Stone, where he was later replaced by D.B. Sweeney (who is most known as the hockey player in The Cutting Edge). Francis Ford Coppola could be saying he's an alcoholic, and he does have a winery with a massively ornate entrance in Napa.

This mourning and death is only the emotional static of the real movie, in which Hall Baltimore navigates a dual world of reality and dreamscape. In reality, the town is divided by a river. One group is made of good backwater Christians, and the second group is a bunch of gawths who could be vampires. The second group totally brings to mind the South Park episode "The Ungroundable" where you keep expecting the goths to shout "We're fucking goth. Not douchey vampires!"

Apparently, the Christians and the Vampgoths are at war for the souls of the abandoned children and runaways, because a town of like 100 people would have so many of them. And, it seems that they, at one point, had 13 children who were once under the care of a molesty priest. But, the children rebelled and decided that maybe goth was better, and so the priest killed them all before they could escape his grasp. Except one.

That one comes to Hall in his dreamscape and tells him the history of the town, and asks him to solve the mystery in public. Even though she knows the whole story. She introduces herself as V. Or, Virginia. Or, maybe Vampira. Yeah. I didn't make this up.

There's also the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe, who haunts the dreamscape because he once slept in a hotel where there was once a murder years after he slept there. And, maybe because Hall pours whiskey on the plaque proclaiming this bit of ridiculousness.

As a final touch, there's a clocktower with 7 faces, none of which tells the correct time. Because the devil is in the clocktower. The devil causes Hall to confront his own guilt towards his daughter's death.

Oh, and one can't forget the Skype calls from Hall's wife where she is trying to sell his copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass because he can't make any money from not writing anything. And, they need to pay bills.

In the end, the whole movie is actually the manuscript for Hall's next book, or something like that. Whether it is reality or fiction is left up in the air. But, it is the final revelation of stupidity.

There might have been a good movie about the bleed between dream worlds and reality somewhere in Twixt. Dual worlds are sources of good movies, and video games. But, this isn't a good movie, and makes an almost mediocre video game.

Which makes sense, as Twixt was originally supposed to be a grand experiment by FFC in real-time editing with <a href="">Audience interaction</a>. In order for all the information to eventually be pieced out, and scenes to be pulled in and out, everything has to be kind of emotionally flat and generic, so that one scene doesn't affect the next scene too much. But, it doesn't have to be this deliberately cheap and terrible. Edgar Allen Poe's face as a moon, for example. Bad cinematography. The hoary Christians vs Goth cliche. The dead end of the devil in the clocktower (presumably a metaphor about losing track of time while an alcoholic).

But, then it is also a blatantly ugly film. Not ugly in the intentional sense, but amateurly ugly. It was also originally supposed to be a movie that was partially in 3D, though now its all been flattened to 2D. One of the ways that Coppola made it 3D was he filmed the background on one layer, but then filmed the actors on another. OK. But, the actors never felt like they were part of the same scene as the background. If you've ever watched the deliberately cheap movies, like The Room, where the actors are in front of a blue screen, and you can tell they are, then you know what I'm talking about. Nothing looks natural. And then Coppola manipulates the colors in the dream world in a manner that is like a blunt version of the red dress in Schindler's List.

In the end, Twixt is nothing more than self-indulgence at its worst. A cheap story told by an old storyteller who has lost track of his how stories were created. As well as the alcoholic story within the movie, and Coppola has made a terribly dull and unwatchable film that reveals how much contempt he has for his audience. His use of personal tragedy in such a manipulative manner dares the audience to say it was terrible. Or, if it was to be a tour, it would also be a form of masochism in reliving his son's death every night. Maybe that's why it felt so cheap. He couldn't deal with it. And, now he's asking us to watch how distanced he is.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Upside Down (2012): When good ideas go nowhere

Upside Down (2012)
dir: Juan Diego Solanas

Upside Down is the most innovative, dazzling, crazy, daring movie that is just so vapid, vacant and facile. This is a recipe for disaster of epic proportions.

I don't pull the Showgirls comparison often, but I think that Upside Down suffers from many of the same problems that Showgirls suffers from, and is actually almost as terrible because of it.

Juan Diego Solanas, the writer and director of Upside Down, had a lot of intelligent ideas that he wanted to cram into one epic easy-to-swallow allegory. He created a world of two planets in perpetual synchronization, about 60 stories from each other, or less. The planets each have their own gravity. One planet has developed into a richer, high-income, planet generally referred to as "Up There." The other planet has developed into a slum that is exploited by the businesses from "Up Above." The poor planet is generally called "Down Below."

This is all fine and dandy, being a full on easy allegory making a metaphor for right and wrong side of the tracks. Then, Solanas wanted to further the allegory about the immobility of people among socio-economic statuses. The poor can't become rich, and the rich can't become poor. The metaphor he uses comes in the form of the three rules of the dual planet. This is where it starts getting silly:

  1. All matter and people are pulled from their planet of origin. So, a person born Up Above is beholden to the gravity of Up Above, even as they dally in the world of Down Below.
  2. An object's weight can be offset by using matter of the opposite origin (inverse matter)
  3. After a few hours of contact, matter in contact with inverse matter (and vice versa) burns.
The movie destroyed the laws of physics in order for Juan Diego Solanas to create an comically allegorical world. He wanted to create a world in which the rich do not communicate with the poor except as exploiter/exploited, or management/worker. In the process he also created a system of rules which lead to stunning visuals, such as the "0" floor of the Transworld tower, which bridges the two planets, which has desks on both the floor and the ceiling for their respective employees.

We're still in the world of Gulliver's Travels style allegory. Rules are actually thinly veiled pointed metaphors for socio-political realities. If we had stayed here, it may have been more sensible. But, Solanas wasn't satisfied yet. 

The story of Upside Down is two young romantic leads from either world trysting on two mountains where the worlds are only about 30 ft away. Adam is the poor boy from Down Below, and Eden is the rich girl from Up Above. But, due to the rules, the government and Transworld (the universe's corporation) won't let the two societies fraternize. Eden is injured during a raid, and Adam's aunt's house is burned down with his Aunt Becky killed in the raid for Adam's discretions.

Aunt Becky had been teaching Adam about a special powder/honey that is created by bees in the field near this mountain. This powder is developed by bees that don't really belong to either world, and use material from both worlds. So, the pink powder also belongs to both worlds, and can be used to create illegal tasty floating pancakes.

Yeah, you read that right. A plot point is actually floating pancakes.

As adults, Eden becomes a graphic designer executive for Transworld, while Adam is working to create a facelifting cream to eliminate aging made from the special powder of the floating pancakes. See, Aunt Becky knew what she was doing. Adam, seeing Eden on a television show which used a game show to hire a new graphic designer (making a metaphor of how big a role luck and timing can play in getting hired by big corporations), gets hired by Transworld, and then conspires to see Eden even though it is forbidden.

That's just Act 1. It's a mixture of highly intelligent and highly inane, but all in a dedicated batshit crazy manner. But, really, that's where all the intelligence stops. All of this highly intelligent metaphorical setup is mainly to create a world full of flashy visuals and grand ideas, such as the rich taking a cable car to a restaurant called Paradise built on Down Below, so they can drink from upside down glasses, and dance on the ceiling. Apparently fluids that originated on Down Below actually are pushed down the gullet by an Up Above person, even though one would think that the fluid would rise up in their throat. But, its still an amazing visual.

We're told at the beginning of the movie that through the romance of these two people, the dichotomy of the worlds is destroyed by the romance of Adam and Eden. And, the change from their romance to the equilibrious finale is extremely rushed, not to mention inane and completely idealistic. It doesn't stem from any sort of rioting or overthrow. Instead, its all about that powder. And, so, everybody becomes equal. Or, something. It's really bad.

Which brings us back to the Showgirls comparison. Both Verhoeven and Solanas believed that they were creating Important works that pointed out the harshest truths of society. And, both believed they were creating highly intelligent works. Both show a high level of dedication to their movie, and both have an amazing visual flair that is both stunning and daring. 

But both Showgirls and Upside Down ultimately fall flat in their intention of showing the world as it is. Both scripts suffer from a severe lack of point or intelligence. The acting is mediocre at best in both movies. And, they both strain credulity and believability. 

Unfortunately, Upside Down isn't nearly as offensive and quotable as Showgirls, lacking in verbal one liners to endlessly quote and guffaw at. But, the visuals are breathtaking, and practically their own one-liners. Such as a meeting between Adam and his new boss, where he sits in a solo chair that has to be extended from the ceiling to have an upside down meeting face to face. Or, an image of running with shoes on fire from the burning that happens due to inverse matter and matter contacting each other.

Upside Down is remarkably visual, with stunning special effects. It is breathtakingly original, and has a lot on its mind. Ultimately, however, it loses sight of its goal, and becomes an inane romance with little on its mind besides getting the couple to meet in the final reel. The final result is a singularly insane romance which is a definite social satire and allegory that does nothing with any of the story elements it creates. It's highly recommended simply due to unbelievability and ridiculousness. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In the House (2012): Implicating the Consumer

In the House (2012)
dir: Francois Ozon

Implicating the consumer in the exploits on screen is nothing new. Michael Haneke did it with Funny Games. Oliver Stone did it in Natural Born Killers. Paddy Chyevsky was doing it a bit in NetworkThe Truman Show and EdTV both did it to certain degrees. Even Joss Whedon got in the game in 2012's masterful The Cabin in the Woods.

Even making the consumer a character in the show is nothing new, as Statler and Waldorf represented the audience and critic in The Muppet Show. In this light, there is little new in Francois Ozon's In the House, based on the Spanish play The Boy in the Last Row. Ozon manipulates the play to indict his audience of soap opera melodrama, as well as the writer of the melodrama.

In the House tells the story of a teenage student, Claude, who claims to be poor and without a mother figure. Claude writes a serial for his English teacher, Germain, about Claude infiltrating the middle-class home of a fellow student under the auspices of helping the fellow student with his math homework. While infiltrating, Claude makes observations on the family, and even falls in love with the mother of the house.

However, Ozon manipulates the movie to have it be told through the eyes of Germain, who reads the story and gets caught up in the serial to the point of stealing math tests for the student in order for him to seem successful in his tutoring and he can continue through the house. Really, if not for Germain as the audience, the story would not be written, and the infiltration might not be what it is.

The other issues that Ozon ostensibly raises are class issues, emotional issues between parents and children, and "what is art?" In fact, "what is art?" is given as much credence as implicating the audience as Mrs. Germain runs an unsuccessful art gallery that shows po-mo art such as clocks that have 13 numbers on it, or blow up dolls with faces of dictators pasted on.

In the House feels exactly like Ozon is answering his critics who may say he's just a dealer of dreaded soapy melodrama which could either be ironically condescending, perverse, absurdist, or purely observational. It's American brethren is Storytelling, the 2001 movie by Todd Solondz. But, instead of just having the critic/audience be a cameo by Franka Potente, Ozon makes the whole movie through the eyes of the critic/audience.

If not for the critic and audience, the story would not happen. In fact, the critic may even shape the story to a point. By critiquing the storyteller, the next chapter is thus influenced by the critic, even as it destroys the critic. Because the critic is a talentless hack who only knows how to critique, not how to create.

Ozon maintains his usual deft hand of being slyly ironic and sneakily witty in order to make one of his most compelling and subtle social satires in years. It's more developed and creative than Sitcom, and shares more of a tonality with Swimming Pool, where fiction and reality clashed in a schizophrenic murder mystery of fun and eroticism. In the House is actually his most successful film since Swimming Pool, and it feels more self-assured than Ozon has felt in years.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

We Were Here (2011): AIDS epidemic, in the personal

We Were Here (2011)
dir: David Weissman

In 1987, Randy Shilts published the landmark book And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic. Shilts' book documented the first five years of the AIDS epidemic in excruciating detail, taking care to make it as personal as it was political, and as intimate as it was broad. And, while Shilts' book has some problems with it, it is as angry, moving, emotional and personal as an AIDS document needs to be.

Since the release of And the Band Played On, there have been AIDS documentaries, and almost every gay documentary about the 80s have dealt with AIDS due to its significance. We Were Here retells the story of And the Band Played On, but on an even more personal level with more of a focus on San Francisco and the Castro district. David Weissman conducts a series of interviews with five survivors, rewinds a little bit, then fires the emotional cannon through the 90s.

Weissman's interviews are well chosen. A nurse who was conducting some of the first clinical trials, an artist who had been leading through community efforts and was one of the first to find out he was poz, a florist, a high profile political activist, and a guy who became an emotional support volunteer. They present the various efforts that came together at the time. Volunteers, community activists, national activists, medical, and the support. The only person missing is the lesbian activist, since they have been the undertold story of support and deserve to have their story interweaved with the gay male story. Alas, they just get lip service in the course of the interviews.

Weissman edits together the interviews in a streaming tale, and includes footage and photos from the 80s and 90s. This ranges from news reports about Kaposi's Sarcoma to showing the pages of the issue of Bay Area Reporter where they dedicated a whole section to just images of the people that were lost to AIDS that year to home videos to the AIDS quilt and candle light vigils.

What makes We Were Here successful is that it consciously walks the same line as Shilts' novel, balancing between the political, the occupational, and the personal. At one point, the interviewees could be talking about the community efforts in San Francisco, and the next struggling to hold it together when they remember the month where one guy lost a good friend, his partner, and then his best friend. The footage used reminds us that this happened to people outside these interviews, and the scale at which it happened.

AIDS hasn't gone away. But, in the media, AIDS has been reduced to "gay diabetes" as one wag reductively put it. Wake up, take a pill cocktail and you're fine. And, the rates of infection are climbing again. The CDC reported that from 2008 to 2010, rates of new infection among homosexual men increased by 12%, from 26,700 to 29,800. New infections. Per year. And, that the majority are among the youth who have seen the effectiveness of the chemical cocktail and have taken less precautions than the older generation who survived with it.

In the past year or so, PrEP has taken hold of the community. So, the uninfected community takes a new drug to prevent infection, akin to women taking birth control. This is a new development, which came around after We Were Here was released. The effectiveness or moral or pharmaceutical implications of this development are not going to be argued here. This is a film review, ostensibly. But, it is a part of the story that is still marching forward.

And, I guess this hits a little close to home this money. Last month, I spent some time in Palm Springs, where I spoke with a guy who had lived through the crisis, and seemed to be haunted by it, and maybe even a little self-destructive still. He's not the only one who has seemed haunted by the AIDS epidemic. In this haunted way, we need to retell the youth about the stories. The initiatives. The action. But, more importantly, the heartache and the loss. While this is just a chapter of the gay community, it continues to reverb 30+ years after it started.

While We Were Here in no way supplants And the Band Played On, it feels like both a Cliffsnotes edition, and a sociological addendum to the book. It feels like the footnotes that should not be dismissed or forgotten. And, since most youth will not read a 650+ page dense as hell book that is almost exclusively loss and rage about disease, We Were Here elevates to new required viewing, even if it doesn't pack the wallop as some of the emotions have been dulled by time.

Required Viewing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006): Boring the formula

Hey Token. You know you're going to die, right?
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006)
dir: Jonathon Levine

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is another throwback to the 80s slasher genre. It's a bunch of teenagers who go to a ranch, and then are stalked and murdered. Any viewer who has seen a movie can tell who the killer is from the beginning of the movie, and Levine doesn't stray from what you expect. At all.

Levine opens All the Boys Love Mandy Lane with Mandy coming back to school now fully matured, and she turned into a major hottie. She is invited to a house party where she is sexually harassed, to be defended by her best friend Emmet, who also convinces the harasser to kill himself by doing an impossible jump from the roof. Whee.

At the end of the school year, Mandy has fallen in with the crowd and Emmet is now on the outs. Mandy and her crowd go to one of their friends' ranch to drink, do drugs, and fuck while the parents are out, and they're being kind of looked after by the help, a hunky ranch hand played by Anson Mount.

The friends are generic as all hell. You have the drug addicted mean girl who calls her friend fat. The slutty girl who wants to fuck everybody. The kind of stoner. The black guy. And the insecure harasser. They're obvious stereotypes and cliches, who serve as nothing but fodder characters to be killed like the cattle the ranch hand talked about killing.

There is very little to the death sequences, and one is left with a feeling of extreme boredom. The tension isn't in the order of who is getting killed (it is kind of expected) nor in the method of murder (guns, fireworks, etc). Which leads one to wonder, what is this movie? It doesn't do anything better than Friday the 13th, not exactly a high bar to set. Hell, even the kids play Truth or Dare instead of strip Monopoly.

The only thing that could be mildly interesting is the expected twist at the end. And, really, that's just to add on a bit of misogyny that the movie had only been hinting at before by making all the non-Mandy Lane characters into mean girl cliches.

Yet, oddly, the movie is intriguing on an academic level instead of an emotional level. What is a horror movie with no interesting kill scenes, no tension, and a killer you expect?  It's just a drama of sorts. The use of the formula into one of the dullest horror movies in awhile makes All the Boys Love Mandy Lane more interesting than an average use of the formula, as it questions what you're watching and why it isn't working.

But, it still doesn't work and probably will never work.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Stitches (2012): The Comedy of Violence

Stitches (2012)
dir: Conor McMahon

When one thinks of blackly comic clown movies, mostly the movies are bleak and full of loathing. Clowns in cinema have become symbols on which to hang ironic situations that destroy ones love of life and/or humanity. Shakes the Clown, and Vulgar, for instance, are two clown movies which are unrelentingly bleak and darkly funny through pessimistic means.

Stitches opens with the titular clown fucking a woman in a trailer, giving a nod to the common type of movie where clowns are put upon poor people who, through their desire to make people laugh, have lost all semblance of humanity in themselves. The next scene, a child's 10th birthday party, further emphasizes this type of reading, right up until Stitches is killed by the children on accident.

At this point, Stitches ceases with the typical bleakness of a clown's life, and becomes about guilt and redemption after a murder. 6 years later, the same child is having his 16th birthday party, and now it is time to pay the piper, as Stitches comes back to life seeking vengeance on those who murdered him.

The thing to remember when watching Stitches is that it seems to want people to think it is a horror movie, but it seems to be a complete and utter comedy, especially when Stitches is on screen. The killer clown scenes are filled with unbelievable levels of violence and gore, and it is when Stitches is around that the movie actually is kind of funny.

Despite Stitches' obvious low budget, McMahon actually crafted some spectacular and memorable kill scenes. Every now and then, Stitches even achieves the visceral reaction that makes somebody squirm pleasantly while watching the teenager be murdered. When it isn't attempting to be visceral, Stitches is aiming for spectacular. Frequently, McMahon shoots the blood splatter in slow-motion against stark black backgrounds, as if it was a special effect horror edition of Time Warp.

The movie doesn't hold enough actual interest in it to make it a good or great movie. There is little tension, and the wittiness is pretty much kept to Stitches and his murder scenes. Throughout the remainder of the movie, the wit is sorely lacking (e.g. Oh, look, the not-so-fat gay fat kid is gorging himself on cans of strawberries!  HAR HAR!!), but it's never quite dull enough to quit the movie.

Who will like Stitches? The gorehounds and the easily amused. It's not gory in a realistic sense, but there is enough blood to be quite fun. And the jokes are witty enough to give it a pass. If you fit into neither of these categories, and also were looking for something high tension, you might be bored silly. But, for those in these categories, there is probably a lot to love.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Just a brief note saying The Other Films will be on vacation for this week to edit some of the past posts of December. We will return next week on January 13th with some weird, wonderful films.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Best and Worst of 2013 (that I've seen)

Since I'm not a professional film critic (yet), I haven't yet seen a lot of the movies I suspect I will love.  Inside Llewyn Davis and The Act of Killing, for example. Of the movies I have seen, only 2 really stick out in my memory as the best.  I saw both of the movies in the first half of this year.  That I remember these two movies so strongly over stuff like Blue Jasmine and Monsters University, both of which I saw in the fall, tells me that these two movies are the pinnacle of what I've seen.

The first isn't actually from 2013.  It's from 2014, and I saw it at a film festival.  Cheap Thrills. I'll rant more about this next year when it actually does come out, but...goddammit I really really fucking want to see this movie again.  No recent movie has made me feel so electric, exhilarated, grossed out, dirty, enlightened, and terrified in one single cinematic experience.  Just...release the damn thing already, Drafthouse!!! (Current date: March 21, 2014)

The second is no less an assault on your mind.

Best of 2013 (so far)
Spring Breakers
While I haven't seen many movies that I suspect that I will like, or even love, it is going to be hard to top this gonzo balls-to-the-wall assault on the pop culture that the conglomerates are selling to your kids. Keep in mind: Spring Breakers is, hopefully, not a timeless movie. Spring Breakers is a film that is pointedly set in the immediate now. It is a movie about the cultural movements that started as far back as 1973's Badlands and have since been commodified, exploited, idealized, and sold as the youth movement milieu by corporations to create a culture of hedonism and sociopathology.

There are images that will sear into your brain from Spring Breakers. Girls in bikinis wearing neon ski masks ransacking small town diners in horrific ways. The hilarious fear of the black man at the post-arrest party while they had been co-opting the very culture these men created...then finding safety and solace in the very white James Franco.  James Franco and the girls singing Britney songs while playing a grand piano. The whole shoot up.  Harmony Korine does something he has never managed to do for me: he has created memorable images of the American culture in a way that makes me feel simultaneously in awe and disgusted. Previously, he has tried to craft images that were supposed to be skin crawling, and instead I walked away snoozing.  But, Spring Breakers finds Korine as his visually poetic best, even as he's channeling the aesthetics of Terrance Mallick on ecstasy and LSD.  That Spring Breakers is also about girl power (one of the more recent commercial commodities), also endures to many of the best symbols of women with cocks I have ever seen.

But, most of all, Spring Breakers is a toxic heady potion that is meant to disgust you even as it entices. It's the present day, real life, equivalent of Pinocchio's Pleasure Island sequence, only as a full movie. And, without any of all that preachy let-me-spell-this-out-for-you messaging to get in the way. It's meant to be enticing and dangerous and nauseating and dreamy and alluring and disgusting. Spring Breakers is a venus fly trap of a movie that will pull you in with its commercial intents while simultaneously trying to scream at you how gross it all is.

With the visuals, the acting (Franco is a powerhouse), the methodology, the entertainment, the messaging, and just the balance of it all, Spring Breakers is my favorite of 2013.


My worst of 2013 is more equivalent to my most hated movie of 2013. It isn't necessarily the worst, just the movie I am most distraught over. There are only two movies that pissed me off this year: Monsters University, and Gravity. These are movies where I expected the best, and I got something rotten in return...for very different reasons. The thing is, these aren't the worst movies of the year. There are faaaaarrr worse movies this year, like either of Tyler Perry's movies (especially Temptation of a Marriage Counselor), or any number of bombs I haven't seen that I expect that I'll hate. But, those movies didn't set me up as these will be something great and they failed. Those movies were low-ambition, low-execution movies that just failed because they were always meant to fail. Whatever. But, then there is Monsters University and Gravity, both of which had potential, and both of which pissed me off something fierce.

Most Hated of 2013

Monsters University
Pixar, Pixar, Pixar. What are we going to do with you?

At this point, you may have grown too big for your britches. While Monsters University sounded like a dubious film just from the title, it did have promise. Something heartfelt, comedic, and set in college. Fresh and out of the box. There were various stories that could have come together.

What I didn't expect was a reimagining of Revenge of the Nerds. While there are trends and tropes in the various other films Pixar has created, this is the laziest, most formulaic trope-tastic film I think they could come up with for a "how did these guys meet" story. It's something I expect from Dreamworks, not Pixar.

And, it wasn't very funny. Or entertaining. Or, emotional. Or, challenging. It just was. And, that's one of the most damning things about Monsters University. It just was. It was almost as lazy as Cars (which was a passion project that got out of control).

It isn't a terrible movie, either. It's humorous and semi-well directed. But, it's so tired and lazy that it really makes one cry. I have nothing intelligent to say about this movie because it seems so trite.


Never has a movie with such promise delivered so little. Not since Avatar has a movie with so little meat duped so many people. This is a sexist video game of a movie that is pretending to be about depression. Because it is acting like it is such an earnest (which is a popular theme in this year's critical darlings) film, critics and hipsters gobbled it up. All it is is watching a suicidal female flounder through a video game set in outer space for 90 minutes before reaching an end screen.

That's it.

That's all there is to Gravity.

Sure, it's pretty and enormous and breathtaking in its visuals. But, counteracting that are physics errors galore, a unnecessarily overt musical score that pulls you out of the movie at every chance it gets, an obnoxious Sandra Bullock, no plot development, shittastic dialogue, and the weakest female character ever to be embraced as a feminist icon.  This is a woman who had to hallucinate the voice of a male mentor (read: father figure) in order to NOT KILL HERSELF.

Gravity is a waste of celluloid, since you could get the same breathtaking visuals by watching IMAX educational films. AND, you'd get correct physics. And, it would be about something. And, there are strong female characters in the IMAX educational films.

To say that I don't get it is an understatement. To say that this movie actively pissed me off while watching it is an understatement. This movie isn't terrible. And, that's the problem. It's well-constructed and visually stunning outside of the score, acting, plot, dialogue and sexism. And, it would seem a better movie should come out of that. But, it's just fucking Gravity.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Kaboom (2010): The Flawed Uprising of the Millennials

Kaboom (2010)
dir: Gregg Araki

Did I say that Nowhere marked the end of the Teenage Apocalypse trilogy? AHAHAHAHAHAH!!!

For 13 years, Araki stayed away from portraying youth culture in his movies. Sure, Mysterious Skin was about young adults, but he wasn't a representation for the generation that was just now coming up. Then, in 2010, Araki releases Kaboom, a celebration of all things Millennial, and a guide to what is going on.

Kaboom is about a gay 18-year-old boy, Smith, about to turn 19 who is experiencing weird events in the days leading up to, and past, his 19th birthday. He has dreams about hallways, girls, and dumpsters behind doors. His lesbian friend starts dating a psychotic witch with psychic abilities. He starts dating a British girl, who uses him and other guys to have orgasms. One of his dream girls pukes on his shoes before being decapitated in front of him by three guys in masks. And, it's all because he's the Chosen One of a cult where his father is a very powerful leader. And, it all ends in the nuclear destruction of the world.

Kaboom feels like it picked up where Nowhere was leaving off. Look at the frame I used for the Nowhere clip. It's a dark soul being surrounded by happy go lucky colors. Kaboom is all about color. There is no oppressed dark brooding soul. Gays are merrily accepted by everybody. Smith's roommate, a dumb blond surfer, is comfortable trying to suck his own dick in front. Of course, the surfer is also working for the cult who eventually kidnaps Smith in order to bring him to his father, but that's revealed in the final act.

The Millennials are post-acceptance. This is the conundrum presented by G.B.F. What is the big deal about coming out when most kids accept you anyways? Araki handles it more skillfully, of course, as he is a far more observant eye and is skilled in cramming every fucking nook and cranny in his movies with something to talk about.

But, the Millennials in Kaboom are also acted on by their parental forces. The father in Kaboom looks old enough to be a Boomer. The RA (James Duval) who is the leader of the counter force, takes on the guise of a hippy. The Boomers have control over the lives of the Millennials, and it's almost as if Gen X doesn't exist, except in secret. Duval is not old enough to be a Boomer Hippy, and takes his disguise off by the end of the film in order to save Smith, but he has to make like he is one.

Araki is still saying that Boomers are out to destroy the world. As they once destroyed the Gen Xers by coopting them into their web of commercialism, so to will they co-opt the Millennials, or else they'll blow up the whole fucking planet. When the Millennials refuse to go to become like their father, Dad hits the big red button and destroys everything.

Which is very reminiscent of modern day politics. Especially in 2013, three years after, but the need to get out the youth has always been one of the goals of the politicians. In the Obama vs McCain grudge match of 2008, they were seriously trying to duke it out over the youth vote. The youth, more so than before, are voting against the established leaders, and starting to make changes in the world that they want to see. Here in Seattle, in 2013 we elected our first socialist city councilwoman, and in nearby Seatac, they voted in a $15/hr minimum wage.  All to the chagrin of the established, mostly Boomer-aged, politicians.

The cult also represents everything corporate. There is something worshiping about the cult of commercialism that isn't present anywhere else in the movie. They are busy kidnapping kids at young ages, and trying to brainwash them to be good little cult members, and the ones who don't function right are released upon the world, such as the psychotic lesbian witch girlfriend. There isn't a specific religious symbol invoked in the cult, but it feels very much like a corporate co-option of the New Age symbolism.

And, so, Araki's solution for the Millennials to succeed in killing themselves in order to save themselves. With Kaboom, he finally crafted a high-energy bullet train of sex, love, and meaning as a way to welcome in the next generation. It feels fresh, energetic, and joyous with all the energy that a new generation can give off. And, yet, it could be all too bleakly hilarious, if it weren't so fucking true.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Nowhere (1997): The Downfall of Generation X, Part 3 (Abandonment)

Nowhere (1997)
dir: Gregg Araki

And so it comes to this.

Gregg Araki went for an avant garde French New Wave meets The Real World aspect in Totally F***ed Up to show the independence of the subcultural teenagers. In The Doom Generation, Araki went for more of a film school student atmosphere where it felt like the students were trying to become commercial, but just on their way. And, with Nowhere, Araki decided to make a movie that felt full-on Hollywood television. Described as 90210 on acid, Nowhere is the final step in the death of the subcultures that belonged to Generation X.

Gays, 1997

I've said earlier that I consider 1997 to be the pivot point in gay pop cultural breakthrough. Not that gay culture didn't exist before 1997, but that with Ellen coming out of the closet, the real world was forced to finally confront the gay identity in a mass-produced, aimed-at-everybody television show.

Alternately, 1997 was also the year that Gregg Araki went from gay-identified to bi-identified, and started dating Kathleen Robinson publicly. It should be noted that Kathleen Robinson is Lucifer in Nowhere, and their relationship probably started on the set.

On the other hand, since Totally F***ed Up came out, Bill Clinton had passed two notorious bills that were only repealed in the past couple of years. In December of 1993, Clinton signed into law DADT, "Don't Ask Don't Tell" which prevented gays from serving openly in the military with punishment being dishonorable discharge and denial of benefits. And, in 1996, the Defense of Marriage Act (DoMA) was passed, preventing the federal government from recognizing gay marriages which might be presented in the future.

Even with those federal restrictions passing, the gay train was full on the move, and the gays were starting to pick up speed in the culture by 1997.

Independent Cinema and MTV

By 1997, the independent scene that was fledgling in 1993 had picked up full force to be the "indie" scene. Kevin Smith, who had directed 1994's Clerks had gone on to do Mallrats and would release Chasing Amy in 1997, starring then semi-unknown Ben Affleck. Richard Linklater, who had made the influential Slacker would move on to do Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise, and SubUrbia. MTV's The Real World stopped being about people interacting with each other, and in season 5 (1996), they were starting to cast for maximal drama and also assign season-long jobs or group tasks.

Basically, the experimentation had started moving towards traditional narrative. Dazed and Confused, and its predecessor, American Graffiti are by far the more experimental things in the lists, and they influence Nowhere in all kinds of ways. But, everybody is moving less for the subject and more for the commercial. Richard Linklater would fumble with SubUrbia and 1998's The Newton Boys before returning to his world with Waking Life and Tape.

Subculture Ate Itself

By 1997, Bill Clinton had been elected twice. He was seen as a more progressive President, and coming off 12 years of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, he was more progressive. He was more about social programs, but also about balancing the budget, which neither Reagan nor Bush were interested in. Besides that, MTV had finally gotten in on the political game with their Rock the Vote campaign where they had pop culture icons going on television and telling people to vote for Clinton.

In the meantime, kids were tired of being angry all the time. Since the dawn of punk, this reaction against the era of the hippy had been raging against the machine that they couldn't figure out. But, with Clinton's success, it was finally time to take a chill pill and start bringing in the mellow. Dave Matthews Band would come onto the scene in 1994 with Under the Table and Dreaming, and in 1996 would follow up with Crash, scoring megahits with both. In 1997, The New Radicals would put out the happiest fucking song, You Get What You Give, which is actually a really good song. Barenaked Ladies were starting to come online. And, youth pop culture was pushing away from the Nirvana and Nine Inch Nails sounding bands to embrace a new happy.

In the meantime, Nine Inch Nails had only released The Downward Spiral in 1994, and wouldn't release another album until 1999's The Fragile. Marilyn Manson would take the face of goth industrial and bring it to the shock-addicted mall masses with Antichrist Superstar, shocking all of the parents in the process. Industrial in general started moving away from the metal influences to the dance floor influenced, and the brooding started to disappear.

The goths were dissipating and folding themselves in with the new bubblegum crowd. There was a more accepting tolerance of the dark ones as being the artistic ones, and the crowds started mixing for big mash-ups of happiness.

Generation X (1965-1978), Cuspies (1979-1985), and Millennials (1985-2001)

1996 was also one of the final years that the "core" Generation X babies turned 18. Given that the core can be defined from 1978 through 1984, it's hard to say, but the years 1979-1985 has always been termed "cuspies." But, 1996 and 1997 were the death of Generation X for the longest time, and then they started transitioning into the Millennials.

The Millennials are reacting to the two generations before them.  The first is an obvious direct reaction to the nihilism of the Gen X youth, where Gen X wanted to reject everything around them. The Millennials wanted to accept everything around them. But, they also were reacting to the impact of the Boomers, and realized that the leadership around them still sucked, and that everything needed to change. The Millennials were raised to take charge of the everybody and have the balls to believe that they were the best.

But, we're not to the Millennials yet. In 1997, the first of the Millennials would be 12 years old. But, there were the Cuspies who would display traits of both generations, starting with the acceptance of everybody, but still keeping the rejection of leaderships. The Cuspies are a lost set of years with people directly saying that they were completely influenced by Gen X or by the Millennials.


And, so, here we are. Nowhere. The end of the trilogy. The movie where everything ends. Or, at least Gen X ends.

Nowhere is a cross of the widespread LA movie (a la Short Cuts), and the high school party movie (a la Dazed and Confused). Nowhere follows a very disparate, multi-racial, multi-aged fluidly-sexual group of teenagers as they go through their day in order to get to a party. They talk, fuck, do drugs, kill themselves, are attacked by aliens, do more drugs, and make their way to the culminating Jujyfruit's Party.

Unlike either The Doom Generation or Totally F***ed Up, the doom and gloom fatalism of the goth industrial subculture has been replaced with the more sunshiny bolds and pastels of the incoming happiness that would dominate pulp culture for the next decade+. Instead of Rose McGowan smoking, fucking, and cursing up and down the strip, we get Duval's black girlfriend (multi-racial relationship!), who is also dating and fucking other girls and guys, insisting that she believes that humans are made to love, and they should love as many as humanly possible while they can.

Of course, there are two dark sides to Nowhere. The first is the physical manifestation of alienation by having an actual alien come around and kill people. The first group he kills are three valley girls who are talking shallowly about who they're dating, fucking, and who's fucking who and not and...all that's left are their retainers. Then he kills Duval's male love interest in a locker room.

The other dark side to Nowhere is the incoming violence from outside pressures. The first is seen in the form of Baywatch hunk Jaason Simmons, who brutally beats and rapes one of the characters who had a crush on him. She doesn't tell anybody, and kills herself while watching a preacher on tv. The other is drugs, which leads Jeremy Jordan, who just had his nipple rings ripped off during rough sex, to kill himself in an oven after watching the same preacher.  The world is too fucked up to live in it anymore, can't deal. I'm outta here.

There is also sheer psychotic violence which leads one guy to beat another guy to death with a can of soup because he was sold cut drugs.

Everything feels amped up and ready for the darkness to finally come crashing down and leave. The final scene of Nowhere has the previously-vaporized male love-interest climbing into Duval's window and talking about their attraction. But, after embracing, the interest coughs blood, dies, and an alien emerges from his body, says "I'm outta here" and leaves through the window. The end.

Nowhere on its own is about the warnings of alienation, and the dangers of sin in the world. It's a blackly comic, surreal, and well executed take on the youthful wanton party scene twinged with warning signs about excess and nihilism. And, it's hilarious. As the most Hollywood of the Teenage Apocalypse trilogy, Nowhere is also the most successful in its attempts as subversive entertainment.

Teenage Apocalypse, Part III

What Nowhere is talking about, in the grand scheme of things, is the final breaths of a subculture that was on its way out anyways. The alien is the manifestation of all things negative with the subculture. The alien is the final Hollywood metaphor for alienation and despair.

But, even the alien ultimately leaves the youth. The alien decides that their new culture of total and unabashed love is too fucked up even for him, and he leaves Generation X to fight for themselves as they transition into the next generation, whose ideals are far different than what they've experienced.

Nowhere also is about the integration of celebrity and commercialization into all sectors of youth life. Everybody is played by famous or semi-famous people. Debi Mazar, Christina Applegate, Traci Lords, Shannen Doherty, Debi Mazar, John Ritter, and Denise Richards were all in this movie with varying sized roles. Rachel True had established herself in The Craft before playing Duval's girlfriend. The names were getting bigger, and they were out to co-opt you.

It should also be noted that this was the first instance where Gregg Araki used the title "The Gregg Araki film" instead of "a homo film" or "a heterosexual film." Araki would come out as bisexual in 1997, with the release of Nowhere, and in turn made a movie where every character has degrees of fluid sexuality. Nobody is purely gay, and you get the idea that most of the characters go both ways, if they wanted. Araki would explore this more in his next movie, Splendor.

In the end, Nowhere seems like Hollywood made a movie about youth going to a party, doing drugs, fucking, and sometimes dying. And, it is a goodbye letter to say how the world of the Gen X rebel is going to end. Not by committing suicide, but by giving in to the commercialization around them. By embracing themselves too much. And, out of necessity...because things can't stay the same forever. That would be boring.

Nowhere is the conclusion of the Teenage Apocalypse trilogy...or, is it?

Ed's note: This movie hasn't had a US release on DVD or blu yet, though I have seen it streaming. There is a UK release that came out in 2012, but no sight of a US release yet.