Nymph aka Killer Mermaid (2014) Not Bad but Not Good

Nymph aka Killer Mermaid (2014) Not That Bad but Not That Good  Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 09.59.14
It is not often that a film falls right smack in the middle of the road, but the 2014 horror film Nymph, aka Killer Mermaid does just that. An “on the fence” film that is not that bad but not that good either. Certainly there are no bits that can be described as “laughably” bad, think Ed Wood here, and no monsters that resemble a killer shag carpet. It just feels like your average “Drive-In fare” some bare boobs, a little discrete sex, a killer mermaid and Franco Nero in a middling cameo that reaches its apex by the end of the film.

Helmed by Serbian film director Milan Todorovic, whose main claim to fame thus far is that his 2009 film Zone of the Dead is the first Serbian zombie film, Nymph boasts a leading lady, Kristina Klebe, that should have been killed off for ineffective acting rather than her costar Natalie Burn. Reading Klebe’s bio at IMDb, she appears to have been a military brat who stumbled into acting. While her skills in Nymph, were more than questionable that may be down to the script and the stilted dialogue.

Burn, however, who played the “second banana,” which meant she was doomed to die before the last reel finished, did very well with the poorly written part dealt her. This was her first film as Natalie Burn, prior credits listed the actress as Natalia Guslistaya, and she does an acceptable job, despite being hired to wear the smallest shorts possible and provide eye candy for the audience. Luckily, Burn went on to The Expendables 3 and then her first starring role in Awaken. Her star is rising steadily, as is Klebe’s. So perhaps it was the bad dialogue after all.

The plot has two friends showing up at an old college chum’s place on an island off Greece. Upon arriving they learn he is getting married and he has not told his fiancee about his old flame being one of the two pals he invited. The film starts with a couple at the water’s edge about to go for a swim, the man is lured to the water by something his date cannot hear and once he plunges in, the unfortunate chap is attacked and killed.

The girl sits at the edge of the water screaming until a figure comes up behind her with a sharpened grappling hook and kills her mid-scream. Cue next day arrival of Klebe and Burn, as Kelly and Lucy. They meet up with Alex and after getting the “I Know What You did Last Summer” gag and reference out of the way, they see Franco Nero’s character, Niko. Dressed as a fisherman, we are meant to cast him as grappling hook man.

The film is awkward and unconvincing in many ways. The character interaction, the acting, the plot itself and the poorly orchestrated fight choreography all make the film seem like an old fashioned B film. Although the movie is not that bad it is hard to keep interested in the proceedings. Nero fans will keep watching to see what the filmmakers do with him and this may keep a number of folks watching till the credits roll.

The ending makes no real sense. It looks like Todorovic wanted the audience to believe that an epic sequel was in the works. *Spoiler alert!* When the killer mermaid is finally dispatched, the sea is filled with killer mermaids coming to exact revenge for the death of their sister. With only Nero and Klebe left alive, he states that they must save humanity, the two prepare to battle the horde (School?) of pissed off mermaids. Cue enthusiastic music and fade to credits.

Easily the worst thing about the film is its final moments. Ignore that and it is interesting to watch, if for no other reason than to see just how small the fashion designer could make Burn’s shorts. A 2.5 out of 5 stars. The .5 is for Franco Nero who would have earned an entire point had the film used him more. Streaming on US Netflix, watch it if you are bored.

Django Unchained (2012): Long Spaghetti Western Love Letter

Poster of Django Unchained

I had to wait a long time to see this film, I was going to rent it on blu-ray and then I happened to see a non-blu-ray version for sale for a tenner and I grabbed it.

From the first frame of the film, it looked like a 1960’s opening for Sergio Leone-ish type spaghetti western, the colours were spot on and the rocks in the foreground could have been transplanted from those locations in Spain and Italy where the original features were made. The consistency of the film even looked the same, hard to describe, but it looked right.

Of course this wasn’t maintained throughout the film and there was no need. Once the music started up for the first scene after the “freeing” of Django, Tarantino told us with his initial score piece what was going to go on.

The first bit of music was a re-mix of the Two Mules for Sister Sara main theme. For those who haven’t seen the 1970 film, in a nutshell, it was an Italian spaghetti western film that wasn’t. The music was done by the master of off-beat magical themes and scores himself, Ennio Morricone. The film was directed by Don Siegel and Clint Eastwood, the original man with no name ,played Hogan. The film itself was a sort of homage to the genre that gave Eastwood the huge boost he needed to start his career in the right direction, away from television.

poster

The very second I heard the “jackass” toot-tweet of the music and listened to the subtle changes to the original music, I knew that Tarantino was making his intentions clear about the film. The choice and the remix was telling us, “This is a spaghetti western that isn’t. It isn’t even really going to follow the formula too much as I am going to mix up Siegel and Leone and Django.”

And that is what he did.

I even detected bits from Blazing Saddles (and Quentin, if I’m wrong buddy, I’m obviously giving you too damned much credit) in the amusing scene about the eye holes and the head bags. There were a few other nods and winks but I’ll get off this particular train right now.

Anyone who has ever watched the amount of these pasta opuses that were so popular at the Drive-in’s of the time, can remember the sounds of the guns in the films. The other obvious clue that the director gave us was the complete and total lack of the spaghetti western gunshot.

Quentin’s Django Unchained gun fire merely sounded loud. Gone was the ever present whine of the shot bullet and the almost flat, but very loud, crack of the guns. But the important part of the Italian western was that whine. He was telling us again, that yes this is a long love letter to the genre, but I’m not going to copy it 100%.

The casting of the film was phenomenal and I’m not going to go into the discussion too much. (Well not at all actually) Enough reviews and writers and critics have gotten there before me and I’m not in a hurry to join the din. Just as I’m not going to address the use of the “N” word. (Allcaps because of the amount of fury and un-political correctness that has been mention too damned often by too damned many.)

I will say this, though. The same people who would rather “rewrite” real history, who want to believe that in those halcyon days of yesteryear that people would not have referred to folks of a different hue using this highly offensive word at all, let alone as much as they did in the film, are the ones who want to rewrite nursery rhymes so that they do not offend.

The reality of the times, sad and disgusting, but oh so real.
The reality of the times, sad and disgusting, but oh so real.

Why? because they don’t believe in showing the truth, what is worse, is that they don’t really want to think that we were that uncouth, uncivilised, and downright nasty, truth be told.

But that sentiment is not true gentle people, not true at all. The same people in our American shores who referred to other human beings as; who called our brothers and sisters of the human race that name and other equally foul and disturbing names did do just that.

Because that was the culture back then.

These are the same people who cheerfully murdered Native Americans (and yes, that took place before the Civil War as well) and stoutly declared that the only good indian was a dead indian.

But I am not playing any “ethnic” minority game here, setting up my ancestors against yours my friend. I only point out the obvious, our American ancestors did a lot of things back then that was called, “good.” Tarantino opted to show it how it was versus the new modern trend of “gilding the lily.” Not, as claimed by most if not all the denigrators, to shock.

(Again, Quentin, if I’m giving you too much credit, I’m sorry.)

My last word on the subject, I promise, if it bothers you that much, don’t watch it.

There, all done, I told you.

Back to the film.

I loved it. I didn’t care for the soundtrack all that much, but like I said at the start, Tarantino picked music to fit “his” homage not anyone else’s. The clue was in that first piece of music, the faux Ennio Morricone that plays us into the opening of Django’s first day of freedom in a town.

I’d have to give this a full 5 out of 5 stars for the effort that went into this and for the long love letter that Quentin wrote using the film. I’d also like to give it another half star for the presence of Franco Nero who, in keeping with the 1960’s touch of the time, had that obvious moment where the “old” Django met the “new” Django.

A new classic.

Scene from Django Unchained

Django Unchained – A Western Tarantino Style

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I got quite  excited when I heard that Quentin Tarantino had written and directed a new film. I got even more excited when I found out it was going to be a western (my favourite type of film). Add to the mix that it is a ‘homage’ to the spaghetti western and its multiple Django films and I was in heaven. But the real icing on the cake is that Tarantino will be working with Samuel L. Jackson again.

Samuel L. Jackson at the San Diego ComicCon 2008

He’s also got a few other actors who have worn  spurs before. Leonardo DiCaprio (Lonesome Dove), Franco Nero (just insert the Django title of your choice) and of course the stalwart of  western bad men Bruce Dern. It is interesting to note that he is using Don Johnson, perhaps Don is hoping that Tarantino will revitalize his career. John Travolta‘s sagging career was given a booster shot when he did Pulp Fiction, so I guess Don has nothing to lose.

He also has his “childhood hero” Tom Savini and Christopher Waltz, who is becoming a Tarantino regular. Of course the real surprise is his casting of Jamie Foxx as Django. Not because he is black, but because his build is nothing like Franco Nero’s. Nero pretty much built a career out of playing Django and I would have thought that Quentin would have tried to match him at least in build.

I do think that Jamie Foxx will bring a lot to the role. He is a damn fine actor and I believe this will be his first western. Looking at the story line on IMDb, it looks like the story will feature the ubiquitous bounty hunter that most spaghetti westerns are built around.

Foxx promoting Stealth in July 2005

I’m also keen to see if Tarantino will use a dubbing system that will emulate the sound of a Spaghetti Western a la Mickey Knox. And of course I am expecting all the guns to sound like howitzer cannon with screaming ricochets. Tarantino is a film fan first and foremost. He loves a range of genre films and has always, where ever possible, paid several homages to his love of the Spaghetti Western.

So even though we are not scheduled to see this film until January 2013, I’ll saddle up and ride down to the local cinema to give it a look see. Yee Haw!