Karen Black Iconic Hollywood Character Actress Dead at 74

Karen Black Iconic Hollywood Character Actress Dead at 74

The Tortured Torture Porn With a Message

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Directed by Robert Lieberman, The Tortured can be firmly classified as “torture porn” it is certainly not pretty and it does pass into the realms of pornography as they’ve been set up by “experts.”

It is surprising. Jesse Metcalfe who played the lovelorn cuckolding gardener in Desperate Housewives, the teenage satyr in John Tucker Must Die, is very suited to light comedy and it was a treat to see him in a role that required more of him than to just be good looking. Erika Christensen, I remember from the 2002 “teen Basic Instinct” film Swimfan. She played a transfer student with an unhealthy obsessional trait.

Bill Moseley‘s  name immediately made this a horror film and one that could be expected to contain buckets of gore. His character in both the Rob Zombie films as Otis Firefly, the elder brother of Baby, the violent sociopathic killer have pretty much stamped him, in my mind at any rate, as gory horror actor.

basement

The plot is pretty simple. It is an “eye for eye” affair. Elise  (Christensen) and Craig  (Metcalfe) Landry have their six year-old son Benjamin snatched from their yard by John Kozlowski (Moseley). Kozlowski is a serial child killer who kills their son. He is, somewhat amazingly caught, but only after he has horribly murdered their son.

At his trial, instead of getting life with no chance for parol, he gets 25 years to life, which means he could actually get out on parole in 10 years. The Landry’s are beyond furious. They decide that they are going to practise their own brand of justice. They kidnap the prisoner on his way to another prison and take him to a cabin in the woods.

This cabin is not a Whedonesque type affair, it is just an old broken down property.

With a basement.

I will not go into the particulars of the rest of the film but the clue is in the title, The Tortured. And it does what is says on the label. I wasn’t surprised, but I was disturbed at the coldness of the camera lens. It dispassionately gets us up close and personal with the grizzly details and it makes for uncomfortable viewing.

The only redeeming factor in the film, is the ending. This is torture porn with a message. A pretty good one too. But I cannot divulge it without giving away a huge plot twist.

I will tell you this, as a horror film aficionado, I did’t see it coming. The twist I had in mind, did not exist.

So good job by Marek Poseval who wrote the thing and to Lieberman who directed it.

But…

Unless you are strong of stomach, I am as a rule, I watched it while eating my tea (dinner in the US). But even I could feel my gag reflex attempting to cut in a couple of times.

For plot twist alone, I’d give this a 3 out of 5 stars. I knew it was going to be a horror film, as I said, Bill Moseley, of whom I am a huge fan, almost guaranteed it. It was just a bit too much torture porn for my tastes, despite its message.

prisoner

The Lords of Salem (2012): Subtle Zombie

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Heavy metal impresario Rob Zombie exploded on the movie scene with his first feature film House of a 1000 Corpses in 2003. Already a veteran behind the camera from directing his music videos, his first film (and his second) featured a lot of “heavy metal” montage shots and utilised an almost guerrilla style of film making.

Zombie then went on to re-imagine the Halloween verse in 1 and 2. He next film, he told interviewers, would be a sort of Ken Russell directs The Shining. Far be it from me to argue with Mr Zombie’s own definition of what his film is, but I would argue that it is more like Ken Russell meets Rosemary’s Baby.

I will not go any further down that particular road as I don’t want to give anything away.

Written and directed by Zombie, The Lords of Salem stars Sherri Moon Zombie as Heidi Hawthorne. She is a local radio personality who works as part of a three person team in Salem Massachusetts, home of the infamous Salem witch trials. A wooden box is left for Heidi at the radio station’s reception desk. It contains a record by a group called The Lords.

When the record is played on the air, it affects the female listeners of the audience, causing them to have visions of the olden days in Salem. Heidi is very affected by the music (which, for the record, would never have been featured on American Bandstand) and after she’s heard the music her landlady invites her to meet two old friends.

The film was obviously shot on location in Salem as the statue of television’s Bewitched character  Samantha Stevens (aka Elizabeth Montgomery) can be seen no less that three times. It’s as if Zombie wants to remind us that this is really about “fake” witches in Salem.

Zombie's cinematography made Samantha Stevens look a lot scarier in the film.
Zombie’s cinematography made Samantha Stevens look a lot scarier in the film.

Besides this reminder running through the film, a lot of black and white films play in the background in a few scenes. Heidi is watching an old “cop” film (featuring that loveable old heavy Jack Elam) and later when her boyfriend/radio partner Whitey  (Jeff Daniel Phillips) is watching a film, he is watching something with Charles Laughton (better known as Captain Bligh and Quasimodo).

There is, in fact, a lot of black and white themed sets in the film and Heidi’s apartment features a lot of black and white pictures and patterns. I’m not clever enough to know what the director is aiming for with this preoccupation with this particular colour scheme, but it’s obviously a clue of what is happening in the film. Perhaps it’s yet another allusion to the “olden days?”

The character of Heidi is a good one for Sherri Moon Zombie and she adds a depth to her acting that hasn’t been seen before. The film has a lot of Zombie’s “stable” in it. Sid Haig, Michael Berryman and Ken Foree are all Zombie “regulars.” The film also boasts the legendary Dee Wallace, Judy Geeson and Meg Foster. Most of his films feature a cadre of genre stars from old horror movies.

Quinn, Wallace and Geeson, Three scary ladies.
Quinn, Wallace and Geeson, Three scary ladies.

It was nice to see Andrew Prine  after he had to step in for the late Richard Lynch due to health issues.

Zombie has hit a level of subtlety that has, till now, been missing in his films. Where he has relied on over-the-top violence, blood and gore with villains that came close to being almost cartoonish; Salem strikes a sly and almost underrated  performance from all the key players.

A quick shout out to Bruce Davison as local Author Francis Matthias. He shines in his short performance and it was a pleasure to watch him in the film.

All the actors delivered exceedingly well and although the film had a bit of an ambiguous ending (to me at least) it kept me glued to the screen until the end credits had finished.

This may not appeal to the “normal” Rob Zombie fan. If you are expecting his usual fare of Heavy Metal Horror, you’ll be disappointed. But if you are ready to see a Rob Zombie who’s learned the art of insinuation and easing his audience gradually into the horror at hand, you’ll enjoy this latest effort.

I’d have to give The Lords of Salem a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars. I’ve taken the .5 off only because the ending left me a little baffled. Despite my shaving off a half point, I don’t doubt that this will become a cult favourite.

Bravo, Rob Zombie.

Rob Zombie.
Rob Zombie.

The Lords of Salem (2012): Zombie Christmas Gift?

I first found out about the genius that is Rob Zombie when I stumbled across the film House of a 1000 Corpses. It was a case of love at first sight. Like most people who suddenly discover a new ‘loved one’ I read everything I could about the man and his beginnings.

It then became my mission in life to watch every film he directed.

So far I have managed to do just that. It is with bated breath that I wait for his latest foray into the weird, wonderful world of horror, The Lords of Salem. I had forgotten all about this upcoming feature until someone tweeted the latest teaser trailer (try saying that fast three times, go ahead I dare ya) and I managed to catch it earlier today.

Of course the main reason it had been tweeted was Zombie’s use of classical music in the teaser. The tweeter reckoned that it worked very well. I agree. I did try to imagine it with a more typical Zombie-esque heavy metal rock background and I couldn’t do. Probably because I’m not Rob Zombie.

This short teaser had me scrambling to google the latest information on his upcoming (and soon to be released in a theatre near you…well around Christmas time is it’s slated time of release) feature and who was in it.

RIP Richard Lynch (February 12, 1940 – June 19, 2012)

The first thing I found out was that the (recently) late actor Richard Lynch‘s scenes had to be cut from the film due to his failing health and voice. The next thing I found out was that quite a few actors wound up on the metaphorical cutting room floor. Clint Howard who has made a career out of playing those ‘a few bricks short a load’ characters that hulk around in a lot of modern horror films, Udo Kier who seems to have been in just about every horror film I’ve ever seen (and that’s a lot, friends and neighbors) and lastly Camille Keaton, granddaughter of Buster (silent movie comic genius) and star of that iconic cult classic slasher film 1978’s I Spit on Your Grave.

*On a side note, I Spit on Your Grave was banned in the UK for years because it was labelled a ‘video nasty’ that would corrupt and spoil the youth of Great Britain. You can see how well that worked.*

I can only assume that all the actors who had worked with Richard Lynch could not repeat their work due to scheduling problems or possibly out of respect for the late actor. Whatever the reason it is a real shame that none of them (Richard specifically) wound up in the final film. Hopefully there will be footage of them on the DVD when it is released.

The plot, which I have borrowed entirely from Wikipedia’s entry is as follows:  Heidi DJs at the local radio station, and together with the two Hermans (Whitey and Munster) forms part of the ‘Big H Radio Team’. A mysterious wooden box containing a vinyl record arrives for Heidi, “a gift from the Lords”. She assumes it’s a rock band on a mission to spread their word. As Heidi and Whitey play the Lords’ record, it starts to play backwards, and Heidi experiences a flashback to a past trauma. Later, Whitey plays the Lords’ record, dubbing them the Lords of Salem, and to his surprise, the record plays normally and is a massive hit with listeners. The arrival of another wooden box from the Lords presents the Big H team with free tickets, posters and records to host a gig in Salem. Soon Heidi and her cohorts find that the gig is far from the rock spectacle they’re expecting; the original Lords of Salem are returning, and they’re out for blood.

Rob Zombie has, in my mind, never failed to deliver. His earlier films were raw, entertaining and slightly tongue-in-cheek. His move into re-imaging the Halloween franchise was superb considering the lack of artistic freedom that he had.

Now we have The Lords of Salem. Bucket loads of freedom, directed  and written by Zombie, plus a decent budget. These three facts alone combined with the brilliant cast list makes Salem destined for the number one position on the horror film parade.

The cast, just in case you are interested is as follows:

(cast list courtesy of Wikipedia)

Does it get any better than this? I look at the plot and the cast and I cannot wait to see this film. I can only hope it opens before Christmas instead of after. I mean, what better gift can you get than the latest Rob Zombie film?

Rob Zombie Horror meister.

The Devils Rejects (2005): Zombie Western Horror

Rob Zombie wrote and directed this sequel to House of a 1000 Corpses. After the financial success of Corpses Lions Gate Entertainment were eager for Zombie to make another film.

Rob had an idea for a sequel while filming Corpses about the sheriff’s brother coming after the Firefly clan in an act of deadly revenge. With the idea in place Zombie began to craft The Devil’s Rejects  with the aim of making the film less comedic and more horrific.

Rob stated that he wanted it to feel a bit likeThe Wild Bunch , Bonnie and Clyde and Badlands. The influence of all three films can be seen in the final cut of Rejects.

The Devil’s Rejects opens with the Sheriff’s brother, Sheriff Wydell (William Forsythe) surrounding the Firefly house with a posse of lawmen. After telling the besieged family to surrender or die a prolonged shoot-out ensues with every one in the house being shot to rag-doll ribbons.

Otis (Bill Mosely) and Baby (Sherri Moon Zombie) manage to escape, but Mother Firefly is captured by Wydell. Otis and Baby after murdering a nurse to steal her car hide out at a motel.

At the motel Baby starts flirting with Roy (Geoffrey Lewis) who part of a country music band and when they head back to Roy’s room, Otis shows up and they take the entire band hostage. What follows is the hardest part of the film to watch.

Gone are the comedic undertones that make Corpses so amusing. Otis and Baby have grown p as it were and they set upon the band member with vicious and horrific acts of violence. Otis rapes Roy’s wife Gloria (Priscilla Barnes) and later kills the two remaining men. He cuts one of their faces off and returns to the motel room with his victims face over his own.

The two contact their father Captain Spaulding (Sid Haig) and they meet at the motel. After their reunion they all go to the Chicken Ranch, a brothel run by family friend Charlie Altamont (Ken Foree) and his lackey Clevon (Michael Berryman).

Sheriff Wydell has hired two bounty hunters to help track down the remaining Firefly family members, one of the bounty hunters is Danny Trejo, they catch up with them at the chicken ranch.

The cast list of The Devil’s Rejects reads like a horror-thon reunion. P.J. Soles, Michael Berryman,  and Kane Hodder all make appearances in the film.

With his second feature Rob Zombie has fine tuned his cinematic and horror skills. Focusing more on the evil side of the Firefly brood, he has toned down the hilarity that was present in his first film. He also gives the characters a chance to show who and what they really are.

The interaction between Baby, Otis and dad, Captain Spaulding is touching, funny and revealing. That this family unit is dysfunctional is obvious and just as apparent is their love (however strange) for one another.

Yet despite the more horrific nature of the film and it’s lead characters, we are fond of the backwater Dionysian family and when the film ends to the music of Lynyrd  Skynyrd’s Free Bird we are sad and a little touched.