Posts Tagged ‘Exploitation’

axe

Directed By: Frederick Friedel 

Starring: Leslie Lee, Jack Canon, Ray Green, Frederick Friedel, Douglas Powers, Hart Smith, Scott Smith

Synopsis: Three killers are on the run, and stumble upon an isolated farmhouse that is the home of Lisa and her paralyzed grandfather.

Thoughts:
Axe is a pretty typical exploitation story, and something we’ve seen done multiple times, and often done better. Three criminals are on the run and looking for a place to hide. They find an isolated farm with a vulnerable target, in this case, a young girl named Lisa, who is caring for her paralyzed Grandfather. The criminals terrorize and humiliate Lisa, driving her over the edge until she snaps and exacts her revenge.

The film was originally released as Lisa, Lisa in 1974. As you can imagine, the title didn’t do a lot to attract viewers, so it was retitled as Axe, as well as California Axe Massacre, in an obvious attempt to ride the coattails of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The title change eventually attracted the attention of the British Board of Film Classification, which placed Axe on the list of Video Nasties. Why Axe landed on the list is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it was due to the cover, or that it was a young girl enacting revenge, but in reality, the majority of the action occurs off screen. This movie could have been much gorier, and even much darker had the director decided to.

Frederick Friedel filmed another movie at the same time as Axe, The Kidnapped Coed. Years later, Friedel would cut the movies together as The Bloody Brothers, creating a “twisted crime epic” as described by Severin Films. Severin, put out a rather amazingly extensive edition of Axe and The Kidnapped Coed, as well as Bloody Brothers. I’ve yet to watch either The Kidnapped Coed or Bloody Brothers, but for fans of 70s exploitation, it’s a pretty great set.

Overall, I found Axe to be on the boring side. There were some creepy elements to it at times, but it didn’t have much in the way of shock value, especially when comparing it to something along the lines of Last House of the Left or I Spit on Your Grave, which are the benchmarks in the revenge exploitation genre.

lisa-lisa-theatrical-advertisement

How Nasty Is It?
Not very nasty at all. While it hints at some darker themes, most of the action takes place off the screen. In my opinion, this title landed on the list mostly due to its cover and theme.

Island of Death

Directed By: Nico Mastorakis

Starring: Robert Behling, Jane Lyle, Jessica Dublin, Gerard Gonalons, Jannice McConnell, Nikos Tsachiridis

Synopsis: A British couple terrorize a small Greek island, killing anyone they deem as sinful.

Thoughts: Yet another Video Nasty to mark off my list! This time around it is the Greek exploitation flick Island of Death, also titled A Craving for Lust or Devils in Mykonos. I’d heard quite a bit about this movie prior to seeing it, so I thought I knew what I was settling in for. I was wrong.

Island of Death isn’t afraid to go the extra mile to shock you. I don’t mean excessive gore. I mean it has your standard genre fare of violence and mayhem, but it also goes the extra mile with bestiality, incest and golden showers. There is also a rather bizarre scene where the couple is having sex in a phone booth and the guy decides to call his Mom and tell her what he is doing. It’s all to show just how insane the couple is, but Mastorakis really pushes the envelope. It’s not hard to see why this landed on the Video nasty list.

As you would expect, the acting is quite bad, but I can’t imagine that is why you would watch this movie. There aren’t really any redeeming characters, or actors to be found here. Mastorakis attempts to cover just how awful the acting is with the beauty of lead actress Jane Lyle, and finding every excuse to have her naked on the screen.

As awful as the acting is, this was a fairly enjoyable experience. I found myself laughing more than anything, which I don’t think was the initial intention, but it works. The Director admitted in an interview that his sole reason for making the movie was to make money. He was inspired by the financial success of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Although this isn’t a movie I will be watching on a regular basis, it is something that I think fans of exploitation need to see. It is so over the top that you won’t believe what you’re seeing on screen. It’s also worth noting that the scenery is great. The island that this takes place on is really a place of beauty. It serves as a great contrast for the carnage happening around it.

Cannibal Ferox

Directed By: Umberto Lenzi

Starring: John Morgan, Lorraine De Selle, Danilo Mattei, Robert Kerman, Walter Lucchini, Zora Kerova

Subgenre: Cannibals, Exploitation

Synopsis:  While attempting to discount the existence of cannibalism, a research party encounters drug dealers and a native tribe in the jungle.

Thoughts: The cannibal genre was in its heyday in the late 70s and early 80s.  Italian film makers were turning stomachs left and right with journeys into the depths of the jungle.  I’m no expert on the genre, but I’ve seen a handful of the movies.  Some are better than others, but for the most part, they follow the same path.  Arrogant Americans travel into the jungle for various reasons and are responsible for atrocities against the native tribes, which also happen to be cannibals.  A vicious form of vengeance involving severed body parts ensues.  It’s a great recipe to showcase some pretty nasty effects, and Cannibal Ferox does just that.  One thing that I have never fully understood about cannibal movies, is the need to feature the butchering of animals.  I’ve been around animals my whole life, so butchering one isn’t something that bothers me, I just don’t see what it has to do with the storyline.  It’s almost as if it is there up the gore factor and further turn stomachs.  It takes away from the storyline for me, but it is a trademark of the genre.

Most Cannibal movies feature a cast that the crowd is supposed to despise.  More often than not, they are not innocent victims.  Cannibal Ferox is no different.  What is a little different, however, is that they entire group isn’t totally reprehensible.  There are a few recognizable exploitation faces in Cannibal Ferox, including Lorraine De Selle (House at the Edge of the Park) and Zora Kerova (Anthropophagus and New York Ripper.) Playing a familiar role as the lead scumbag is Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who has been in a handful of Italian exploitation flicks such as City of the Living Dead, Cannibal Apocalypse and House on the Edge of the Park.  Overall, the cast comes together really well.

Umberto Lenzi fits the description of cult director to a tee and wears that description like a badge of honor.  His movies have run the gamut of b movies, including cannibals, zombies, gialli, westerns, sword and sandal epics, action movies, and everything in between.  While his movies may not always be impressive, his zeal to make movies is.  While I haven’t seen anywhere close to Lenzi’s filmography, he seems to make technically sound movies.  The FX in Cannibal Ferox are better than you would expect in a B movie, and are really a differentiator when comparing this to other splatter flicks.

Like many of its brethren, the gore and the on screen animal deaths landed Cannibal Ferox on the infamous Video Nasty list that so many of us use as a checklist for 70s and 80s exploitation movies.  It wasn’t until the 90s that it was available uncut here in the US, but it is pretty easy to find now days.  If this genre is your thing, this is worth checking out.  It stands a little behind Cannibal Holocaust, which is widely considered the benchmark for the genre, but it is a close second from what I have seen.

Dead Hooker in a Trunk (2009)

Directed By: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska

Starring: Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Rikki Gagne, CJ Wallis, Carlos Gallardo

Subgenre: Exploitation

Dead Hooker in a Trunk

Synopsis: Four people must deal with a grisly discovery, a dead hooker in the trunk of their car.

Thoughts: Over the last year or so, this title kept popping up in the horror community, whether it was Facebook, Twitter or on other blogs, so I had to check it out to see if the hype was real.  The aptly titled story follows two completely opposite sisters as they try to get rid of a dead body they find in the trunk of their car, all while dealing with nefarious drug dealers, pimps, and other sordid types.

One thing to keep in mind when watching this is that it has a pretty low budget and is the first go around for the Soska Sisters.  For the most part, I was impressed with their efforts.  I thought that it started out slow and could have used a little better editing, but once the action starts, it is an insane, non-stop roller coaster ride.  In many ways, it reminded me of another wildly popular Canadian exploitation flick, Hobo with a Shotgun in that regard.  I think they would make for one hell of a double feature.

The acting is what you would expect, but suits the movie just fine.  No one in the movie is going to get an Oscar, but there also are not any horrible jobs.  It really was a labor of love for everyone involved, as CJ Wallis not only starred in the movie, but also did a lot of behind the scenes work with editing and marketing. 

While some of the FX were pretty rough, I thought they were really well done considering the budget.  There was one scene in particular where one of the sisters broke a guy’s neck and twisted his head around and to accomplish this on camera, they used a quick cut and just had the guy with his jacket on backwards.  It made me laugh but was effective.

Their work paid off as Dead Hooker in a Trunk went on to play an aggressive schedule of film festivals and horror conventions, garnering a lot of attention for Twisted Twins Productions (The Soska Sisters production company).  The twins are currently working on American Mary, a story of a medical student that becomes involved in the world of underground surgeries.  I’m looking forward to it.

Fans of explotation style movies should check out Dead Hooker for sure.  It’s not for everyone, but is a damn fun ride. 

I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
(Day of the Woman)

Directed By: Meir Zarchi

Starring: Camille Keaton, Eron Tabor, Richard Pace, Anthony Nichols, Gunter Kleemanns

Subgenre: Exploitation, Revenge

I Spit on Your Grave 1978

Synopsis: Author Jennifer Hills retreats to the country for some peace and quiet while she writes her novel.  What she finds is the unwanted attention of the locals when a group of four men abduct and repeatedly rape her.

Thoughts: The horror genre has countless subgenres, but the revenge film is often one of the more difficult ones for me to watch and review.  Often times, they are not entertaining, per say, but when done well, they tell a poignant story and evoke emotions that are difficult to summarize.  I Spit on Your Grave is not a “fun” movie by any means.  It can be difficult to sit through some of the scenes, but I think it is an important movie in the horror genre.

The production values are pretty low, even compared to other similar movies, and the acting can be a bit amateurish at times, with one major exception.  I thought that Camille Keaton was fantastic in a very harrowing role.  What she went through on the screen could not have been easy to depict as an actress, not to mention her completely changing direction when it came time for her revenge. 

It is interesting to hear the various opinions of this movie, as some critics refer to it as garbage not fit for viewing and some see it as an extremely strong statement about Women’s rights.  I guess I am somewhere in between.  I don’t see this as a revelation in film making, but it has its place in the genre.    Be warned before watching this though, the rape scene, or scenes, are pretty drawn out, and the revenge that Jennifer enacts is pretty damn cringe worthy as well.

Red State (2011)

Posted: September 19, 2011 in Movie Review
Tags: ,

Red State (2011)

Directed By: Kevin Smith

Starring: Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun, Kyle Gallner, Stephen Root, John Goodman, Michael Parks, Melissa Lao

Subgenre: Exploitation

Red State

Synopsis: Three high school boys are lured into a trap by religious fundamentalists with the promise of sex, setting off a chain reaction of violent events.

Thoughts: Kevin Smith decides to depart his View Askew Universe to deliver a pretty powerful look into his political beliefs.  The story draws some pretty obvious references to the Westborough Baptist Church as well as the events that took place in Waco so many years ago.

The script isn’t perfect, and the story tends to ebb and flow with the dialogue, but it was more than enough to hold my attention for the run time.  There were some pretty funny lines, which helped to alleviate some of the tension, but what I thought really helped this movie was the acting.  Michael Parks played a truly creepy role as leader of the “church.”  I also thought John Goodman played his role extremely well.

Smith does his fair share of finger pointing, condemning the far right and the US Government, but to be fair, there is some weight to his accusations.  I do think that Smith’s points got a little too heavy handed when Goodman sat down with his superiors, and I think the movie would have been better without that tidy little wrap up.  Sometimes the unknown is better.

Even though this is a very violent movie, it doesn’t fit easily into the horror genre.  Had the violence been toned down even a little bit, it would have played more like a political drama.  I guess you could classify it as exploitation.

Red State doesn’t rock the genre, but it is worth seeing.  I’ve seen people singing its praises and people condemning it, but I think that has quite a bit to do with Kevin Smith being the director than the actual movie.  Check it out, it’s pretty good.

13 Assassins {Jūsannin no Shikaku?} (2010)

Directed By: Takashi Miike

Starring: Koji Yakusho, Hiroki Matsukata, Takayuki Yamada, Kazuki Namioka, Tsuyoshi Ihara, Yusuke Iseya, Gorō Inagaki, Masachika Ichimura, Mikijirō Hira

Subgenre: Samurai, Exploitation

13 Assassins

Synopsis: 13 Assassins, consisting of 12 Samurai and one hunter, set out to kill the evil Lord Naritsuga, brother to the existing Shogun.

Thoughts: While Takashi Miike has given us some amazing horror films, it is impossible to categorize him as a genre director.  He has shown his skill in everything from period pieces, family films, westerns and yakuza flicks.  In 13 Assassins, Miike brings us a gripping epic set at the twilight of Feudal Japan, but adds his penchant for amazing works of violence.

The movie is essentially split into two parts, with the first hour telling the story and building on the characters.  The acting is superb and you really feel closer to the Assassins by the time the second half starts.  The second half is one of the most amazing battle scenes I recall seeing on film. It literally lasts an hour and includes amazing sword play and ingenious booby traps.  The only other battle scene that I recall being drawn into like this was the beach scene in Saving Private Ryan.  Miike has mud and blood splashing the camera lens to really draw you in.

I can’t recommend this one enough.  It really isn’t a genre film, but with Miike’s reputation and the final battle scene, it has a place on my review list.  I am going to have to give it another watch, but this may land on the top of my list of movies Directed by takashi Miike, which is saying a lot.