Cinepub


Found Footage Friday: Cannibal Holocaust by Jamie

I recently watched ‘Paranormal Activity 4’ and went on a mini-rampage about how fucking sick I am of found footage films, going so far as to declare that if film makers can’t be bothered to hire professional camera men to make their “professional” films then I’m not going to bother watching them. After the rage subsided, I thought about some found footage films that I’d actually enjoyed and realised I probably shouldn’t tar an entire genre with the same brush.

So I decided that one way to try and come to terms with this style of film making, which is certainly not going to go away, was to watch as many of them as possible. I want to discover the gems hidden among the sea of shit that makes up the entire found footage movement. It’s going to be a long, hard slog but luckily I’m a glutton for punishment and it only seems fair to begin with the great granddaddy of the entire genre, the one that started it all. No, I’m not talking about ‘The Blair Witch Project’. Silly young people. No, to see what many consider the birth of found footage, we have to go all the way back to the year 1980 for a little film called ‘Cannibal Holocaust‘. Spoilers and possibility of drunken ramblings ahead.

Oh boy. I don’t even know where to begin. I guess Cannibal Holocaust is one of those movies which I’d always assumed I’d seen and forgotten most of. If you have any interest in film, particularly horror, then there’s a good chance that you’ll end up hearing and reading a lot about it and I guess that that’s where I’d gotten the idea that perhaps I had viewed it before. I just knew so much about it that I assumed at some point in my life I’d sat down and actually watched it. Trust me when I say that I’ve seen and forgotten more films than a lot of people have actually seen so it was an easy mistake for me to make. But as I was watching the film today, I realised that it was obvious that I’d never seen this film before because I wouldn’t be able to forget it and now I never will. Never.

So the basic story of the film is that a young documentary team from New York has gone to the Amazon rainforest in order to film the local tribes there and have gone missing. New York University anthropology professor Harold Monroe (Robert Kerman) decides to head into the foreboding jungle to try and track them down. He and his guides come across several tribes and evidence of the crew along their travels. The tribes seem particularly wary of the men and the professor comes to the conclusion that the film crew must have done something in order to make them this way. Finally his worst fears are realized. He discovers the remains of the crew and finds that they have been cannibalised. After negotiating with a tribal chief he manages to procure the crew’s film and heads back to New York.

In New York, the Pan American Broadcast Company decides they want to air the footage but Monroe insists he take a look at the raw footage first. Ok, this is one major part of the plot that I had a problem with. Really? The TV company were just gonna broadcast the footage without reviewing it first? Footage of an expedition that they knew ended with the crew being killed and eaten? They didn’t think that there might be anything on there that they might wanna get a look at first? Really? Anyway, that’s kind of beside the point because it turns out that, surprise surprise, Monroe was right to review the footage as he uncovers that the so-called documentarians were actually staging scenarios in order to get footage for their film and they did it in pretty horrific ways. Such as rounding a tribe into a straw hut and setting said hut on fire. They also gleefully engage in a bit of the old enforced the old in-out, real savage. Oh and then they impale their rape victim on a big wooden stake and film it as if the tribe had done it to her in some kind of punishment ritual. So yes, through all the extreme violence and sexual assault there is a subtext, that subtext being who are the real savages? The tribal peoples or the fucked up Westerners? The film unfortunately decides to try and hammer this message home at the end with Monroe asking himself “I wonder who the real cannibals are?” Well professor, the word cannibal has a pretty strict definition.:

  1. A person who eats the flesh of other human beings: “cannibal tribes”.
  2. An animal that feeds on flesh of its own species.

So, yeah, given that I’m going to say that the real cannibals were the people who ate people. If you’d said savages instead of cannibals I’d have been completely on board with your point but you didn’t. Now you look like a fool. A fool professor! Anyway the last of the footage ends with the crew being killed and eaten (and in the case of the female member of the crew raped as well) which, whilst horrific, I suppose is kind of supposed to be justified by the actions of the crew earlier. Whilst I’m sure the film makers meant the film to suggest that it truly was the fucked up Westerners that were the real savages, I just came away from it thinking ‘Fuck. I guess everyone is a savage.’

Now this film is massively controversial for a number of reasons. The director, Ruggero Deodato, was even arrested and accused of murder as the courts believed that several people had actually been killed on camera for the film. Now whilst some of the staged acts of graphic violence is certainly a bit much, though incredibly realistic for the time it was filmed, that’s not exactly the stuff I have a problem with. No, it’s the actual acts of horrific violence that were done just for the camera. One of the reasons that this film remains controversial to this day is the fact that actual and unnecessarily brutal acts of animal cruelty were filmed, ostensibly for entertainment purposes. These scenes are some of the most difficult I’ve ever seen. Seven animals in total were killed during the making of the movie, six of which were included in the film. There’s a coati which is stabbed though the neck and butchered, a tarantula and a snake that are both hacked up with machetes, a pig that gets kicked around a few times before being shot in the head at close range with a shotgun. Then a squirrel monkey, squirming and screaming is held down whilst the top of its head is removed with a machete.

Please don’t chop my head off and eat my brains…
Image courtesy of Luc Viatour / http://www.Lucnix.be

Despite how horrific that is, it’s actually one of the least egregious killings because it was eaten by the tribal cast members who consider monkey brains a delicacy and it would be pretty hypocritical of me as a meat eater to criticise a different cultures methods of killing and eating their food. Still, it’s a difficult watch.

The most difficult scene, however, is the killing and butchering of a large turtle which is dragged out of the amazon. It’s quite a long piece of the film and it’s pretty fucking sickening. The joy with which the film crew decapitate the animal, hack off its still twitching limbs and remove it’s shell is truly, truly shocking. I actually yelled at the screen in disgust a number of times and found myself wishing it would just end. At times, it felt like it never would. It’s weird because I’d always wondered what a turtle looked like without it’s shell. Now I wish I didn’t know because it turns out it’s just a mess of organs.

So… yeah. That’s film one in this ongoing series about found footage films. I honestly don’t feel that I can covey the feelings that this film brought up in me. Despite all that and as much as it pains me to say it… The film is kinda good. Completely unenjoyable and deserving of having every remaining copy of it shot into the sun forever and ever but still worth at least one watch. I honestly can’t explain why. Maybe it’s because everything that this film spawned. Maybe it’s a morbid curiosity to find out what others think of it. Maybe it’s simply because despite everything that I should hate about this film, there’s something weirdly fascinating about it. It’s a film that I can neither recommend nor fully condemn. I’ll just say that if you have any interest in the history of cinema, horror particularly, it’s a film you should watch at least once. But be warned. It is not an easy or enjoyable experience.

And now, to lighten the mood, here’s Space Unicorn.



Zombie Month: A Virgin Among The Living Dead by Jamie

Well, I honestly thought that the recent Zombie craze which saw itself rise like… well, like a Zombie, in the early 2000s was kinda coming to end, replaced by a love for creatures which called themselves vampires and werewolves which in no way resembled vampires or werewolves. (Seriously, why is the Twilight series named after things relating to the night? None of the creatures powers in that series are linked in anyway to the night.) But the Zombie trend continues to shuffle on relentlessly like… well, like a Zombie, buoyed most recently by the awesome small screen adaptation of the awesome comic book ‘The Walking Dead’.

Because of this I’ve found myself more obsessed with Zombies than is probably legal. To try and get over this I have decided that December will be Zombie month at Cinepub. And really what better month than December to pick? For was December not the month that the man who would grow up to become the first Zombie, Jesus Hubert Christ, born? Well in reality probably not but the legend says it so and what’s better? The truth or an entertaining lie?
 

Clearly an entertaining lie.


So with all that in mind I went to Wikipedia’s list of Zombie films and arbitrarily picked thirty-one titles to watch and review. I decided to ignore the old classics such as Romero’s body of work and the beloved splatter films of the 70s and 80s because, well, what more can I say at them. (With the exception of one classic from the 80s because I haven’t seen it in years, I had a damn hard time finding it and this seems like a good excuse to finally rewatch it again). For the most part, many of the films seem to be made during the recent craze and many seem to be very, very low budget. I’m hoping that I’ll find a few modern gems amongst what I’m sure will be largely a pile of shit but hey, negative reviews are always more fun to write and read than positive ones so I’m sure we’ll have some fun.

Today’s entry in the marathon is one that didn’t come from the modern era. It’s titled ‘A Virgin Among The Living Dead’ and is from the 70s. It’s also European but I’m having a hard time pinning down exactly where. The opening titles are in French but according to IMDB the original language was German (my copy is dubbed) and it lists the country’s involved as France, Belgium, Italy and Germany but it certainly has a very French feel about it.

The basic story is… Well, it’s difficult to say. Let’s just say the film is a huge confusing mess, right of the bat. I’m also not sure exactly why it’s listed in Wikipedia’s list of Zombie films. We’ll come to that though. I guess the basic story is that a girl, Chirstine, who had been living in London returns to Miscellaneous European Country upon hearing the news of her father’s death in order to attend the reading of his will. She had never really known her father as he had sent her to private school in England after the death of her mother and had never met his extended family either.

Upon reaching the family castle (A ‘castle’ which it must be noted looked smaller than the villa I spent my summer holiday in Ibiza in) she learns that her father’s second wife is dying. Upon her way to see the dying woman she encounters a weird mute housekeeper who looks like an old version of Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite who had really let himself go, her uncle, her aunt and a woman who I’m guessing might be her cousin or something (Apart from the main girl, I never really picked up the character’s name). There all a bit kooky and weird and her uncle at least is strangely cold to the touch. I imagine she reconciles this in her mind by just assuming it’s because they’re from mainland Europe, a fair assumption to make, but it’s soon clear that there’s more going on here. Unfortunately the movie never makes it clear what that is.

So as time progresses, Christina has weird dreams about her dead father calling her name and he appears to her as a being caught somewhere between life and death. But I have see no real reason for him showing up because he doesn’t do anything except warn her about things at too late a juncture for her to do anything about them. And seeing as this is a European horror film made in the 70s, there’s also plenty of shots of Christina and others completely naked for no real reason. There’s one bit where Christina goes swimming naked in a pond and two characters who never appear again leer over her until they are shooed away by a third character who also never appears again. Basically it’s an excuse for the girl to frolic about with a kit of for a bit. Still she’s kinda cute and has a well managed bush by 70s standards at least.

So through all of this incomprehensible mess, there aren’t any actual zombies in this zombie film except for the vague implication that her family might be the living dead. And by vague implication I mean that but where she notes that her Uncle is cold to the touch. Her cousin also has a habit of drinking blood from her blind cousin’s breasts (who shows up vaguely warn Christina about something) and someone goes around putting the desiccated bodies of bed all over place because… well, because. I understand there is a later cut of this film where the director added scenes of traditional zombies and it’s apparently even more confusing than this version. That surely takes some doing.

By the end of the film Christina has gone quite mad after being attacked by her family some reason. Then she has another dream where Lady Death takes her into the pond she swam naked earlier and her family follow her. Seriously. I have no fucking idea what the hell happened in this film. When there weren’t naked people on screen, people were talking in vague and philosophical terms about death which is why I said that the film had a French feeling to it. That’s the kind of thing French people do.

So the first film of Zombie month has no Zombies in it and was completely incomprehensible to boot. This is not the best start to this marathon. Here’s hoping tomorrow’s film kicks things up a notch. Bam. I rate ‘A Virgin Amongst The Living Dead’ one pint out of five because the vaguely cute girl got vaguely naked a vaguely large number of times. Laterz then.

You can buy a version of ‘A Virgin Among The Living Dead’ from the Cinepub Amazon.co.uk Store for £3.99



Zombie Month: A Virgin Among The Living Dead by Jamie

Well, I honestly thought that the recent Zombie craze which saw itself rise like… well, like a Zombie, in the early 2000s was kinda coming to end, replaced by a love for creatures which called themselves vampires and werewolves which in no way resembled vampires or werewolves. (Seriously, why is the Twilight series named after things relating to the night? None of the creatures powers in that series are linked in anyway to the night.) But the Zombie trend continues to shuffle on relentlessly like… well, like a Zombie, buoyed most recently by the awesome small screen adaptation of the awesome comic book ‘The Walking Dead’.

Because of this I’ve found myself more obsessed with Zombies than is probably legal. To try and get over this I have decided that December will be Zombie month at Cinepub. And really what better month than December to pick? For was December not the month that the man who would grow up to become the first Zombie, Jesus Hubert Christ, born? Well in reality probably not but the legend says it so and what’s better? The truth or an entertaining lie?
 

Clearly an entertaining lie.

So with all that in mind I went to Wikipedia’s list of Zombie films and arbitrarily picked thirty-one titles to watch and review. I decided to ignore the old classics such as Romero’s body of work and the beloved splatter films of the 70s and 80s because, well, what more can I say at them. (With the exception of one classic from the 80s because I haven’t seen it in years, I had a damn hard time finding it and this seems like a good excuse to finally rewatch it again). For the most part, many of the films seem to be made during the recent craze and many seem to be very, very low budget. I’m hoping that I’ll find a few modern gems amongst what I’m sure will be largely a pile of shit but hey, negative reviews are always more fun to write and read than positive ones so I’m sure we’ll have some fun.

Today’s entry in the marathon is one that didn’t come from the modern era. It’s titled ‘A Virgin Among The Living Dead’ and is from the 70s. It’s also European but I’m having a hard time pinning down exactly where. The opening titles are in French but according to IMDB the original language was German (my copy is dubbed) and it lists the country’s involved as France, Belgium, Italy and Germany but it certainly has a very French feel about it.

The basic story is… Well, it’s difficult to say. Let’s just say the film is a huge confusing mess, right of the bat. I’m also not sure exactly why it’s listed in Wikipedia’s list of Zombie films. We’ll come to that though. I guess the basic story is that a girl, Chirstine, who had been living in London returns to Miscellaneous European Country upon hearing the news of her father’s death in order to attend the reading of his will. She had never really known her father as he had sent her to private school in England after the death of her mother and had never met his extended family either.

Upon reaching the family castle (A ‘castle’ which it must be noted looked smaller than the villa I spent my summer holiday in Ibiza in) she learns that her father’s second wife is dying. Upon her way to see the dying woman she encounters a weird mute housekeeper who looks like an old version of Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite who had really let himself go, her uncle, her aunt and a woman who I’m guessing might be her cousin or something (Apart from the main girl, I never really picked up the character’s name). There all a bit kooky and weird and her uncle at least is strangely cold to the touch. I imagine she reconciles this in her mind by just assuming it’s because they’re from mainland Europe, a fair assumption to make, but it’s soon clear that there’s more going on here. Unfortunately the movie never makes it clear what that is.

So as time progresses, Christina has weird dreams about her dead father calling her name and he appears to her as a being caught somewhere between life and death. But I have see no real reason for him showing up because he doesn’t do anything except warn her about things at too late a juncture for her to do anything about them. And seeing as this is a European horror film made in the 70s, there’s also plenty of shots of Christina and others completely naked for no real reason. There’s one bit where Christina goes swimming naked in a pond and two characters who never appear again leer over her until they are shooed away by a third character who also never appears again. Basically it’s an excuse for the girl to frolic about with a kit of for a bit. Still she’s kinda cute and has a well managed bush by 70s standards at least.

So through all of this incomprehensible mess, there aren’t any actual zombies in this zombie film except for the vague implication that her family might be the living dead. And by vague implication I mean that but where she notes that her Uncle is cold to the touch. Her cousin also has a habit of drinking blood from her blind cousin’s breasts (who shows up vaguely warn Christina about something) and someone goes around putting the desiccated bodies of bed all over place because… well, because. I understand there is a later cut of this film where the director added scenes of traditional zombies and it’s apparently even more confusing than this version. That surely takes some doing.

By the end of the film Christina has gone quite mad after being attacked by her family some reason. Then she has another dream where Lady Death takes her into the pond she swam naked earlier and her family follow her. Seriously. I have no fucking idea what the hell happened in this film. When there weren’t naked people on screen, people were talking in vague and philosophical terms about death which is why I said that the film had a French feeling to it. That’s the kind of thing French people do.

So the first film of Zombie month has no Zombies in it and was completely incomprehensible to boot. This is not the best start to this marathon. Here’s hoping tomorrow’s film kicks things up a notch. Bam. I rate ‘A Virgin Amongst The Living Dead’ one pint out of five because the vaguely cute girl got vaguely naked a vaguely large number of times. Laterz then.

You can buy a version of ‘A Virgin Among The Living Dead’ from the Cinepub Amazon.co.uk Store for £3.99



Review: Piranha 2: The Spawning (1981) by Jamie

Ah, Piranha 2. Whether he likes it or not, and believe me he doesn’t, this will be regarded by most people as James Cameron’s first film. I will be one of those people because James Cameron is a massive, massive douche bag. That’s not a comment on his film making abilities. You’d have to be an idiot to say he isn’t a great filmmaker but I just wish he’d knew when to keep his damn mouth shut because when he does speak, well, it makes him come off as a massive, massive douche bag. Take what he had to say about Piranha 3D’ recently. I hate pretty much every statement he makes in that interview. 3D is a gimmick whether you like it or not James. Piranha 3D understood that and it’s the first film using the new 3D technology that I’ve actually enjoyed due to the 3D rather than in spite of it. Still, I’m getting ahead of myself.

So yes, to be fair to Cameron, he was indeed replaced on this Italian produced sequel to 1978’s awesome ‘Piranha’ by Joe Dante. I’m not actually sure if the producers of this film got any kind of permission to make this sequel. I know that uber-B-movie producer Roger Corman, who produced the first film, isn’t involved at all which is a pretty bad sign because Roger Corman is awesome at what he does. Also because this is an Italian production James Cameron had the unenviable task of working with an all Italian crew who spoke no English though it probably couldn’t have hurt if maybe he learnt a little Italian. To top it all off he had to work with executive producer Ovidio G. Assonitis, a man who disliked everything Cameron did and had final say about everything. So in the end they fired Cameron, brought on an Italian director to do the film how they wanted it done but they left Cameron’s name on it because they were contractually couldn’t submit the film with an Italian name, leaving Cameron with this stain on his flexography for the rest of time. Poor James Cameron. He’s still a douche bag though.

So what’s this film about? Well, ostensibly piranha. Flying piranha at that but they don’t really show up much and when they do the screen is so dark that it can be hard to ascertain exactly what’s going on. The basic gist of the story is that a military ship has sunk carrying a batch of mutant piranha eggs. This time they’ve had their DNA mixed with a whole muddle of other fish including flying fish hence their new found powers of aviation. I don’t mean to be a stickler here but flying fish cannot fly like bats. They just sort of glide. Sure their “wings” might wobble a bit as they move from side to side to change direction but it’s certainly not flapping. Seriously, it’s a fucking B-Movie just mix the fucking piranha DNA with bat DNA. Do you know how awesome a piranha would look with bat wings?

That Fucking Awesome.

And why are the military still messing about with Piranha anyway? Didn’t they learn anything from the events of the first Piranha outbreak back in 1978? Did they actually manage to cover up that stuff? Did nobody find out that the military were behind it because if they did I can only assume that there would be massive investigations into their secret activities and any piranha-based research would be stopped immediately.

I’ll be honest. Describing the plot is going to be difficult because whilst I was watching this I kept on zoning out and just getting distracted by far more interesting things like practicing Guitar Hero without turning the game on and looking at bits of fluff I found on my bedroom floor. Also there are far, far too many different plot threads than there should be in a killer fish movie. Basically, there’s a diving instructor who has someone get eaten on her during one of their dives, one of her students is actually a government agent trying to find out if the piranha are there, her ex-husband is the sheriff who is played by Lance Henriksen (the only decent acting performance in the entire film really) who goes around kind of harassing people but mainly for their own safety, there’s their son who is hired to work on a rich guy’s yacht and his adventures with the rich guy’s sexy young daughter, there’s the resort owner who refuses to close the resort on their biggest day of business (of course), there’s the couple of girls who trick a retarded chef into giving them free food by offering him a threesome, there’s the local fisherman and his son who hunt for fish with dynamite, there’s the ugly girl who falls in love with the ugly dentist and there’s many more that I’m sure I’m forgetting. The point is most of that is completely ancillary. Just give me one main plot thread, maybe a side plot as well and then have piranha attack things. Is that so hard?

To top everything off, not only is the plot a mess but so is the film-making side of things. The camera work is atrocious, framing characters in such a way that it seems as though you’re supposed to be paying attention to what the extras in the background are doing sometimes and at others it just cuts the top of a characters head off at a bizarre angle in a way that just shouldn’t be done in any film ever. As mentioned previously the film is also really poorly lit, especially towards the end when most of the piranha action actually happens. Even so, the piranha look fucking atrocious as they fly towards people guided by sometimes clearly visible wires. It’s all such a massive, massive disappointment after the enjoyment that could be had watching the first film.

Well, there you have it. Piranha 2 is a very, very bad film and I mean genuinely b ad. It isn’t the kind of film you can watch and have fun watching because of it’s awfulness, it’s just awful. The one highlight is Lance Henriksen. He’s always enjoyable to watch and it’s kind of weird to see him looking kind of young here. Actually the rich guy’s daughter is kinda cute. Let’s look her up and see if she’s doing anything these days. Let’s see… Her name is Leslie Graves… Leslie Graves… Ah, here we go… Oh, she died in 1995 from an AIDS-related illness. Well, thanks for that movie. That’s really depressing. Just what you need after a bad film. Hopefully I’ll find some joy in tomorrow’s offering, the 1995 remake of the original Piranha! Join us then and find out… Oh, and the rating for Piranha 2 is one pint out of five. Laterz.




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