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The Fine Art of Tactical Retreat

Apr. 10th, 2019

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Sep. 24th, 2016

08:12 pm - In short: Eaters (2015)

A bunch of friends are on a road trip. Somewhere in the loneliest part of New Mexico, they pause at the wrong rest stop. One of the female members of the group doesn’t return form her personal toilet stop. Her friends, particularly her boyfriend, are quick to assume she has been kidnapped by the only other people who were at the rest stop, a quartet of bikers.

So off they go in hot pursuit of the bikers which turns into a Mexican stand-off. Unfortunately, apart from making some armed hairy (or rather adorably bewigged) men really angry, the whole thing comes to nothing for our protagonists, for their friend isn’t loaded into the bikers’ drug transporter.

Further investigation – and an empty gas tank – lead them to a ghost town, which will turn out to be the place their friend was taken to. Unfortunately, it’s populated by a bunch of mute, pillowcase mask-wearing cannibals. To make matters mildly more complicated, the little altercation earlier wasn’t the last our heroes will hear of the bikers either.

The Internet really seems to hate Johnny Tabor’s micro-budget Eaters quite a bit (with the usual bunch of people who clearly don’t watch many movies declaring it to be the worst horror film evah, or something of the sort); me, I found myself enjoying the film more than I expected.

Now, Eaters has some obvious problems: the acting is rough around the edges at best, and often just not terribly good, and its plot certainly is the sort of thing I’ve seen a couple of dozen times before. However, Tabor is a pretty effective director. At the very least, Eaters is better paced than this sort of thing on this sort of budget generally turns out to be, clearly made by someone who realizes that scenes need to have a function in a narrative and should end once that function is fulfilled (unless you’re Jess Franco or somebody else who just doesn’t care about traditional structure at all and turn this into your personal style).

The pacing’s reasonably effective, and the film generally gets a bit of mileage out of feeling like one of the lesser, locally produced grindhouse movies of the 70s, with the desert and the ghost town providing some instant atmosphere, as do the pillowhead-style of the main baddies, the lack of explanation for their existence (or really, of what they actually are apart from cannibals), and direction that usually aims not to be boring.

It’s not the great lost horror masterpiece of 2015 but I think it’s a perfectly decent film.

Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,in short,horror,johnny tabor

Sep. 23rd, 2016

06:59 pm - Past Misdeeds: Wolfguy: Enraged Lycanthrope (1975)

Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.

Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.

Hard-nosed reporter who never does any reporting Inugami (Sonny Chiba) just happens to be the last of a tribe of werewolves, making him not a ravening beast at the night (and day) of the full moon, but giving him an old-school Wolverine-like self-healing ability as well as superhuman strength and agility on these nights. One non-full moon night, Inugami stumbles over a panicked man running through the city streets screaming something about a tiger and a girl named Miki. Before you can say "Very peculiar, Watson", an invisible force rips the guy to shreds.

That - and the vision of a tiger - is certainly bizarre enough to get Inugami interested. With the help of his journalist colleague and friend Arai, the reporter soon discovers that the victim was once part of a rock band known as the Mobs, four charming guys who raped a singer named Miki Ogata (Nami Etsuko?). They didn't only do the deed for kicks, but also because their yakuza-controlled management asked them to, to "teach Miki a lesson".

Now, Miki is a syphilitic junkie singing in strip bars. She's also not completely sane anymore.

Although he has already had some violent encounters with the yakuza, Inugami feels driven to save Miki, an idea that will cost his friend Arai's life. It looks like there's a connection between what has been done to Miki and the highest strata of Japanese politics, but that turns out to be not very important for the rest of the movie. Unexpectedly, Miki and Inugami are kidnapped by a shady government agency that would very much like to build themselves some super soldiers out of them. Miki is easily controlled through her hatred, but Inugami isn't even to be convinced by a little vivisection.

When the full moon appears in the sky, he's getting rather cross with his captors.

For once, a cult film is nearly as awesome as its title promises. Wolfguy: ER (sorry) is as typical of mid-70s Japanese action cinema as possible, with all the absurdity and sleaze that promises. The film's archetypal Japanese action-cinemaness is not much of a surprise when you realize that it was directed by Kazuhiko Yamaguchi, who had started his career by making a few girl boss movies in some of Toei's various series of the genre, and then gone on to become one of the studio's go-to directors for absurd action films with the Chiba-associated Sister Streetfighter movies, and the Karate Bullfighter etc series with Chiba.

Now, Yamaguchi was never the most stylish or most controlled of directors. His films are often more than a little sloppy and are usually held together through the power of the pure outrageousness of the proceedings in them instead of strong plotting or narrative. Whenever his films get serious, Yamaguchi falters. Fortunately, there is not much that is sane or serious about Wolfguy. Here, Yamaguchi's hectic editing, his rather random love for inappropriate camera angles and his sudden bursts of cleverness come together to form a feverish and slightly hallucinatory feeling whole.

This strange, loudly unreal quality of the film is amplified even further by the randomness of a script that is built in the usual "one scene of dialogue is followed by one scene of action is followed by one scene of nakedness" style and does not at all care about how to connect these scenes sensibly. It is a non-structure that would only lead to tears in a more normal movie, but "normal" just isn't in the cards for this one. As the oh so wonderful, repetitive Japan funk that makes up the score will agree.

Wolfguy is the sort of film where the first sex scene contains blood-licking and verbal approval of Chiba's animalness, the next (nearly)sex with a syphilitic to prove how trustworthy Chiba is, and the last finds our hero explaining how sex with his last-minute love-interest reminds him of his mother and being born. No wonder, with the girl being named after Chiba's mother and all. Of course, the film plays all this as if it were the most obvious and banal love scenes, producing additional friction in the audience's (well, my) brains.

The action scenes are set up in a comparable way, and have an equal love for the bizarre and unexplained. Why does our hero throw coins with lethal precision? And, coming to that, why is the government werewolf (who will die of an allergy to his new werewolf blood) so much hairier than Chiba (who never transforms into anything)? So many questions, and of course most of them are never answered at all. How could they when it is quite clear that the film just makes everything up as it goes along?

That's not a criticism in this particular case, mind you. When a film is so perfectly fixated on the bizarre, there's just no need for it to try and explain too much or to try and make sense. If it did, it would just sabotage its mind-blowing effect, throwing away the purity of its strangeness for something as boring as plot logic. I certainly wouldn't want that.

Then there's Sonny. Chiba is in his prime here, yet not doing much of the more subtle acting he always has been capable of when needed, nor going for his beloved grimacing scenery-chewing and heavy breathing. Instead, Chiba coasts on his particular brand of charisma and cool. It shouldn't work, or should at least come over as rather lazy, yet somehow feels like the appropriate way to handle this particular role, as if the wolfman were a centre of sanity in the insane world of humanity.

The whole affair is based on a manga I'd just love to read, and possibly the sequel to 1973's Okami no Monsho aka Crest of the Beast, but information about both films is difficult to come by and does generally not seem trustworthy to me. It's a shame, really, because I could use more of this particular brand of insanity in my life.

Technorati-Markierungen: japanese movies,action,fantasy,sonny chiba,etsuko nami,kazuhiko yamaguchi,reviews

Sep. 22nd, 2016

07:31 pm - In short: The Stewardess (2002)

Original title: 非常凶姐

Ken Ma (Sam Lee Chan-Sam) spends his working time as a small time screenwriter and his free time as an improbable pick-up artist. His life becomes rather more interesting when he opts for what he thinks is only a one night stand with air hostess Apple (Lee San-San).

Before he can even blink, he’s Apple’s official boyfriend – and Apple’s not the kind of girl who’ll let her boyfriend run around trying to sleep with other women, or indeed one who’ll stop at anything to control him. In fact, first order of business for her is introducing Ken to her father, triad boss Dragon (Michael Chan Wai-Man), for photos and fingerprinting, so it’s easier to find Ken if he leaves the straight and narrow, and needs a corrective loss of a certain sexual organ ending with “ick”. So clearly, nothing could go wrong with the romance between our sleazy protagonist and his horrid new girlfriend.

Yet things do become even worse than expected when a Japanese woman (Seina Kasugai) who always dresses in red and generally introduces herself ominously as “Yurei, air hostess” steps into Ken’s life and sexes him up right quick (not that there’s any resistance from his side, mind you). Soon, Ken isn’t just in trouble with a violent girlfriend and her penis-cutting dad, but also has to cope with the little fact that “Yurei” is batshit, murderously insane even for a character in this movie.

If Sam Leong Tak-Sam’s horror comedy The Stewardess is anything, it certainly is pretty darn weird. I’m not just talking the sort of comedic weirdness born from a disconnect between Hong Kong concepts of what’s funny and mine that inevitably leads to stuff flying right over my head. Nor do I just talk about the eyebrow-raising more common and garden weirdness of a film that comments on its Chinese protagonist sleeping with a Japanese woman with a fantasy scene that shows him wearing a military uniform and breaking a Japanese World War II style battle flag in two over his knee. Rather, I’m talking about the sort of freeform insanity that can’t help but add some perfectly bizarre flourish to even the most pedestrian of scenes and concepts, of course – this being a Hong Kong film – often leaving all sorts of good and proper taste behind to offend whoever is available – the Japanese, the triads, the mentally ill, Takashi Miike, its own lead actor and everyone else are all fair game for whatever dumb idea Leong and co-writer Rikako Suzuki have in any given moment.

More often than not, Leong presents the general and specific weirdness in a stylish and slick – yet still batshit - manner that makes parts of the film look like the love child of a pretty screwy giallo and young Takashi Miike on one of his milder days. Add to this the outrageous performance by Seina Kasugi, Lam Suet doing his standard triad guy named Fatty thing, and certainly nobody will get bored watching The Stewardess.

Technorati-Markierungen: hong kong movies,in short,comedy,horror,sam leong tak-sam,sam lee chan-sam,lee san-san,kasugai seina,lam suet

Sep. 21st, 2016

07:01 pm - House of Black Wings (2010)

Because her music career and her private life have hit rock bottom because of violent tragedy, bad luck, and bad decisions, rock musician Nicky Tarot (Leah Myette) returns to her home city, where she renames herself into Kate Stone and tries to put the past behind her wholesale. Kate is lent a helping hand by her artist friend Robyn (Katherine Herrera), the only one of her old buddies who still wants anything to do with her.

Robyn has inherited a curious apartment building named Blackwood whose handful of tenants are students and artists, so she provides Kate with an apartment of her own and a job as the place’s super. Robyn lives in the building too, so Kate even has a friendly face around.

Unfortunately, Blackwood is not a good home to nurse one’s grief and one’s guilt in. As soon as she has moved in, Kate is plagued by nightmares, the noise of wings in the walls, and everything else to keep a woman off balance. Worse still, the nightmares soon intersect with Kate’s waking world in various disturbing ways; and Kate might not be the only one living in Blackwood touched in this way. It is as if the house pushes its tenants to create art – art that seems to function as a doorway to drag the artist into the cosmic void.

David Schmidt’s House of Black Wings is as fine an example of micro-budget indie horror, a film that not only feels like a labour of love but also avoids many of the pitfalls this sort of film can so easily stumble into - not necessarily because the people involved are lacking in passion or talent but because they are lacking in experience and funds which very often means a film only has limited opportunities to correct problems and mistakes.

The only typical indie horror problem House of Black Wings shows is a certain slowness in the middle, where it might have lost ten minutes or so, but that’s not a terrible problem for a film to have. It’s also not to be confused with that micro budget thing where scenes go on and on and on for no good reason whatsoever – Schmidt knows when to end scenes, and it is clear he also has a clear picture of why any given scene is part of the narrative. This may sound like a curious thing to praise but just putting scenes into a film without any narrative (or atmospheric) reason for them to be there is a problem you’ll encounter in mainstream horror right now nearly as often as in micro budget films (whose makers at least have better excuses for this particular failing), so Schmidt is actually doing a lot better than many of the rich kids do.

The film’s heart, concerning earnest thoughts about art, guilt and life and their collision with cosmic horror, isn’t anything you’d find in a more mainstream film either. It’s the sort of thing that could become rather pretentious pretty fast, but the way Schmidt film’s plays it, it feels organic and right, the cosmic horror and the inner struggle of the characters working as reflections of each other.

And the cosmic horror is fine indeed. There are of course more than just hints of Lovecraft and other greats of weird fiction running through the movie but this is not a film in the business of putting the correct nerdy mythos reference at the forefront, so there’s a decided lack of Cthulhu cults and Iäs on display. Instead of the most superficial bits and pieces of the weird, House of Black WIngs opts for its spirit, made visible through some very original effects work. Well, and quite a few maggots and worms. The film uses stop motion as well as digital and practical effects, and even includes some shadow puppet work when Kate reads a wonderful expository children’s book, most of it shown in short bursts and flashes and demonstrating a degree of thematic coherence that I wish more films would aim for when presenting the supernatural.

The acting is on the mark too, with Myette (and Herrera to a degree) carrying the film quite capably. The film aims for naturalness in most character interactions, so despite content that would lend itself to stiffness, melodrama, or just all-around gothiness, things never feel that way. These women are portrayed as actual believable women, so their run-in with the Outside gains more weight once it turns their world unnatural.

House of Black Wings really is a wonderful film, full of lovingly created detail like the shadow puppet bit or Robyn’s doll house from hell, and even some expertly realized suspense sequences that make great use out of people crawling between the house’s walls (and what they find there), with some moody locations and a script that’s thoughtful, never confusing the weird with the random.

Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,reviews,horror,david schmidt,leah myette,katherine herrera

Sep. 20th, 2016

07:32 pm - In short: Carnosaur 2 (1995)

Communications to a military uranium mine somewhere in the middle of one of the US deserts has broken down. For reasons, time is pressing, so Major Tom McQuade (Cliff DeYoung) can’t wait for appropriate military operatives and decides to go in with what will be our main protagonists. The film is keeping things pretty vague there, but our heroes seem to be some sort of repair crew for hire, wearing black dusters with a little lightning symbol on them. Though nobody in the costume department could decide if the lightning’s supposed to be horizontal or vertical. So yes, this is the first film I’ve seen concerning the adventures of mercenary electricians.

Once our heroes arrive at the mine, scenes from Aliens happen to them, just with dinosaurs replacing the aliens.

As regular readers know (hi, Mum!), I’m rather fond of low budget specialist Louis Morneau’s films. However, this doesn’t mean his Corman production belatedly answering the masses screaming for a sequel to the painful Carnosaur finds my approval, seeing as I’m not quite stupid enough to be part of its core audience. Morneau’s direction isn’t really the problem: he tries his best to make the usual sets look exciting, merrily films around the problems of the special effects until they look downright solid, and does tend to film okay monster attacks, making the whole affair mysteriously look like an actual movie. The true problem is Michael Palmer’s script. It doesn’t so much crib a bit from Cameron’s Aliens but just reproduces complete scenes. Which probably must have sounded like a genius idea given that Aliens is rather good; unfortunately, Carmosaur 2 rips stuff off without any rhyme or reason, without even the tiniest thought given to questions like if a scene makes any sense in the somewhat different context it takes place in. The stuff Palmer comes up with himself neither fits the parts he has ripped off, nor does it make much sense. Just look at the nature of our heroes, the bizarre contortions the film goes through to explain why there’s nobody competent around, and so on, and so forth.

It doesn’t help the film’s case that John Savage just might be the worst Ripley ever, and that its version of Aliens clearly has no use for female characters at all. Even the Italian rip-off industry knew better than this! This – of course – doesn’t mean a boy can’t have a bit of fun with the film but it’s not the good and clean kind of fun to be sure.

Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,in short,louis morneau,cliff de young,michael palmer,horror

Sep. 19th, 2016

07:52 pm - Music Monday: Wailin’ Edition

Sep. 18th, 2016

08:19 pm - Black Mountain Side (2014)

An archaeological camp in the Great White North of Canada has made a discovery that could be much more important than anyone could have expected. Not only do the archaeologists find pottery that looks rather Mesoamerican in style in the completely wrong part of the continent, predating anything culturally probable, but also what might be only the upper part of a mysterious stone structure - a mysterious stone structure dating from a time before humans actually had a settled lifestyle.

Things start to be going off the rails at about the same time when (one supposes eminent) archaeologist Professor Piers Olsen (Michael Dickson) arrives to corroborate the findings up this point. Things start, as they so often do, with a sacrificed cat, see the local helpers of the dig not leave for home but instead wander northwards into an arctic frost they’ll most probably not be able to survive, find all radio contact impossible (it’d be a rather short film otherwise) and deteriorate further until there’s self-mutilation, suicide, murder, and visions of a deep-voiced godhood with a deer head.

As anyone who even vaguely knows me will realize, Nick Szostakiwskyj’s Black Mountain Side pushes a lot of my narrative and thematic buttons, what with it being a film about a bunch of people isolated in a cold place, the cosmicist as well as folkloric bent to its horror, the archaeology angle, and so on, and so forth. Yet still I didn’t really warm to the film (sorry), never really felt much dread or horror watching it. I didn’t end up actively disliking the film but rather with the feeling that it misses a chance or two too many.

Among the film’s main failings is the nearly complete lack of characterisation, with characters so completely interchangeable, I really couldn’t find any reason to remember their names. There are very few discernible character traits on display from anyone apart from stuff like “is the doctor”, making the characters’ increasing mental dislocation feel rather weightless. It’s also difficult to see if someone starts acting particularly strange (apart from visions of deer gods, obviously) when a film doesn’t establish a base line regarding what’s normal for him. And yes, it’s “him”, for there’s not a single female character in the film, which is Lovecraftian in all the wrong ways, and just completely perplexing in a film made in this century.

Szostakiwskyj’s direction style is a bit problematic to my eyes too. Nearly every scene consists of long, static shots by a mostly immobile camera, from time to time – if we’re lucky – perhaps one cut-away to another static shot and then back again. While this sort of thing can add to the tension by giving the impression of the camera throwing a clinically distanced eye on the characters, it does also make a tale slowly told like this one feel even slower. In interior scenes often involving quite a few characters at once, it’s not very interesting to look at either, and rather than increase the tension, it helps deflate it. This effect is made worse in more than a few scenes by a tendency to awkwardly stuff the actors into the frame, positioning them in deeply unnatural ways that’ll really remind everyone watching this is indeed an indie horror movie.

On the other hand, this too distanced direction style does reap some fruits from time to time because most of Black Mountain Side’s violence and strangeness is filmed in the same flat manner, providing it at times with an unexpectedly disquieting effect, and once the camera starts moving, it feels rather surprising and exciting. I’d still argue that making eighty percent of your film look bland so that the remaining twenty of it can be more effective is not a terribly economical way to go.

Technorati-Markierungen: canadian movies,reviews,horror,nick szostakiwskyj

Sep. 17th, 2016

08:17 pm - In short: The Dead Room (2015)

After paranormal phenomena have driven a family to panicked flight from their house situated in some so rural it looks like wilderness to this German part of New Zealand, three paranormal investigators are sent there to find out what’s what. On first look sceptical – though not so sceptical that it borders on insanity as many a horror film seems to like a sceptic - scientist Scott (Jeffrey Thomas), less sceptical scientist Liam (Jed Brophy) and young medium Holly (Laura Petersen) don’t find too much, but quickly there’s a lot of bumping going on ever night around every 3am. Holly also sees a very tall and very threatening man producing these effects.

To make things even more curious, there is one room inside the house that seems ghost-proof, immune against the tall presence and whatever it brings.

There’s quite a bit to like about Jason Stutter’s ghost house movie The Dead Room. Obviously, originality is not very big among these things, but the film does use some interesting variations on standard haunted house narrative devices. The house this takes place in, for example, is much smaller than is typical in the genre, clearly not too old either, going against many a gothic surface trope while still having the same kinds of hauntings you’d expect going on. Horrors, it turns out, are not exclusively a thing of the most distant past.

The presentation of the haunting is interesting too. The audience, as do Liam and Scott, only ever get to see things moving, hear knocks, feel the house shaking, while only Holly ever is able see the tall man. Stutter’s clearly following the old adage that the things you can’t see are much more frightening than those you can, and it works out well for the most part, giving what is on paper a series of very conventional and tired scares some life. It’s also something I haven’t seen a film use quite the way The Dead Room does in a very long time.

In general the film is appropriately moody, using the small location and the three person main cast expertly, and while there are certainly no particularly deep characters on display, they are lively and real enough to evoke a degree of empathy when they get the crap scared out of them; plus, they’re definitely not annoying, so I never felt myself wishing for anyone’s early death.

Unfortunately, the film pisses away a lot of the goodwill it has produced when its final ten minutes turn into carnival barker style horror nonsense of the worst and most well-worn type. It’s probably meant to be the kind of tonal shift that surprises and shocks the viewer with its audacity, but in practice, the whole thing feels as tacked on as it is tacky, as if the film’s proper ending had been replaced with footage from a different, and pretty damn bad, film.

Technorati-Markierungen: new zealand movies,in short,horror,jason strutter,jed brophy,jeffrey thomas,laura petersen

Sep. 16th, 2016

08:24 pm - Past Misdeeds: The Alien Factor (1978)

Through the transformation of the glorious WTF-Films into the even more glorious Exploder Button and the ensuing server changes, some of my old columns for the site have gone the way of all things internet. I’m going to repost them here in irregular intervals in addition to my usual ramblings.

Please keep in mind these are the old posts without any re-writes or improvements. Furthermore, many of these pieces were written years ago, so if you feel offended or need to violently disagree with me in the comments, you can be pretty sure I won’t know why I wrote what I wrote anymore anyhow.

A small town in Maryland is hit by a series of gruesome and inexplicable murders. Sheriff Cinder (Tom Griffith) is clueless what to do about the problem, and even if he had an idea, it would probably be difficult for him to set a plan into action, given that he seems to be fused to his desk and also possibly one of the walking, moustachioed dead. In a sense, I'm quite glad he loves his desk so much, because another sex scene featuring him rubbing his moustache about some poor woman like that nightmarish episode in the later Nightbeast would probably shatter my sanity for good.

Anyway, the Sheriff knows well that he has no clue and no talent for police work and would very much like to call the state police on the mass slaughter. The town's mayor (Richard Dyszel) however, won't hear of it. You see, there's a large "entertainment complex" (I imagine a very pink bordello) going to be built on the edge of town, and the mayor doesn't want the investors to get nervous. I'm sure they prefer a series of unsolved murders to a solved one.

Fortunately, Ben Zachary (Don Leifert) arrives in town, with a moustache as excellent as that of Cinder and carrying a bag full of gadgets. Zachary purports to work for a nearby observatory and also to be something of an expert in strange things, following a fallen meteorite into town. He'd just love to solve the murders for the mayor while he's at it.

Zachary quickly finds out that the killings are carried out by a trio of malevolent aliens who have escaped from a crashed interplanetary zoo transport, and he knows astonishingly well what to do against them. One could begin to think the observatory worker has a completely surprising secret of his own.

But can one exceedingly hairy man stand alone against the power of Lame Insect Guy, the Abominable Stiltman and Coloured Spot That Moonlights As A See-Through Lizard Monster?

The Alien Factor is the first film directed by the singular Don Dohler, Baltimore's king of dubious yet charming monster movies. Not surprisingly, his debut film presents itself with all the flaws Dohler's later movies would continue to show.

Throughout, The Alien Factor tests its audience's patience with the slowest imaginable pacing, created by Dohler's tendency to fill out his movies' running time with long and pointless sequences of boring and rather ugly people doing nothing of interest or relevance, and doing it very very slowly.

The film isn't exactly getting more thrilling through the peculiar way acting is practiced on planet Dohler. Nobody on screen seems to have a clue how human beings speak, move or look, and so each and every one of the actors has decided to imitate a different object or animal. Dyszel, for example, reminds me of nothing so much as of an excitable dog in a suit, while Griffith prefers the immobility of his beloved desk. The latter is quite understandable, because one can't help but notice in Griffith's regular downward looks that his dialogue is lying on the desk before him. That thing is a regular life saver, if Griffith does in fact possess a life to be saved. Of course, acting this singularly peculiar might not make a film more believable, yet it can't help but amuse.

The only exception from the rule of bad acting is Don Leifert, who always was one of the more talented participants in Dohler's films. I'm not talking about great acting here, but Leifert does possess at least a little charisma and screen presence and does not talk like a broken robot.

Dohler's direction is not exactly masterful either, but for something that was made by a group of people in Baltimore, on an absurd budget and with little experience in commercial filmmaking, The Alien Factor is quite nice to look at. Dohler is obviously a point and shoot guy at heart, he does however usually manage to keep his camera pointed in the right direction. From time to time, scenes are even filmed from more than one camera angle, which might not sound exciting if you're not acquainted with many products of regional filmmaking, but is far from a matter of course in films like this, usually for budgetary reasons.

Dohler might not be visually ambitious (I suspect his ideal SF movie was made in the 50s, in the US), yet he genuinely seems to care about making a watchable movie. While a lot of what we see on screen is pretty boring, Dohler achieves some moody or effective shots from time to time, probably through pure bloody-mindedness more than anything else.

Bloody-mindedness is also what comes to mind when looking at the monsters - three creatures designed with obvious care and enthusiasm and utterly ridiculous, yet ridiculous in a way that speaks of love and the willingness to do stupid things when those stupid things help to get a movie made.

Later Dohler epics would go on to feature a lot of local colour, granting a look into a provincial life that is five to ten years behind what is going on in the cities and imbuing the films with a peculiar charm that is the saving grace of many a local film production of its time. The Alien Factor isn't quite there yet - there's a bit of frightening fashion and ugly living rooms to gawk at, but not as many of the bizarre local characters doing things that might be edgy or funny when you're living in the less exciting parts of the country. Where the later films are set in bizarro Maryland, this one takes place in a more generic small town USA, the fact that Sheriff Cinder and some of the other characters would return in the very Maryland Nighbeast notwithstanding.

Dohler's later films would also feature a bit more gore and (if you want to call it that) sex, the former quite helpful in keeping the viewer awake, the latter the thing nightmares are made off. The Alien Factor for its part seems largely satisfied with displaying the amount of violence and sexuality of your typical 50s monster film.

All this might sound like The Alien Factor should be a rather dreary and boring experience hardly even fit to laugh at, but I find the film much too enthusiastic in its imitation of the structures of its models from the 50s and too determined to be an actual movie like those old ones were - even if neither the money nor the experience are there - to do anything else but love it a little bit.

It's true, I found myself laughing while watching the poor guy in the stilt suit trying to keep his balance while threatening the most wooden actors on the planet, or seeing Leifert wrestle with the See-Through Lizard, but I wasn't laughing about them, or Dohler, I was laughing with them about the strange roads to which this moviemaking lark can lead the people making them.

Technorati-Markierungen: american movies,sf,horror,reviews,other places,don dohler,don leifert,past misdeeds

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