By Sam Reeve
My rating: 5/10
In an effort to share horror movies from as wide a range of countries and continents as possible, I’ve had to resort to watching some that are mediocre at best. Africa is particularly short in this genre, so it was slim pickings for what I could find. Night Drive is a bad (but still entertaining) slasher story set in a nature reserve. The first half is pretty painful to get through, but I found the second to be enjoyable and with redeeming qualities.
A group of tourists are taken out on a night drive, a night-time tour of a game park to see the wildlife. Meanwhile, there’s been a lot of murders in the park by poachers, but these aren’t the ordinary ones hunting for ivory. These guys are ripping out tongues and genitals from live, screaming humans. They work for the Hyena Man, a terrifying witch doctor with vague and sinister intentions.
After their jeep breaks down the tourists are left at the mercy of these evil dudes, but luckily a few bad asses are amongst them – the tough guide with a clichéd scar on his face, and his eye candy ex-cop son who came on the trip to scatter his mom’s ashes.
Night Drive sucks in the beginning because the director/writer/whoever got too caught up with the characters’ back stories, and there were WAY too many flash backs. The second half is much more focused on the remaining characters’ fight for survival and the acting was even stepped up a notch during the more brutal scenes.
My favourite parts were the gore and Hyena Man costume, since both were very well-done. He was a more unique antagonist than many I’ve seen, so it helped keep it a bit fresher. Lord knows the rest of the characters were ones we’ve all seen a million times in bad horror movies.
Below is the trailer, and below that is the full movie (painstakingly uploaded by yours truly). Enjoy!
By Sam Reeve
My rating: 6.5/10
As the title may suggest, Juan of the Dead is Cuba’s answer to Shaun of the Dead. But other than being a zombie horror-comedy featuring a slacker duo (one of whom wields an oar, reminiscent of Shaun’s cricket paddle), Juan is entirely its own film. With plenty of zombie action, funny characters and a dash of politics, this is one movie you don’t want to miss.
Set in modern-day Havana, zombies start cropping up at about the 2-minute mark. The Cuban government claims them to be “dissidents” sent by the Americans to undermine the country.
Juan, the deadbeat dad hero of our story, is joined by his overweight roommate, Lazaro, and his son, as well as his own teenage daughter. With their apartment building’s roof as headquarters, they set up their own business as zombie killers who will rid you of your turned loved ones or neighbours.
The film has some slow parts, and the ending is surprisingly depressing unless you keep watching the credits, but it’s otherwise hilarious and entertaining. The makeup is quite good, and besides some cheesy-looking digital effects Juan of the Dead is a high-quality film with a great cast.
Below you’ll find the trailer, and you can watch the full movie online with English subtitles here.
Big explosions! Motorcycles! Clown gangs! Drugs that give you telepathic powers! Children with old-people faces!
Akira is a bizarro cult classic through and through. It’s a six-volume manga series and anime film. If you read comics, I highly recommend the manga. If you watch cartoons, check out the anime.
It’s about this teenager, Kaneda, and his motorcycle gang, as they tear their way through the post-apocalyptic city of Neo-Tokyo and discover a strange conspiracy concealed within the remains of old Tokyo. The military have in their possession a group of young children with telepathic powers that are dangerously destructive. After an accident, gang member Tetsuo finds himself undergoing tests and force-fed drugs and developing telepathic powers of his own.
What results is a complex battle between motorcycle gangs, military, strange cults, and telepathic street children. The military is trying to control their child-weapons, Kaneda is trying to control Tetsuo, and Tetsuo is trying to control and increase his powers. Underneath all that, there is another child hidden away by the military, the cause of the destruction of Tokyo – Akira.
It is complete chaos as Tetsuo’s power spirals out of control and threatens to destroy the city again, and everyone else, fighting each other, trying to stop him by whatever means necessary. The manga goes into incredible depth, plotting out the stories of all the different factions at work, where the anime focuses more on the relationship between Kaneda and Tetsuo, but either way it’s raw and chaotic. It’s a cyberpunk masterpiece.
The characters are desperate, angry, and aggressive. The art style is cool, with that distinct ’80s/early ’90s feel you get with things like Dragonball/Dragonball Z and Ghost in the Shell. The story, however, is in a class of its own. It’s got the cult feel of the Warriors, but with powerful political and social complexities that are terribly frightening when read within the context of a culture that, less than half a century prior, fell under attack by atomic bomb.
You can enjoy the film for the action-packed thrill ride that it is, but if you want to read more into the apocalypse/post-apocalypse representations, there’s that too. On a side note, if you want to read more about that aspect of Akira, I wrote an essay about it a few years ago for uni. The point is that if you haven’t seen it/read it, you should. Right now.
S. T. Cartledge comes from the fabled Land Down Under. His first book, House Hunter, was published in 2012’s New Bizarro Author Series. He enjoys making potatoes act out his fantasies.
By Sam Reeve
When I watched Ju-on for Japanese Horror Month, I thought I would be watching what had inspired the American remake (which I still haven’t seen). Turns out there are two movies called Ju-on: one which was made in 2000, and one made in 2002 called Ju-on: The Grudge, which has a totally different plot and a very confusingly similar title. Ju-on actually translates to “grudge”, so you can see how this might not make the most sense. Click here for a full break-down of the Ju-on series.
The plot isn’t so much there, honestly, but here it goes: Jumping around to different characters and different times even, it tells us about the people affected by the curse of a house and those who’ve inhabited it. The curse started with a husband who murdered his wife and son because he was jealous (but that’s also not super clear in the film). The son has missed school so his teacher, Kobayashi, goes to investigate. We also see a family living in the house, and due to the curse a tutor and girlfriend are both killed. The last part of the film is fairly uneventful, just the real estate agent enlisting the help of his psychic sister to check out the place.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: If this series wasn’t famous and possibly worthy of viewing just to check it off your list, I would say to steer clear. It was a little creepy at some parts, most certainly in the way you would always think more would happen than what did, but that was all. The famous “crawling down the stairs” scene was pretty freaky at least.
The low-budget quality of the film could appeal to some people, since it did make it seem like you were watching a creepy home video at points.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: The plot was just all over the place and left really unfinished in the worst way. If it had had more substance in that sense, I could have easily gotten past the lack of scariness.
Below you’ll find the famous staircase scene, and below that is the full movie with English subtitles. Enjoy!
By Sam Reeve
Today’s film for Japanese Horror Month was another one that has been misleadingly titled by many as a horror film. Hausu (House) is about 10% horror and 90% surreal comedy, but still one of my favourites from this month and one I’m sure you bizarros can get into.
Gorgeous (yes, that’s her name, they ALL have retarded names) was supposed to go on vacation with her father, but upon learning he would bring his new fiance, she decides to go to her estranged auntie’s house with a bunch of her girlfriends. In classic horror fashion, the girls are picked off one by one by the house and the aunt (who’s actually a hungry ghost).
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: This is campy, hilarious and surreal with a very heavy dose of 70’s style. It won’t scare you one bit and probably won’t even creep you out, but it will make you laugh and say “what the fuck” about every five minutes.
Instead of describing one of my favourite scenes, I’ll show it to you:
What’s not shown here, but a bit later at the end of the film, is this:
If you’re still not clear on what Hausu is all about, I suggest you watch this trailer (which shows many of the best parts) or check out the film itself. Enjoy!
By Sam Reeve
Today for Japanese Horror Month we have Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, which is based on the third novel in Hideyuki Kikuchi‘s Vampire Hunter D series. Kikuchi also wrote the novel on which Wicked City was based.
The setting for this is a bit confusing: Apparently it takes place far into the future, which would explain all the fancy technology like super fast motorcycles, fancy weapons and space-age suits and rockets, and it also accounts for the general post-apocalyptic state of things. What it doesn’t account for is the Victorian and wild West aesthetics that clash with the futuristic stuff. ANYWAY…
I’m lazy and don’t feel like coming up with a description for the film, so here’s a good one that I found somewhere else:
It is many thousand years in the future. Vampires once ruled the night but have seen their numbers reduced by fearless bounty hunters. One such hunter is D, the half-breed son of a human mother and vampire father. When a girl from a rich family is taken from her home by the vampire Meier Link, her father contracts both D and the Markus brothers (a rival group of hunters) to race to retrieve her. As the heroes fight their way through Meier’s hired guards, they begin to suspect that the girl may have gone with him willingly.
Besides that, I would add that D has a little sidekick who provides a fair bit of comic relief: He’s a parasitic demon-growth on his left hand who helps him out by sucking up evil spells, seeing through walls, etc.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: There are lots of monsters, vampires, ghost-like things and fights between all those wacky creatures – meaning it’s a great movie to watch during the Halloween season. The story itself was alright, though some of the dialogue and romantic bits got a bit lame near the end.
The only thing I disliked was the clashing aesthetics that couldn’t be explained, and of course the whole vampire romance thing is really played out (especially for those of us who have viewed this after having endured the Twilight craze).
Below you can watch the full movie, dubbed in English. Enjoy!
by Kirsten Alene
I picked this book up because of the cover. It’s the size and shape of a pocket prayer book or a military bible. It has this textured red cover with gold embossed title surrounded by tiny flying birds, and gilded pages with a little red cloth bookmark sewn in. It’s difficult to ignore, it’s a fairly attractive book but it was almost a month of picking it up every time we went to the bookstore before I actually purchased it. In two slim volumes, Avian Gospels (Short Flight/Long Drive 2010) will run you a total of thirty dollars.
To be honest, I didn’t expect very much from it when I finally started to read it. The writing was spare and passive, with a distant narrator who occasionally imposed on the text with a seemingly unrelated collective second person statement. In addition, the first volume of the book was spotted by typos and errors in every chapter.
But by the third chapter I had realized that this was one of the boldest, most fantastic universes I’d ever seen. The writing’s spareness lent itself perfectly to vocalizing the complex cast of characters and weaving an image of a city through emotion rather than description.
The story takes place in a city divided into two distinct classes, the ambiguous “us” and the Gypsies, most of whom are refugees from Norway. The “us,” members of a sort of suburban middle class, are led by the most prominent family in the city, the Giggs. The Giggs’ mother is slowly losing her mind after the death of their oldest son, their younger son takes clarinet lessons and fails to live up to his brother’s memory and their daughter runs a soup kitchen for the poor Gypsies. But the city has been overtaken by birds. Tropical birds, huge birds of prey and zillions of songbirds cover every surface of the city like a pestilence, leaving thick carpets of shit over streets, buildings, and lawns every time they circle up into the sky. The only person who has any power over the birds is a poor Swede named Zvominir whose son Morgan, as the story begins, is just beginning to develop his own power of banishing and summoning the birds.
Morgan quickly becomes the unintentional rallying point for the Gypsies, who declare war on the city and the “RedBlacks,” soldiers of Judge Giggs.
I am always surprised and amazed by literature, but I haven’t become so emotionally attached to a world, and so sorry to see the end of the story in a long while.
Adam Novy managed to create the perfect amalgam of 1980s American pop culture, the French Revolution and an immigrant city at the turn of the century.
You can read an excerpt and some reviews from Avian Gospels here.