Tuesday, October 25, 2016
On October 9th, 2010: My love for "The Genetic Opera" is certainly no secret. It was one of the most anticipated movies of the year for me when it came out, I drove well over two hours and into the heart of Berkeley in order to catch it on opening weekend, and it's become a staple diet of cinema to share with friends. My wife and I both consider it one of our favorite adventures and even she, who is not a fan of gore, enjoys the music and spectacle of the opera. So I kind of jumped a little for joy when the local Paper Wing Theater decided to run a live performance... These were the words that started me on a journey into the world of stage performances. And while I have repeatedly reviewed Paper Wing reprisals for The Rocky Horror Show, this play has always remained one of the three performances that have hit me the hardest. And, in the spirit of full disclosure- there was a part of me that didn't want to see the show again. You see, I had these memories and they were amazing and wonderful and I know how hard it is to capture lightning in a bottle twice. So much has shifted and changed in the theater and in the community and within the Paper Wing Family itself... but while that small part of me had a bit of nervous-nelly fear, there was a larger part of me that was eager to hear LJ Brewer once again become the monster. The Repo Man.
Brewer has an amazing voice, as always. And he has to carry much of the emotional weight of the show on his shoulders- a man torn by duality between the loving father and the maniacal surgeon. He is soft and gentle in one paternal breath, but there is a gleeful madness in the next. Brewer plays the role with sadistic energy and delivers a thrilling rendition of "Thankless Job" to the glee of the bloodthirsty audience in attendance. The emotional beats of the plays duet finale with Shiloh are heart-wrenching and Tiffany Jones tackles her own character with a rebellious anger that made her a force to be reckoned with. This angry Shiloh brings the audience into her world and brings righteous fury to the revelations that surround her life.
One of these revelations being the connection between her mother and Geneco spokeswoman, Blind Mag. Mag (Mindy Whitfield) prepares to leave the employ of Geneco, and sees an opportunity to make up for her past mistakes and help the daughter of a dear friend. Whitfield is haunting and mesmerizing during her rendition of Chromaggia, the most traditionally operatic of the songs in the show.
Shiloh and Nathan are trapped within the machinations of Geneco and the Largo Family, led by patriarch Rotti Largo. Nicholas Kelly CONQUERS this role! I want to write like paragraph after paragraph about how powerful this man is as a performer, but the truth is that it would all be redundant. Kelly just fucking CONQUERS the stage. As for the rest of the Largo family: Cody Moore delivers a gleefully decadent performance as Pavi (Everyone loves him), Taylor Landess is all in as a brutal Luigi, while Sara Mar Don primps and preens as the pampered surgery princess daughter, Amber Sweet.
The story unfolds with the help of Graverobber, an audience narrator and occasional guide for Shiloh. Played with mischievous energy by Jordan Brewer, Graverobber introduces the audience to various components of the world in which Geneco exists even while collecting and dealing illegal Zydrate to a culture of addicts that have sprung up in the wake of Organ Transplants. He's a monster of a different stripe and it's hard to tell if he truly wants to help Shiloh or simply lead her down a primrose path to self destruction.
Reserve your seats now because Repo! The Genetic Opera plays for only one more weekend with two additional shows on Halloween night. I'll be going again, that's for sure.
Monday, October 17, 2016
He’s a pretty mild mannered guy. He’s an accountant with a wife and son. He’s one of the most trusted men in the office. He’s also stalking a teenage girl and is going through a step-by-step plan to kidnap her. Why? That would be spoiling things. Who is she? So far as we know she is just a teenage girl. So how can I describe this film? That’s the trouble- there aren’t many ways to describe this film that doesn’t spoil things. So keep on reading as I try to navigate the rough and winding road through this psychotic little tarnished gem of a film- and then throw it on your Netflix Queue because this one is going to leave you shocked and numb.
This little import from Mexico is an intense psychological thriller that gets downright gruesome toward the end. It left me somewhat numb at the end- sort of buzzing with a bunch of mixed feelings. Aram, the lead character, is not a good man by any stretch of the imagination. He is planning something horrible. It isn’t entirely clear that his plan is all that necessary for him to achieve his goal. What he does and how it spirals through the rest of the story is a dark stain that creeps into the viewer and leaves them wondering where everything is going to go. And then there are the scenes with his victim- watching her struggle against her bonds and seeing her trapped within an abandoned warehouse where he’s holding her captive through most of the film. And he leaves her alone through most of that.
This isn’t a straight forward film that delivers it’s major points right off the bat- it slowly unwraps and exposes a dark and bloody center which will leave the viewer scarred. Director Adrián García Bogliano, does a fantastic job of crafting a tense thriller throughout the first two thirds of the film- but it's the final third of the film where the film turns itself on a screw. The film is reminiscent of some Korean thrillers over the years but develops a personality all its own. The very last frame of the film left my heart beating in an uncomfortable rhythm and I felt hollow to my core. I wanted to cry- and I felt a sort of shame and fear. As an emotional roller coaster, Scherzo Diabolico works and delivers one heart pounding smash after another.
However, there are some clear plot holes and some of the contrivances never really seem to work as anything more than a thing of convenience to move the story along. Few characters ever really earn our compassion and the lead is never meant to be a likeable person.
8 out of 10.
Monday, October 10, 2016
The Greasy Strangler:
I won’t be the same person I was the moment before I sat down to watch “the Greasy Strangler”- there are some incidents that can irrevocably change the nature and soul of a man. I count this film among those moments and incidents. And, God help me; I cannot say that this is a “bad” film- because it neither wasted my time nor did it lose my attention. So I cannot warn you to stay away- in fact, I’m probably going to do the opposite. I’m probably going to wind up encouraging you, dear faceless reader, to bear witness and experience precisely what it is that has left such an indelible mark upon my immortal soul. What I can do is give you my reaction to the film- and to do that, we have to tell a little story.
Two of my theatre friends decided that we should all check out this bugnuts film at our local Art House Theater- It looked something like an early John Waters meets Aqua Teen Hunger Force type of film to me, and the trailer somehow caught the attention of both my friends and so the plan was set. We would land in the Osio and we would watch this thing- whatever this thing wound up being- and we would share in the experience. And then we sat there through the credits and we stared at the screen until one of us eventually broke the silence; “What the fuck was that?” my friend Koly asked, an odd smile on her face. Ralph and I fumbled in our own heads and we sought meaning to everything we had just witnessed- I am still sort of stumbling around in my own head, trying to figure it all out.
We laughed throughout the film and we were caught up in the experience. None of us could declare this was a bad movie. None of us could really say it was great. None of us could really lay claim to understanding it, either. And when a fourth friend sent a text to ask how it was, Ralph could only reply with “I don’t know”. And we talked about the film- we tried to figure this out. We were three reasonably intelligent people- three artists who regularly read and decipher scripts for translation to the stage. We’re also not entirely certain we did miss the point of the film. The truth is that we just don’t know for certain. Ralph’s best guess was “The duality of man”- don’t ask me because I’m stuck on the greasy melon. I haven’t seen either friend since we parted ways and I worry for the wellness of their minds at this moment but I must save myself. May divine spirits have mercy on our souls.
This movie, however, offered no such mercy. The creators of “The Greasy Strangler” give us a simple story about a father and son competing for the affection of a woman. Throughout their town, people are being killed by a mysterious serial killer covered in Kitchen Grease. Hilarity ensues? I think? Eye-balls pop, body parts are cut off, some parts are eaten, there’s naked genitalia all over the screen, and there’s grease. There is a lot of grease. And the film is an absurdist nightmare with ugly, awful, and disgusting moments all caught on video and burned indelibly into my cornea. There are sounds that echo in my ear that I can’t stop remembering. And someone says “I am the Tarzan of a cum jungle.” And that’s what we’re dealing with, here.
7 and a must see for fans of bizarre cinema.
The ball is back!
This here is the fifth and absolutely final film in the Phantasm franchise and brings back almost all the star players for a curtain call. With the passing of Angus Scrimm (The Tall Man villain of the film) earlier this year, the film is almost over shadowed with a sense of loss and regret. And the films thematic explorations reflect this tone as we find Reggie stumbling back out of the desert where he’s been lost the past several years. He’s been fighting the Tall Man, tracking his friend Mike through dimensional portals, and then we flash to where Reggie has spent the past several months or years while suffering through dementia. Mike is at his side and visiting, reminiscing, and also quite interested in hearing about this “Tall Man” story. And then we flash through other stories, other worlds, where Reggie is at once a hero, a victim, a savior, and a partner- and we continue to explore the first film’s themes of loss and death. Or is it all just a dream? Or it is all really happening?
A landmark franchise, Phantasm has never had the popularity of a Slasher film or the traditional monster movies but it has maintained a core audience through every film in the series. Don Coscarelli allowed his original story to be changed a little and continued through the eyes of a new director, David Hartman. The two co-wrote the script and we get a lot of Coscarelli’s visual style throughout with some new tricks along the way. And through it all, Phantasm remains the mystery it was always meant to be- a film that the audience makes rather than a film that tells them what they should be thinking. Because this all could be a dream. This all could really be happening. Reggie could be dying in a hospital bed or he could be writing a song for some pretty young lady. The film is open to interpretation and I’ve always enjoyed that about the film.
The movie answered every lingering question I ever had about the franchise to my satisfaction. It hit all the right emotional notes and it gave us a couple of endings to the journey of Reggie, Mike, and Jody. I highly recommend the film for Phans of the original, but be warned that some deep things are going to be explore here and it’s good idea to walk in with an open mind.
7.5 out of 10.
CARPENTER WEEK OVERVIEW:
So, I started my 31 Days of Horror and decided to watch a couple of John Carpenter films. This little piece will not be a review of each Carpenter film I saw but rather a ranked listing of my top ten John Carpenter films. So, if you enjoy lists and want to see where YOUR favorite Carpenter film falls then give it a look through.
10. Vampires: James Woods as a foul-mouthed crusader hunting vampires in the desert. An underrated gem from the Carpenter legacy and probably one of the last “fun” projects that Carpenter had a chance to work on. It feels more Carpenter-esque than his later full length films.
9. Christine – based on the novel by Stephen King, a car possesses a teen and they form a dangerous bond of obsession.
8. They Live: Aliens have infiltrated and taken over society, enslaving mankind.
7. In The Mouth of Madness: A detective is sent to track down a reclusive writer whose works may be a doorway to another dimension.
6. The Fog: Vengeful ghosts return to wreak vengeance on a small coastal town.
5. Prince of Darkness: An ancient evil wakes up and it's up to a team of scientists and a priest to unlock the mysteries of the anti-god before destruction is set loose upon the world.
4. Big Trouble in Little China: A truck driver dives into the dangerous world of Far East mysticism and helps an old friend find his kidnapped fiancee.
3. Escape from New York: A battered veteran criminal has to rescue the President from the prison island of New York City.
2. The Thing-An alien attempts to devour and replicate an Antarctic Research team.
1. Halloween-A masked killer goes on a murder spree, terrorizing a group of teen age babysitters.
Saturday, October 1, 2016
The following Video was taken this past summer at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. My favorite podcast to listen to is the Horror Movie Podcast, hosted by Jay of the Dead, Wolfman Josh, and the doctor of shock-a-nomics, Dr. Shock Dave Becker. And just following it, they sent out a challenge and I haven't had a chance to take a new video since... but here it is to qualify for entry in this years #deadserioushorror on the TWITTER!!!