Greetings mon amis! I did another review! I braved Jörg Buttgereit’s NEKROMANTIK 2 (1991); check it out at 366 Weird Movies! Ghastly at times but compelling viewing.
Archive for Jörg Buttgereit
I have seen fewer films from 1994 than any year yet. I just did not have much luck finding a lot of the year’s titles. There were three big budget horror flicks from the year; Interview with the Vampire, Frankenstein and Wolf. Wolf had its moments, but overall it had too many issues to give it more than a 3/5. Whether justified or not, I do not like Tom Cruise. The very sight of the man rubs me the wrong way. He was a terrible choice for the lead role in Interview with the Vampire, but frankly I am not a fan of Anne Rice’s story anyway. If you read my review for Frankenstein than you already know my numerous issues with that one. No matter, 1994 did have some strong entries. I rated the top three films 5/5, I rated films four, five and six 4/5 and films seven through ten were rated 3.5/5. Every other title from the year were films I rated 3/5 or lower.
*Only feature-length films will be included on the top ten lists for the decade; I do not include shorts, documentaries or made for television movies.
#10 DEATH MACHINE
Directed By: Stephen Norrington
The Chaank Corporation is conducting a top secret project for the military using cyborg technology. The cat is out of the bag after a malfunctioning cyborg soldier massacres a roadside diner full of customers. Public outcry and protests cause the company’s chief executive Hayden Cale to insist on full disclosure. She also wants the project’s creator Dante’s head on a platter. Dante however is working on a new top secret project that he refuses to submit reports for. Dante threatens Cale warning her that the last person who investigated him wound up dead. Meanwhile a trio of vigilantes intend on taking the Chaank Corporation down by eliminating the companies digital assets. An inevitable showdown arises and the lot are introduced to Dante’s deadly new experiment. I didn’t realize until I started this 90s project how many films from the decade had a cyborg plotline. Death Machine has all sorts of nods to other horror and sci-fi flicks and even has characters called Scott Ridley, Sam Raimi and John Carpenter. There is definitely a campy feel to the action and some laughs. Dante the child-like prodigy is the inventor of Chaank’s technology and is an eccentric sociopath played perfectly by Brad Dourif. Dourif steals every scene he is in. The visuals are okay, and there is a little bit of blood and gore although some of the film techniques used were a little corny. Death Machine is two hours long and I must admit it moved along fine. It takes a while before you see much action but the build up is not unappealing and there are some fun action sequences in the second half. Death Machine is not without its flaws but I found it an entertaining watch.
Directed By: John Flynn
Michael is a teenager who lost his mother in a car accident as a child that left him with a nasty scar and a limp. Michael is also a huge fan of horror films and games which inspires him to order Brainscan. Brainscan is a virtual reality first person serial killer game that puts you in control. You guide the killer through an environment; you choose the weapon, the style of kill and what you should take from the scene as a souvenir. It’s all fun and games until Michael catches a news story the next day about a man who has been murdered. Michael not only recognizes the house but they state that a foot had been removed; the souvenir he chose to take in the game. Needless to say Michael is disturbed by the course of events and tries to call the toll-free Brainscan number to no avail. A few moments later he gets a call from a Brainscan representative. Not just a call, but a personal visit! A man materializes in his room calling himself The Trickster. The Trickster convinces Michael that he left behind a piece of evidence and he can only retrieve it by playing the second disc. Michael’s bad situation gets progressively worst with each disc. Brainscan is a fun little early 90s time capsule. It has a computer game premise. It has Edward Furlong. It has shameless advertising for Aerosmith’s 1993 album Get a Grip. It has a soundtrack featuring the likes of White Zombie, Butthole Surfers, Mudhoney and Primus. It makes me think about my record store days. The effects overall were passable but not great and sadly there is little blood and/or gore. The makeup however was pretty decent. The Trickster is definitely a creative looking character. He sports a red psuedo-mohawk, a nose ring, knife-like fingernails, waxy skin, deep sunken beady eyes and he seemed to have an abundance of teeth. He is a delightfully creepily comical character. T. Ryder Smith who plays The Trickster really throws himself into the role and is animated and full of energy. He is an outrageous, eccentric menace. Brainscan’s story isn’t going to blow your mind, but it is decent enough. I would not say it is scary at any point although there are a few tense moments and some good action. There are also some laughs which are mainly courtesy of The Trickster. Brainscan isn’t a great movie, but I thought it was a pretty fun one. To read the full review click here.
#8 SCHRAMM: INTO THE MIND OF A SERIAL KILLER
Directed By: Jörg Buttgereit
The film’s title really says it all; this is the story of a serial killer named Lothar Schramm. The story is told using flashbacks from a fallen Schramm. This is such an ugly and vile film I am almost embarrassed that I like it. Schramm: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer is directed by Jörg Buttgereit the German filmmaker best known for the nasty Nekromantik. Buttgereit’s films have generally been a hard watch for me, and yet I can’t say I have actually disliked any of them. Schramm: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer made me want to take a scalding hot shower afterwards which I highly suspect was Buttgereit’s intention. Lothar Schramm never exactly elicited any sympathy from me, but he is clearly a troubled and lonely man. He also has some very specific issues with women that seemed to inspire equal parts anger, violence and fear. The film is overflowing with violent and disturbing images that are hard to watch. The film has a raw gritty style that adds to the bleak and unrelenting brutal visuals. Schramm: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer really is a bleak and disturbing film and one of the more compelling serial killer flicks I’ve seen. I would not put this on par with Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer but it is in a similar class. I can not stress more strongly that Schramm: Into the Mind of a Serial Killer is not for the faint hearted.
#7 THAT LITTLE MONSTER
Directed By: Paul Bunnell
Jamie takes a babysitting gig for the seriously weird Willock’s and discovers that their little monster is in fact, a little monster. That Little Monster is an odd little duck of a film that isn’t even quite one hour long. That Little Monster is filmed in black and white and as other reviewers have commented, the film does have an Eraserhead vibe. The whole black and white monster baby scenario hasn’t exactly been played out dozens of times so it is certainly understandable that Eraserhead should come to mind. That Little Monster boasts some pretty impressive visuals for its low budget which is definitely the films strongest asset. There are some really wild props in this little oddity including a baby mobile made from itty bitty plastic dolls that was so awesomely creepy! That Little Monster’s monster is a freaking ugly little bastard. There is a great dark humour to the story and a delightfully strange tone throughout. There are only a handful of characters in the film but they sure are a wacky bunch. The only name I recognized in the credits was Reggie Bannister who played Reggie in the Phantasm series. Everyone involved did wacky quite well as far as I was concerned. Unfortunately That Little Monster does have a couple scenes that linger too long. Considering its short run time it does hurt the film a bit. That Little Monster is a surreal, humorous, creepy little bit of bizarreness that despite a couple of overindulgent scenes was a lot of fun.
Directed By: Laurent Boutonnat
Giorgino is a soldier returning to civilian life after the war. Before he was sent to war he had intended to go into pediatrics and had become close with some special needs children. Giorgino buys a huge bag of candy and seeks out the hospital where he once worked. When he arrives the hospital is abandoned and he is directed by a woman to the home of Dr. Sébastien Degrâce. When he arrives at the home he is greeted by the housekeeper Marie who hurries him upstairs after he introduces himself as a doctor. Madame Degrâce lay dead on her bed and Giorgino makes a few attempts to start her heart to no avail. He announces the Madame’s death to Marie who is now accompanied by a young woman who he learns is the Madame’s daughter Catherine. Distraught Catherine runs to her mother’s room. Dr. Degrâce is apparently away on a trip so Giorgino goes into town to find a room for the night. He asks some local women about the children and is told they are all dead. The last person to see the children was Dr. Degrâce’s daughter Catherine. The beautiful fiery-haired Catherine is a troubled woman who has the mind of a child but may be the key to learning the circumstances surrounding the children’s untimely death. This was my first viewing of Giorgino, a mystery-drama which may or may not have a supernatural twist. It is left ambiguous as far as I am concerned. Giorgino is a slower-paced but intriguingly moody film. The village is entirely populated by women; with the exception of a priest and one man who seemed unwell. All the village’s men are away at war. The women keep candles lit in the church superstitiously believing that it will keep their men alive. To blow out the candles is to curse the men. It is a pretty bleak place full of grey and dour people. The Degrâce family is an unusual lot. The death of the children seems to have left a darkness on the entire household. Dr. Degrâce as Giorgino learns was institutionalized, the Madame hung herself which he learned upon examining her corpse when he first meets the family, and there is an unexplained sexual bond between Marie and Catherine. There is a scene early where Marie answers the door with her blouse buttons undone and she is bleeding from her nipple. And of course there is the little issue of the death of several young children under the Degrâce’s care. Wolves play a part in the story. Do the wolves exist or are they concocted by the imagination of a child? Perhaps the wolves only visit those who are about to die? Like I said, Giorgino is full of mystery. Giorgino has some fascinating characters and excellent performances. Giorgino also has some well executed intensity. There is one scene in particular where the town’s women are getting stinkingly drunk in celebration of the men coming home that had me seriously anxious! I shall not divulge, but you will recognize the scene when you see the film. Jeff Dahlgren is solid as Giorgino; a calm and determined man who seems to have a great deal of empathy. Mylène Farmer is superb as the mentally unstable child-like Catherine. The performances are great by all; Louise Fletcher as a bitter Innkeeper, Frances Barber as Marie and Joss Ackland as Father Glaise are particular standouts. Giorgino is a bleak, sad, tense, mysterious film that left me sweetly sated.
#5 MUTE WITNESS
Directed By: Anthony Waller
Billy Hughes is a mute special effects makeup artist on a shoot in Moscow for a low-budget horror film. One evening she is locked in the studio where unseen, she watches a porn film being made. Her mild amusement becomes horror when a woman is killed for the camera. After being discovered and chased through the studio she manages to escape and tells her story to her sister. The two go to the police but the porn filmmakers’ manage to convince the police that what Billy seen was merely part of the film. The plot thickens with the addition of a shadowy criminal who wants Billy dead. I kept a rated list of every film I seen through the 90s and had given Mute Witness a high score but didn’t remember many details. Mute Witness is yet another film I have been remiss in not re-watching. Mute Witness is a great, well-executed, intense and humorous horror film that has a spicy pace and some solid performances. Marina Zudina really is excellent as Billy. She is likable and although empathetic she doesn’t come off as a weak or helpless victim. Fay Ripley who plays Billy’s sister Karen is also an amiable sort although she does become a bit bumbling towards the end of the film. The same can be said for Evan Richards who plays Karen’s boyfriend Andy who is director of the low-budget horror film. Alec Guinness has a memorable cameo as The Reaper; he is the only star name to appear in the cast. The finale does go on a little longer than necessary but it was not unappealing. The film is light on the graphic violence but more than makes up for it with some excellent intensity, action, strong performances and great twists. Mute Witness is a nifty little lesser known horror film worth seeking out.
Directed By: Michael Almereyda
Nadja is a vampire who fully embraces her status but her brother Edgar fights against it. Hiding away in the day in their dark tombs and coming out at night to mingle among the revelers of New York’s underground scene. Bold Nadja seduces the niece and nephew of vampire hunter Dr. Van Helsing who easily falls under her spell. Van Helsing makes it his goal to eliminate the beautiful Nadja. Filmed in black and white with a rawness and graininess that is mucho appealing. It employs a peculiar almost clumsy effect when a character has fallen under the influence of a vampire, which somehow works quite well. It is dotted with flashbacks and jump cuts that all add to the quirky and surreal look. Nadja is dreamy, disorienting, moody, funny and even touching at times. The dialog is often delivered in a dry unemotional, matter of fact sort of way that gave the interaction a strange vibe. As vampire films tend to be, there is a fatalistic nature to the plot also. The performances are solid, although it is Elina Löwensohn who is really the highlight as the titular Nadja. She is gorgeous, sexy and utterly perfect as the exotic blood-sucker. The solid supporting cast includes Peter Fonda as Van Helsing, Karl Geary as Renfeld, Suzy Amis as Cassandra and Jared Harris as Nadja’s tormented brother Edgar. David Lynch has a small role as a morgue employee and was an executive producer on the project. While there are certainly elements of the classic vampire mystique included, Director Michael Almereyda adds plenty of artful florishes that make the film a unique entry in the vampire genre. The soundtrack featuring modern tracks that included Portishead, Space Hog and The Verve suits it quite well. I can only guess that perhaps Nadja is too artful for some horror fans as it seems to be woefully underappreciated. Personally I think Nadja is one of the more intriguing entries in the vampire genre and one I grow fonder of with every viewing.
#3 IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS
Directed By: John Carpenter
When we first meet insurance investigator John Trent he is telling his story to Dr. Wrenn as a patient in a psychiatric hospital. Trent had been hired by a book publisher to investigate the disappearance of their most profitable horror author Sutter Cane and retrieve the manuscript for the final novel in his popular series. The publishing company tasks Cane’s editor Linda Styles to assist Trent. After reading a few of Cane’s novels Trent becomes plagued with nightmares, a common effect of the author’s work. Trent discovers that the fictional location of Hobb’s End featured in Cane’s stories may actually exist somewhere in New Hampshire. Trent and Styles set out to locate Hobb’s End and unfortunately find the horror-filled fictional town. In the Mouth of Madness is screamingly Lovecraftian with its nightmarish Cthulhu-esque monsters. The film has a delightfully bleak, horrifying and apocalyptic vibe that is beautifully executed. In the Mouth of Madness is actually the title of Sutter Cane’s final novel. Cane is nothing more than a messenger for his monstrous overlords. The visuals are superb and the effects are amazing. The monsters are truly a grotesque delight. The casting is perfect with my man Sam Neill as John Trent; his descent into hell and utter madness is a joy to watch. Julie Carmen, Jürgen Prochnow, David Warner, Bernie Casey, Peter Jason, Charleton Heston and Frances Bay all give solid support. In the Mouth of Madness is the final chapter in John Carpenter’s Apocalypse Trilogy which includes The Thing and Prince of Darkness. That is one hell of a trilogy ain’t it? In the Mouth of Madness is pure horror gold.
#2 NATURAL BORN KILLERS
Directed By: Oliver Stone
Mickey saves Mallory from her abusive father and together they travel across America killing randomly for kicks. The media turns the serial killer couple into superstars. A two sentence summary is all Natural Born Killers needs as an introduction. In keeping with my trend of including films not listed as horror on IMDB here is Natural Born Killers. It is about a pair of serial killers after all, and they do kill a hell of a lot of people. I love the films biting commentary and its parade of sleazy characters, but it is the criminally likable duo that makes it all work. In its way, Natural Born Killers is also a love story. The killer couple falls in love on sight. Mallory accompanies Mickey without hesitation. Before embarking on their journey they do kill Mallory’s sexually abusive father and complacent mother. Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are perfectly cast here as Mickey and Mallory Knox. They do bad things and kill plenty of innocent people but are wholly fascinating. Their chemistry is undeniable. The sleazy characters they are forced to interact with are equally interesting. Robert Downey, Jr. plays tabloid television journalist Wayne Gale who has profiled Mickey and Mallory on his show American Maniacs and will do anything to get an interview with the couple. Tom Sizemore plays Detective Jack Scagnetti who as a child witnessed his own mother killed by a mass murderer. His intentions seem noble but he too is a violent sociopath. Tommy Lee Jones plays Warden Dwight McClusky who oversees the prison where Mickey and Mallory are being detained. He is a crooked, slimy weasel who is working in cahoots with Detective Scagnetti. Comedian Rodney Dangerfield plays Mallory’s abusive father. Thanks a lot Stone, I will never be able to completely erase the image of Dangerfield in that dirty, sweat-stained tank top, spitting as he yells and putting his hands all over his teenage daughter. Natural Born Killers is one of my favourite films from the decade and is well-acted, creatively-filmed, smart, violent, chaotic and surreal. “In the media circus of life, they were the main attraction.”
#1 CEMETERY MAN
Directed By: Michele Soavi
Francesco Dellamorte oversees the Buffalora Cemetery where people don’t stay buried. The returners, as Dellamorte calls them are generally pretty easy targets; although a few do give Dellamorte some trouble. In the course of the story Dellamorte meets a beautiful widow whom he falls in love with on sight, he also meets and falls in love with a few of her doppelgangers, he buries and re-kills several returners and has a conversation with death himself. The makeup and effects are top notch! Each returner is unique in appearance which is determined by how they died. I particularly enjoyed the teeth clacking boy scouts! A returner’s bite hurts but it does not turn you into one of the undead. Everyone who dies does so twice; and a lot of people die in Cemetery Man. There is blood and gore but most of it isn’t particularly graphic. More die quickly with a shot to the head than by any other means. I love Cemetery Man’s look and feel. It is dark and gothic yet whimsical. It has an entertaining story and great humour that gets decidedly darker as the film rolls on. The film’s central character Francesco Dellamorte is equal parts charming, arrogant and awkward. I also found him kind of sexy! Among Dellamorte’s hobbies are reading outdated telephone books, clipping obituaries out of the newspaper and having sex with beautiful women in graveyards. Rupert Everett was a brilliant choice for Dellamorte; I can’t imagine anyone else in the role. Gnaghi, Dellamorte’s faithful, slow-witted assistant who speaks only in grunty sounds is a likable and empathetic bloke and is played perfectly by François Hadji-Lazaro. “She” is both the love of his life and the primary source of his pain and anxiety. The gorgeous Anna Falchi is as comely as they come. Cemetery Man is playful, funny, dark and strange. To read the full review click here.