Exploitation

January 19, 2015

Taboo Films: A Serbian Film

SERBIAN

A Serbian Film – Serbian

Since we are in a bit of a swoon when it comes to new films to start 2015, I felt it only appropriate to start a new series of films covering some of the more notorious and taboo films to be released. I tried to do something like this about a year ago, sometime around Christmas, but the idea lost steam, mainly because watching a lot of these types of films is a grueling and not all around pleasant experience. So here I am again, trying this again, and I figured if I was going to go all in I might as well start with one of the more notorious film in recent years, 2010’s “A Serbian Film,” a film that is so Serbian it might turn you Serbian.

So, “A Serbian Film” stars Milos, a former porn star who now has a wife and a young son. As money is slowly dwindling away, Milos decides to take a mysterious offer from a man named Vukmir. With the deal sealed, Milos begins his work with Vukmir which starts “innocently”with standard porno fare, but things begin to take a dark turn as the days progress, including a two-day period where Milos must re-track his steps after passing out and waking up in his own bed covered in blood.

Let me put this out there; “Serbian” is sick, disgusting, and extremely exploitative, but while it is a pretty reprehensible film, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a point. According to director, Srdjan Spasojevic, the film is supposed to represent the way that the Serbian government has fu*ked it’s people over for decades. and Spasojevic means fu*ked. “Serbian” goes beyond what most people, even with the worst of taste, would be in a film. There is murder, necrophilia, pedophilia, incest, and literal skull fu*king throughout the film’s “edited” 99 minute run time. I mention edited because the film needed to be edited down an extra 19 minutes just to be suited for an NC-17 rating. Not many directors have to cut that much just to make a film barely viewable for a super select audience.

In the vein of films like “Salo,” “Martyrs” “Irreversible” and “Cannibal Holocaust,” “Serbian” is a shock to the system. However, what I will say about it, is that similar to “Irreversible” and other films of that ilk, it’s shot very expertly and looks incredibly sharp. While the imagery will surely disturb you, that isn’t to stay that the film looks bad.  Aside from the photography, the acting is also fairly decent. Srdjan Todorovic, who plays Milos, gives a convincing performance as a man who is still living in his own shadow while trying to provide for a family under extremely harsh conditions.

I wish there was more to write about this film, but it really just boils down to the fact that people will either seek this film out to watch, or avoid it entirely. I believe that any part of a well-rounded film diet consists of equal parts film and trash. And again, I’m not calling “A Serbian Film” trash, even though I’m sure many people will see it that way, and yes, duly noted, its an extreme film and features very graphic imagery that will put a lot of people off, but so did “The Passion of the Christ.” While I don’t whole-heartedly recommend “A Serbian Film” I do think it’s a film experience that might make you “Hmm, why are films like this being made if not just for exploitation purposes. There has to be another reason.” Whether there is another reason of not, it’s still a film worthy of your time, either for sick curiosity, film experience, or just that challenge of watching “rough cinema.”

“Fun” Fact: “A Serbian Film” was in fact shot in Serbia, over the course of 61 days.

December 30, 2013

Let’s Get Real: Blackfish

Blackfish – Sickening

SICKENING

Let me get the comedy out of the way before I get to what “Blackfish” is really about; Good God killer whales have giant wieners!  That’s it folks, I’ll be here all night.

However, if you take away manually masturbating killer whales in the documentary “Blackfish” you will still be shocked by the exploitation of not only the majestic orca, but also the exploitation of their trainers; humans.  Of course, human and/or animal exploitation is nothing new.  Look at slavery, mineral mining, and pornography, and you can see that humans love exploiting other human beings for their own gain, add in giant six-ton wild animals, and you really have a sickening wonder to behold.

“Blackfish” tells the story of numerous sea-focused amusement parks, namely the now closed, Sealand of the Pacific, and SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida and one whale in particular, Tikikum, who has been responsible for the death of three separate trainers.  There are several questions raised in “Blackfish.”  One, should we keep animals, namely gigantic mammals like killer whales, in captivity?  This is the central debate in the film.  As long as there has been man, and as long as man has been able to capture animals and put them on display, and as long as man can make money doing this, the capture and exploitation of animals will never go away.  I go back to the whale’s penis; that thing is worth a fortune!  You know why?  Because that penis will continue to make orca whales, and whales are worth millions of dollars, and tourists will continue to pay $75 to enter a park, pay $10 for a plush toy, and pay another $5 for the Popsicle that is shaped like that new orca whale that came from Tilikum’s……cum.  Sorry to be graphic, but I couldn’t pass up that winning wordplay.

The other question “Blackfish” ponders is whether trainers are properly trained and/or made aware of the risk of their jobs?  Being told from the perspective of the trainers, “Blackfish” is told through a rather biased perspective.  I understand that representatives from Seaworld wouldn’t want to be a part of a documentary that is essentially demonizing the way that they’ve done business for over 40 years.  But as a trainer of killer whales, you have to be aware of the risk of working with “wild” animals.  However, if a company is withholding information from you about how dangerous one of these killer whales really is, that is another story all together.

Will “Blackfish” keep people away from the gates of Seaworld, or any other zoo/aquarium that exhibits giant animals that sell tickets and can turn on someone at any given moment?  Of course not, but you can rest assured that wild animals will continue to act out when they are threatened, scared, or angry.  Just like humans can have bad days, animals can have them as well, I’m sure Tilikum’s victims would second that opinion.

Fun Fact:  SeaWorld Orlando, FL was opened on December 15th, 1973.

October 22, 2013

This is Halloween: Maniac (2012)

Maniac (2012) – Perspective

PERSPECTIVE

In modern horror, the thought of re-making fringe horror films is always confusing to me. What audience is this re-make for?  Who is going to see it?  Is it viable for a studio to release a film that maybe a handful of people will see, let alone be nostalgic for?  I raise my hand proudly!  I love cult horror films, they always hold a special please in my sick little heart.  Some of my fondest memories, like I’ve mentioned before, was watching USA’s Up All Night, and MonsterVision on TNT with Joe Bob Briggs.

While horror in recent years has been stripped of its soul and replaced with found footage and other nonsense, it’s nice to know that someone is still out there respecting the cult horror of yesteryear.  That person is Alexandre Aja.  This Frenchman knows his horror, even if its over-the-top, gut-wrenching, blood-soaked horror, its the horror that I love.  He knows just how far to push the exploitation envelop, and while he might not have directed the film I’m about to get into reviewing, he was the brainchild behind developing  the 2012 remake of “Maniac” based on the 1980 original.

“Maniac” stars Elijah Wood as Frank, a loner who runs a mannequin shop in an unnamed urban sprawl.  Devoted to his work, needless to say he has a hard time connecting with the opposite sex, so he does what any normal person would do;  he trolls dating sites (a plot point that quickly loses steam), murders, and scalps women.  That is until the day he meets Anna, a young artist interested in his mannequins.  While Frank tries to pursue a normal relationship with Anna, his thirst for blood is unquenchable and he continues to kill.

Sure, I’m simplifying the plot for sake of spoilers, but there is a lot to like about “Maniac.”  While there are are deviations from the original, namely the infamous “Disco Boy Scene” the remake focuses on Frank’s relationship with his mannequins, women, and his rather complicated mommy issues.  While the “Disco Boy Scene” would have been cool to see with modern SFX, it would have added nothing to the remake overall.  But fret not gorehounds, there are plenty of moments where you’ll forget all about “Disco Boy.”

Comparing the original “Maniac” to it’s remake is tough to do.  The original relies on tension, with a grimier and grittier look, very reminiscent to Martin Scorsese’s “Taxi Driver.”  Joe Spinell, who was already a pretty rough looking dude, plays Frank to a tee and there is never any doubt he’s a maniac.  The on-screen murders are brutal and you feel the terror of his victims as well as the pain of Spinell who is acting against his will and can’t stop killing.

This time around Elijah Wood plays Frank, and while you might think Wood as a murderous creep is a tough sell, see what he did in “Sin City” as Kevin, or just see what he’s doing now as Ryan Newman on “Wilfred.”  Wood gives a convincing performance as the twisted serial killer who collects scalps, which he adorns to the top of his mannequins’ heads.

The choice to shoot most of the film from Frank’s perspective is an interesting choice.  It’s found footage without being found footage.  I would almost consider “Maniac” the serial killer version of “Enter the Void,” from Gaspar Noe.  You might even call this film a “first-person killer.”  There are a few scenes where the camera swings around to reveal Frank making a kill, but for the most part, I like the idea of “actually” see ing through the eyes of the killer.

Is 2012’s “Maniac” and improvement over the original?  It all depends on your perspective.  The original was playing up the fears of the still-fresh-in-their-minds “Son of Sam” murders in New York from the late 1970s, so it was reasonably timely and terrifying at the same time.  The remake is pretty much a shot in the dark, cashing in on the found footage craze and the dying out torture-porn aesthetic.  It’s also rips off some of the retro-style of “Drive,” however, I respect the fact that directors and writers who are fans of cult genre fare, like “Maniac,” decided to take the proverbial stab at making a genre film that only hardcore horror fans would be familiar with.  I salute Aja and director Franck Khalfoun for creating something with teeth to compete against dribble like “Paranormal Activity 45: Stop Moving Into This House!” and doing a little-known classic justice some 30 years later.

Fun Fact:  “Goodbye Horses” by Q. Lazzarus, is featured in another prominent film; 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs” which also featured a serial killer who murdered women.

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