Thankfully, Bloody Muscle Bodybuilder in Hell is as fun as it sounds. The debut film from Japanese director Shinichi Fukazawa is an adoring love-letter to the age of V/H/S and the morals cheap direct-to-video entertainment. In it Shinji (Fukazawa himself as a disappointingly scrawny body-builder) visits the old abode of his recently diseased father with his ex-girlfriend and a psychic. Its not long before a vengeful spirit makes escape impossible and a violent death highly probable.
Scars, the debut directorial credit from Sean K. Robb follows two troubled women as they embark on a bizarre revenge trip against men who have wronged them. Scarlett (Neale Kimmel) makes a living blackmailing married men, and after one of her victims brutally attacks her, is rescued by murderous punk Scar (Danielle Cole) who has just killed her abusive husband.
The next time someone tries to sell you the idea that John Carpenter is simply a horror director, point them in the general direction of his CV. One glance can reveal that the veritable maestro of 70’s thrills has been way more indebted to pulp aesthetics, applying them to just about every genre you can name. Carpenter’s 1974 debut Dark Star foreshadows his success with other sci-fi flicks like The Thing, but Assault on Precinct 13 is where the Carpenter we love fleshed out his vibe.
What a year.
2016 was, if anything, a polarizing sequence of months which saw historic political events and the untimely deaths of some astronomical talents. In fact, by summer, 2016 was looking less like a year, and more like a culling. Cinematically it was a pretty fascinating year though. As usual I saw few of the films folks went apeshit for, purposefully going out of my way not to watch any of them because I was too busy in a cesspool of trash and grotesque degradation. Life is short. That’s what 2016 taught me. This past year has been an odd one, crammed with Marvel hits, DC disappointments, a surprisingly solid haul of big Indy releases, and some remarkably beautiful horror films. So here it is, my Top 10 of 2016.
Starting its life as a soft-core porno, Bob Kelljan’s Count Yorga: Vampire was hastily reworked into a horror flick in order to secure its star, the handsome Hollywood-ite Robert Quarry. Yorga was only Kelljan’s second feature film and Quarry’s first real foray into horror, and in some ways it really shows. As a vampire film, Count Yorga: Vampire is little more than a slightly savvy Dracula rip-off, following the keystone events of Stoker’s novel with irritating rigidity and lack of creativity. Even the name Yorga feels like the kind of gobbledygook title coined by someone more interested in canning a film than telling a story. The only thing really going for Kelljan’s sophomore feature is the socially guarded- yet charming- turn from Quarry, who proves his undying charisma in a role often worn thin with this kind of “classic” cape and cravat business.
Kevin Kopacka’s TLMEA is an elusive, jarring, but enthralling journey for the curious colour-loving viewer. Only Kopacka’s second short film, TLMEA acts as a prequel to last year’s Hades, a similarly expressive multi-coloured nightmare, which follows a woman’s dreamy interpretation of her romantic relationship. TLMEA is Kopacka’s crack at an art house thriller/melodrama through his own giallo-inspired lens, and to give him his dues, it has a very different, perhaps more ambitious element to Hades.
Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s The Killing Joke is arguably one of the most iconic graphic novels in the bat-repertoire, providing inspiration for countless adaptations of the Batman/Joker relationship. This film seemed inevitable since DC Universe Animated Original Movies has had a fairly successful run of 25 films to date (this makes 26) and such a hot property is a sold ticket for many fans. But Sam Liu’s The Killing Joke has garnered some back-lash for choices it makes outside of its approach to the original content.
The most unique, colourful, and impressive film at Edinburgh International Film Festival was easily The Lure (Corki Dancingu); a macabre Polish siren musical that seduces as well as it thrills. Director Agnieszka Smoczynska has put together a remarkable piece of work with a talented team of Polish artists, so look no further if splendorous audio-visual fairs are your thing.
Holidays is the latest anthology film you’ll want to tick off your list if you’ve enjoyed recent projects like The ABCs of Death 2, A Christmas Horror Story, or Southbound. One of the campest anthology films in a while, Holidays feels closer to George A. Romero and Stephen King’s’s 80’s pulp extravaganza Creepshow, than it ever does to the gritty handheld feel of V/H/S. But then that shouldn’t really surprise, after all, this is an anthology made in homage to Holiday Horror; a sub-genre characterised by OTT massacres and darkly comic thrillers. Many of these films became immensely popular in the late 70’s when the boom in Slasher films made gory flicks with large body-counts a lucrative business. Famous entries would include classics like Halloween and Black Christmas, though camper 80’s endeavours like Thanksgiving thriller Blood Rage seem closer inspirations on much of the humour of this curious collection.
Last Girl Standing is the kind of Indy horror debut that will put director Benjamin R. Moody on the map, evidently, since it was picked up for distribution by the Frightfest Presents label. Frightfest has a long and admirable history of championing low-budget underdog genre films, giving filmmakers the opportunity to reach a wider audience if they show potential. The recent batch of Frightfest releases shows the charm, scares, and self-awareness we’ve come to expect, but Last Girl Standing feels like a potential cult classic and marks Moody as a talent to watch for.