1 December 2018

Review: Rare Exports - A Christmas Tale (2010)

When an excavation team in the Korvatunturi mountains uncover what is described as a "sacred grave" 486 metres underground they accidentally unleash one of Christmas' hidden secrets. When an entire herd of local reindeer are discovered and the local children begin to disappear it soon becomes apparent that the grave's former occupant is alive and well and resuming his traditional role as a punisher of naughty children.

Rare Exports - A Christmas Tale is not your average festive tale - far from it. Drawing on the Alpine tradition of Krampus, a demon-like companion to St. Nicholas, the film explores an alternative imagining of Santa Claus to debunk the mythical 'Coca-Cola' version. Written and directed by Jalmari Helander this darkly comic Finnish film draws on his previous two shorts,  Rare Exports Inc. (20030 and The Official Rare Exports Inc. Safety Instructions (2005), to produce an entertaining and offbeat slice of festive cinema.

Although it flags towards the end with an ending that is a bit of an anticlimax after the brilliant first hour, the film still stands head and shoulders over most seasonal Hollywood offerings. It certainly lives up to the  comparisons that have been made to a number of classics such as Joe Dante's Gremlins (1984).

29 October 2018

Oracle - Tales Of Pythia

Our oceans are dying, our atmosphere is poisoned, violence simmers in every corner of the world and we tumble blindly into the darkness of extinction. The masses turn on each other, tearing themselves apart, guided into paths of hatred and division while the self appointed elite sit in their gleaming towers of chrome and glass, on golden thrones paid for with the blood of the weak. We march onwards to the end times, furnishing their palaces with our bones...all of us, rich and poor, weak and mighty, deaf to the words of prophecy. Step by step we fulfil the predictions of our ultimate doom...

This bleak scenario forms the canvas for the anthems of anger that make up Oracle's Tales Of Pythia EP. These five songs are an outpouring of frustration and fury at the selfishness, greed and stupidity that sweep us forward to our seemingly inevitable end. Bringing together the muscular structures of contemporary metal, the potent protest of classic thrash and binding them both in barbed wire aggression, Oracle have created a riff and rage driven sound for our times of madness. The topics are global, the feelings intensely personal and as such Oracle speak to everyone who finds themselves drowning in these days of confusion; and they speak with a skull shattering roar! From damaging opener 'Deny' to the final scream of defiance that is the powerful 'Prisons', Tales Of Pythia injects liquid fire into the bloodstream.

Oracle were founded on the streets of Belfast in 2015 and since then they have poured heart, soul, blood and rage into their music. Their sound has grown and developed over a series of singles and finally blossomed into the formidable force present on Tales Of Pythia. This EP was originally released in June 2018, but with little promotional support it was lost in the static and white noise. This time these songs are going to be heard! The message is too important, the music too venomously vital to be lost. Open your ears, open your minds, to the brutal truth of Oracle!

View on Bandcamp

18 July 2018

Review: Blood of Dracula's Castle (1969)

Directed by Al Adamson and originally released by exploitation specialists Crown International Pictures, it's difficult to know where to start with Blood of Dracula's Castle.

Count Dracula (Alexander D'Arcy) and his vampire wife (Paula Raymond in a role originally intended for Jayne Mansfield), hiding behind the pseudonyms of Count and Countess Townsend, lure girls to their castle in the Arizona desert to be drained of blood by their butler George (a woefully underused John Carradine). That is until the castle's new owners, photographer Glen Cannon (Gene Otis Shayne) and his model girlfriend Liz Arden (Jennifer “Barbara” Bishop), arrive wanting to move in and refusing to sell.

This is a film that seems to promise so much, but actually delivers very little.

The performances are universally terrible in this slow and relatively bloodless B-movie. With clumsy attempts at humour and stilted delivery (it sometimes seems like the actors don't even know their lines), it really does stand out as one of those 'so inept it's worth a watch - if just the once' drive-in movies that you can usually find in bumper budget box sets (indeed I found it in Mill Creek Entertainment's wonderful Drive-In Cult Cinema Collection).

Cine-Excess XII: Call for Papers

Over the last 12 years, the Cine-Excess International Film Conference and Festival has brought together leading scholars with global cult filmmakers and industry figures for an annual event that combines a themed academic conference with director interviews and UK theatrical premieres of upcoming film releases.

Previous guests of honour attending Cine-Excess have included Catherine Breillat (Romance, Sex is Comedy), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, The Blues Brothers), Roger Corman (The Masque of the Red Death, The Wild Angels), Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, King of the Ants), Brian Yuzna (Society, The Dentist), Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria) Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins), Franco Nero (Django, Keoma, Die Hard II), Vanessa Redgrave (Blow Up, The Devils), Ruggero Deodato (Cannibal Holocaust, House on the Edge of the Park) Enzo G. Castellari (Keoma, The Inglorious Bast***s), Sergio Martino (Torso, All the Colours of the Dark), Jeff Lieberman (Squirm, Blue Sunshine) and Pat Mills (Action Magazine, 2000 AD).

Cine-Excess XII is hosted by Birmingham City University and will feature a three day academic conference alongside visiting international filmmakers and a season of related UK premieres and retrospectives taking place at screening venues across the region.

For its 12th annual edition, Cine Excess focuses on global traditions of cult performance, as exercised through a wide range of international case-studies and methodological approaches. By exploring established and new approaches to cult film performativity, the conference will consider how renditions of bodily display are mediated through a wide range of film genres. These examinations will include how Hong Kong martial arts formats become embodied through the performances of their male and female stars, as well as contemplating how iconic enactments, such as that of Boris Karloff in James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931) have reverberated intertextually since their inception. In addition to exploring the importance of gendered performance in the production and reception of disreputable film genres, other areas of conference analysis will consider how cult performers such as Gary Oldman nuance their roles through looks, expressions and gestures, or how performing cult bodies are rendered compelling in the way that they disappear, only to return endlessly (such as Michael Myers’ vanishing at the end of Halloween).

The conference will also take account of the importance of collaboration between cult directors and iconic stars, dissecting the off-kilter performances, deviant personalities and anomalous bodies found in the works of directors that range from David Lynch to Lars von Trier. In addition, Cine-Excess XII will also seek to analyse the status and reception of cult stars across differing global territories, as well as assessing how stardom can either be dismantled or confirmed through B-movie participation. Also central to certain forms of cult appeal, and compounding physical presence, is the performer’s voice, extending from the lyrical mellifluous tones of Morgan Freeman to the disquieting, sinister and uniquely compelling voice of Vincent Price. In this vein, we are pleased to welcome author Victoria Price, who will be accepting a posthumous Cine-Excess Lifetime Achievement in recognition of her late father’s career, and to coincide with the 50th anniversary of his influential performance in the 1968 classic Witchfinder General. Also appearing as a guest with Victoria Price will be the legendary British horror director Pete Walker, who not only directed Vincent Price in the 1983 film House of the Long Shadows, but was also responsible for a range of prominent and controversial British shockers that included The Flesh and Blood Show (1972), Frightmare (1974) and House of Whipcord (1974).

In order to explore the central conference themes further, Cine-Excess XII will examine the importance of cult performativity across a wide range of genres, formats, national traditions and modes of critical interpretation. Proposals are now invited for papers that assess the centrality of the cult performer within these differing contexts.  However, we would particularly welcome contributions focusing on the following areas:

  • Theatres of Blood: Vincent Price In and Out of Cult
  • The Flesh and Blood Show: Perverse Performances in the Films of Pete Walker
  • Folk Females: Gendered Performances of Witchcraft and the Supernatural
  • 1968 and the Cult Image: Cinematic Performances in an Age of Revolution
  • Screen Queens: Classic and Contemporary Cult Female Icons
  • Witchfinder General at 50: Bleak Images of Vincent Price’s Star Persona
  • Actor, Auteur, Icon: Cult Stars as Directors
  • Cult Pairings: Filmmaker and Star Collaborations at Cinema’s Margins
  • Divas and Dark Avengers: Critical Reinterpretations of Eurotrash Performers
  • Queer Scenes: LGBT Interpretations of Celebrated Performers
  • The Men and Women From Hong Kong: Asian Action Stars in Social Context
  • Lost and Found Fan Objects:  New Audience Studies Perspectives on Global Cult Icons
  • Creativity Masked: Cult Performance Behind Make-Up 
  • On the B List: Mainstream Stars Reborn Through Bad Movie Appearances
  • Bigger Than Bond: Cult Renditions of the Superspy
  • Weird World Icons: The Transnational Appeal of Global Cult Performers
  • Immortal Icons: Ageing Performers, Dead Stars and their Enduring Cult Appeal
  • Big in Japan: Cult Performers Incorporated into Other National Traditions
  • Small Segment Scares: New Perspectives on the Portmanteau Performance
  • Cult Stardom Perspectives: New Methodological Approaches to Cult Film Symbols
  • Illicit Stars: Historical and Contemporary Erotic Film Icons Reappraised
  • Trashing the Screen Test: Cult Performativity within the Vendetta Film Cycle

Please send a 300-word abstract and a short (one page) C.V. by Friday 7th September 2018 to:

Professor Xavier Mendik
Birmingham City University

Dr Fran Pheasant-Kelly
University of Wolverhampton

A final listing of accepted presentations will be released on Monday 17th September 2018.

Further details of this year's conference will be available at www.cine-excess.co.uk

20 June 2018

Review: Viva (2007)

A suburban housewife in 1972 goes out to find herself in the middle of the Playboy-era sexual revolution, in a tribute to vintage sexploitation films.

Written, directed by and starring Anna Biller, Viva is a visually dazzling reworking old sexploitation movies from the 60's and early 70's, from a female perspective.

Drawing on films such as Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Suburban Roulette (1968) and Radley Metzger’s Camille 2000 (1969) among others, Viva follows bored housewife Barbi as she sets out on a series of adventures taking in such delights as nudist camps, orgies, bisexuality, sadism, drugs, and bohemia.

A stunning example of stylisation and attention to detail the film won several awards including Best Style in a film from the Moscow Film Festival (Vogue Magazine), Best Director (Atlanta Underground Film Festival), Audience Choice Award Best Narrative Feature (Cinekink Film Festival) and the Kodak Independent Spirit Award (Tromadance Film Festival).

If Seventies Sexploitation is one of your guilty pleasures, then this 21st century take on them is well worth checking out.