HIDDEN HORROR- Nekromantik

nekromantikThis obscure German horror film from 1987 is one of the more…interesting titles I have seen. If Terrance Malick decided to make a horror film I imagine it would look something like this. Never has a film about such an extreme subject matter been so artsy. “Nekromantik” will not be everyone’s cup of tea. Much like the films of Malick it emphasizes style over substance. However I believe this film is worth writing about because of its experimentation and risk taking. I don’t believe an American filmmaker would dare make a film like this. Plus, how many art house horror films are out there? From my count there aren’t too many.

“Nekromantik” does have a plot but the narrative isn’t the strongest part of this movie. The movie is about a guy named Rob Schmadtke and his very strange hobby. He collects human body parts. He has a very beautiful girlfriend who likes to bathe in blood. At one point in the film Rob brings home a dead body and the two have a ménage à trois with the corpse.

The plot is somewhat of a challenge to talk about because as I stated earlier this film is more concerned with being stylish and experimental rather than with telling a strong narrative. Do not come into this movie expecting well defined and establish characters because they are non existent. Throughout the film director Jörg Buttgereit utilizes flashback/dream sequences. What’s interesting about the film is that Buttgereit doesn’t explain what these sequences represent for Rob. He leaves that up for you the viewer to decide. Whether or not he does this effectively is up for you to decide. Personally I’m kind of torn. While I have to give Buttgereit mad props for not laying everything out I would have liked a little guidance. I mean, if I have to watch a sequence where a guy kills and butchers a rabbit I would like to know what the significance of said scene is.

One of the major scenes worth talking about is the infamous ménage à trois scene. Here you get to see a perfect example of the art house style that I mentioned. The idea of two people having sex with a corpse is a disgusting act yet imagine this sequence filmed in slo mo, with a blur effect all while this romantic piano music plays throughout. It is a scene that is not to be forgotten anytime soon.

Some other art house style moments are a scene where the moon for some reason turns into a skull, a sequence of Rob running like a child through the hills and a dream sequence where a re-animated Rob and a random woman play catch with a served head when it turns into human guts. There’s a sequence where Rob goes out to see a slasher film for some reason and another scene where Rob is watching a program on TV about phobias. Why these exist, I don’t know. During these scenes pretend you are a cinema snob and just make up some significance.

The music is quite interesting and helps make this movie stand out. For a film with such a disgusting subject matter and content the music is very melodic and pretty. Horror films tend to use dark, ominous sounds while this film goes in the opposite direction.

“Nekromantik” is a film I can’t recommend for its great story telling. It fails in that aspect. However it is worth checking out because of its experimental, art house style. If you are in the mood for something fresh, unique, experimental and not like most horror films I recommended giving this watch.It is a disturbing film with some great effects and a unique, singular vision. The movie clocks in at only 75 minutes so it is a quick watch. You might not revisit it very often but it is worth watching at least once. I imagine some will find this film to be a piece of pretentious garbage and it they don’t like it for that reason I can completely understand. However how often can you call a horror film pretentious? There is a sequel but I do not recommend it at all as it is one of the most boring films I have sat through. The music is great however.

-Ryan Laskodi

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HIDDEN HORROR – Boogeyman 3

23 boogeyman-3-posterNow I know what you’re thinking “why is he reviewing Boogeyman 3 and not Boogeyman 1 or 2?” Well let me explain. “Boogeyman,” which came out in theaters in 2005, was a PG-13 bad jump scare shit fest for 13 years olds and the straight-to-video “Boogeyman 2” was actually more of a gross out slasher flick (I’ll review that one later) then the previous supernatural one. Now enter “Boogeyman 3”, another straight to video sequel.

When a college student witnesses her friends death at the hands of the boogeyman she is forced to believe in him, which in turn causes the boogeyman to terrorize her even more. Then she starts warning all her dorm friends which in turn causes them to slowly believe in him which sets off a whole series of spooky and bloody events.

Though the storyline is a bit cliche’ and it’s not the best of what straight-to-video horror has to offer, what works is that it’s entertaining, has believable characters, some good psychological dialogue between characters, some jumpy and spooky scenes with the Big B himself with good buildup, the Boogeyman himself looks creepy and the most surprising aspect of this film is that its quite gory! The Boogeyman does not kill these college kids in a clean manner oh no. Glass shoved into faces, hangings, bodies twisted in half, mutilated torsos and one poor woman shoved into a washer right after witnessing the entire laundromat gushing with blood everywhere a’la “The Shinning.” So if you want your spooky little films gushing with the red stuff and you don’t mind a straight-to-video horror (you really shouldn’t be that judgmental if your frequently visiting this site) check out Boogeyman 3 if you have the chance. Oh and don’t worry you don’t need to see the previous two to get the storyline. Each film can be viewed as its own movie, in fact…the “Boogeyman” franchise is maybe the only horror franchise that gets better with each straight-to-video sequel. Surprise surprise

-James J. Coker

HIDDEN HORROR – Hell Night

hell_night“Hell Night” may seem like your run of the mill early ’80s slasher film. It’s about college pledges having to spend the night in an abandoned mansion with a very murderous past. Though it has very little blood and a low body count the film actually has more going for it. Linda Blair of “The Exorcist” fame stars as the “final girl,” the atmosphere is delightfully spooky and there are some damn good jump scares with terrific build up. If you’re in the mood for an old school slasher film with some very spooky haunted house atmosphere then “Hell Night” should be right up your alley.

-James J. Coker

TERROR TV – Tales from the Darkside – Hush

11 Hush.avi_000959333

This seldom talked about “Tales from the Darkside” episode is one of the most suspenseful of the whole series! Hush has a simple plot: It’s a normal night for a single working mom and her boy genius of a son. The mother goes out for a meeting and leaves your typical teenage girl to babysit the boy. While babysitting the boy shows her all of his inventions including his most prized one, his “Noise-Eater,” a vacuum like machine that sucks the noise out of things. Eventually something grim happens with the Noise-Eater. The babysitter sees it suck not only the noise from a bird but also its life. From then on the rest of the episode turns into a edge of your seat suspense ride and a eerie tune plays throughout. What makes Hush one of the best episodes of the series is that even though it doesn’t have monsters or blood or even heavy atmosphere it more than makes up for all of those things in having genuine suspense for such a simple plot.

-James J. Coker

HIDDEN HORROR – Jug Face

JugFace-PosterThis indie horror gem from earlier this year is quite the fucked up little tale. It’s about a small community in the woods of Tennessee that for generations have worshiped a pit and believe that said pit demands human sacrifice. In return the pit will keep the community healthy and safe. To determine who will be sacrificed the pit gives a vision to a member of the community and said member then makes a clay jug of the persons face they visioned. When a young pregnant teenager finds out that she is next she hides the Jug Face which causes the pit to get angry and members of the community start ending up in pieces. One aspect of “Jug Face” that is quite strong is the acting. The characters all feel like they truly believe in this pit and its rules. The actors dedication to this universe is impressive. Another strong element is the young hopeless protagonist played by Lauren Ashley Carter. As an audience we are sympathetic towards her plight. However the strongest aspect of this movie is that it leaves you with a sense of dread and desperation throughout and when the very depressing ending finally comes it hits you like a brick to the face. “Jug Face” is Southern Gothic at its most unsettling.

-James J. Coker

HIDDEN HORROR- Dr. Phibes Rises Again

dr-phibes-rises-again-aka-dr-phibes-everettLast time I reviewed the little-known horror gem “The Abominable Dr. Phibes.” Naturally I felt I had to follow it up with a review of its sequel “Dr. Phibes Rises Again.” It has been a while since I have seen this one and watching it again I have to say that it is nowhere near as good as its predecessor. However it still has enough going for it that I feel it is worthy of being mentioned.

To properly describe the plot of this film I have to talk about the ending of the first. If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching it yet then you might want to skip down a couple of paragraphs. The first film ends with Dr. Phibes going into his wife’s tomb and putting himself into a form of suspended animation. Basically he takes all the blood out of his body and replaces it with embalming fluid.

The sequel takes place 3 years after the first. Phibes is awoken from the tomb by a planetary alignment, more on that later. With his revenge complete he has a new goal, which is to bring his wife back from the dead. To accomplish this he and Vulnavia, yes she is back and this time played by actress Valli Kemp, must travel to Egypt. In Egypt there is a Pharaohs tomb hidden in a mountain and a river runs under this tomb. Every 2,000 years when the planets align a certain way, yes this is the same alignment that awoke Phibes, the river of life flows into this river. Phibes believes when this happens not only can his wife be brought back to life but they will both be given eternal life.

However Phibes isn’t the only one interested in finding this river. A rich socialite by the name of Darrus Biederbeck (Robert Quarry) is also interested in finding it. He forms an expedition and stuff happens. Law enforcement becomes involved and Inspector Trout (Peter Jeffery) returns, this time joined by his Superintendent named Waverly (John Cater).

Biedberbeck is the weakest part of this film. At the beginning it appears there is a history and rivalry between the two and Biedberbeck seems to be a worthy opponent to Phibes, the James Moriarty to Phibes Sherlock Holmes. This is however not the case. Biedbercek is actually a bland character. Robert Quarry plays the role well but he isn’t given much to do. He mostly stands around, shouts things and is proactive rather than reactive. There is a reason to why he wants to find the river and when you find out that reason you do feel some sympathy for him. However Phibes is such a great character and is worthy of a stronger opponent.

A difference between this film and the first one is the use of humor. One aspect I love about the first film is how understated the humor is. It’s a very funny film but it isn’t trying to be a comedy. Everything feels natural. Here they are actively trying to be funny. This is necessarily a bad thing as the movie is quite funny. Trout and Waverly have some great moments together. One of my favorite scenes is when Phibes and Vulnavia are eating fish and Phibes, who has to eat through a hole in the side of his neck, pulls out a fishbone. While I do prefer the first films style of humor this one is quite funny and I found myself laughing quite a bit.

Price brings in another good performance here but it is different from the first film. In the first one Phibes hardly spoke. Price’s performance is very much like that of a silent film star. Here Phibes speaks throughout the film. It is still a silent film-esque performance as Phibes doesn’t open his mouth however the mystique of the character is taken away. However I think I can understand why the writers did this and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Much like the first film the performances are solid, the story is creative, the kills are unique, the writing is sharp, it moves at a good pace and the musical score is fantastic. It’s not as strong a film as the first one but there is still a lot to enjoy here. If you enjoyed the first Dr. Phibes movie I would recommend giving this one a watch. If you did not enjoy the first one then you are better off skipping this one.

-Ryan

HIDDEN HORROR – Vampyr

Very seldom in a film does the setting play an actual character in the story. Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy had Gotham play the series’ lead protagonist and Kubrick’s The Shining had it’s actors somewhat overlooked in comparison to the character study given to us in the perspective of a haunted winter getaway. Carl S. Dreyer’s Vampyr is yet another addition to this list of examples. A 1930’s expressionist horror flick that syphons its prowess from its extraordinary use of surrealist lighting and set pieces that make many an audience question the fabric of normality.

This slow but driving narrative does a bang up job at making you feel isolated and just as lost as the film’s main character is. You’re able to relive your first couple hours of kindergarden again, but it takes place in a world where your own shadow is self aware, anyone holding a dangerous piece of gardening equipment is silhouetted and a menacing blank stare is the new shit eating grin. If you’re a fan of more modern day surrealists such as Guy Maddin or Shinya Tsukamoto then you’ll have a great time eloping with this one. The seminal version of this film can be found on the Criterion Collection(#437).

– The Spork Guy