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Another (Who is Dead?)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , on June 22, 2012 by splatterpictures

If horror is one of the great loves in life, anime would be my secret mistress I cheat on horror with ever now and again. In fact it was anime that got me back in to horror after being generally uninterested in it for nearly a decade. It was anime and going to conventions for anime that introduced me to Sushi Typhoon and obscure J-horror titles that I never would have known about. One of the benefits of animation from Japan is not only the visual style that appeals to me but the twisted gore and hyper sexuality that more often than not goes hand in hand with the genre. For something a little different I’m not going to talk about a movie but rather a series; this series is called Another.

Another is based of a 2009 mystery horror novel written by Yukito Ayatsuji. It was later adapted into a Manga series (Japanese comic) and a 12 episode Anime that ran from January to march of 2012. This isn’t really a bizarre trend in Japan. Many series are developed from Manga or regular novels. In recent years thanks mostly to the internet it has become increasingly more accessible to anyone who has an interest in finding such materials. Japan has answered this massive worldwide interest in Anime by desperately adapting everything they can think of into various series. Honestly the amount out there now is staggering and grows year by year.

The story of Another revolves around a legend that says 26 years ago a popular high school student died. The entire class was grieving until one day a random student jumped up and said they could see their dead friend alive and well sitting at their desk. Slowly the rest of the class started to act like this student hadn’t died at all. They say that at the end of the year- during the class photo- they could even see the deathly image of the student smiling with their classmates. The following year something tragic happened and every since the class has been cursed.

We cut to the year 1998 and  a young man named Kōichi who transfers from the big city of Tokyo to the small town of Yomiyama. Before he is able to join the local high-school he has a sudden medical emergency when his lung collapses which forces him to miss the first three weeks of school. While there he meets a small group of classmates from room 3-3 which is where he is to be placed for the year. They act somewhat suspicious but never really allude to why. They ask him several questions like if he had ever been to the town before but after he explains that this is his first visit they leave.

On one of his last days in the hospital; Kōichi is in an elevator where he suddenly meets a small girl named Mei with an eye patch. Mei,is carrying a creepy ball jointed doll and is apparently going to visit the morgue. When Kōichi eventually makes it to class he is amazed to see that this strange girl is a fellow classmate but the odd thing is nobody seems to act like she exists.

One of the major benefits of this series is that it’s a mere twelve episodes to get the entire story. It’s long enough to really flesh out the characters and their motivations as well as really push the mystery surrounding this alleged curse on class 3-3. It’s defiantly a slow burn like a lot of Japanese horror but I think that’s what made it so effective. I went in to this series with no previous knowledge of the source material and the plot just kept me guessing right until the very end.

The kills are fantastic and wonderfully gory. I won’t give too much away but essentially imagine this series as kind of a final destination scenario. Students and their families are subjected to a random series of events that lead up to their grizzly deaths. I’ve always loved the Rube Gold Machine approach to killing off characters. The last few episodes are a friggin’ bloodbath.

Beyond the gory ends of the hapless students the story really focuses on how we connect with people. Bonds that seem unbreakable can easily be tested when your life or the lives of others are put at risk. It’s interesting to see how certain characters that you do grow to know would change after they become desperate.  It also shines a light on the strength it takes to make decisions that -on the one hand- would save lives but, on the other come at an immense personal cost.

Some of the problems with the series are not so much from the storyline but the fact that it’s an anime. There is a “beach” episode. Before I get in to the episode I’d like to explain first that the “beach” episode is a thing not exclusive to this series or even ten series. The thing that it is cannot really be explained. It’s like “the baseball episode” or the “volleyball” episode. These things exist in anime for a lot of reasons. Usually to break up the series with a light-hearted self contained story with ample amounts of fan service and or comedy. Why not just take all the main characters and put them in bathing suits. It usually serves no purpose and when I started watching the episode (I believe it was episode 9) I rolled my eyes pretty hard. I was pleasantly surprised however when the “beach” episode ended in a healthy dose of sadness that moves the plot forward.

Another thing that really bothered me was how the entire plot could have been unraveled if the students, or anyone in the town was just upfront about the circumstances of class 3-3 especially considering Kōichi missed the first three weeks due to illness. Again this is something that is uniquely Japanese. It’s very common when dealing with superstition or death that you simply “do not speak of it”. It can be frustrating as an audience to watch. Lastly, I don’t feel as though they went in to detail enough about the big plot twist at the end. I love a good mystery but part of the fun for me is trying to figure it out before the big reveal. While some evidence they present is purposefully misleading the last part I really feel was totally out in left field. Maybe there were more clues to it in the original source material.

For fans of J-horror or anime or any combination of the two;Another is a series that you just can’t miss. For new comers to Horror Anime in particular I think it’s an excellent series to get acquainted with. It has a lot of familiar elements prevalent in Japanese animation speckled in there with a little Whispering Corridors and a healthy dose of Final Destination. The series length of twelve episodes is also pretty painless and the plot will keep you wondering just who is dead?

The series isn’t available in the west yet or even on DVD but your old pal the internet has got you covered. I found it sub-titled in about 30 seconds on Google. Check it out.

ALSO Random Dance Sequence

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prometheus (Evolution is a hell of a thing)

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , on June 12, 2012 by splatterpictures

When I heard that this movie was getting made I didn’t care. I love Alien, and Ridley Scott has the skills to pay the bills but for some reason it just didn’t blip on my radar. Then, holy hell did the hype start pouring in. I checked out the trailer and still wasn’t impressed. Sure it looked like it had high production value but I couldn’t make heads or tails of what it was trying to tell me. It didn’t help that the earliest reports were calling it a prequel to Alien and then by the time trailers were emerging (it seemed like a slightly different one every other week) everyone from camp Prometheus were adamant that it wasn’t really a prequel. It was clearly stated that this was a story that occupied the same universe as Alien and all of its sequels but that it was a story that would launch the events of alien and then run adjacent to the original franchise. So why were their still people confused? Probably because people just don’t read/listen. That’s probably a good lesson to anyone looking to promote future projects: Make sure your first message is the right one because that’s pretty much what us ignorant masses will remember.

I finally broke down and checked it out and I feel as though Ridley Scott just strutted into the theatre I was in, punched out a few pimply-faced theatre employees and blew a fucking hole in the wall with his Prometheus cannon to let the fresh air in. Ladies and gentlemen I have seen the light and it is Prometheus.

(Some small spoilers ahead, consider yourselves warned.)

The film starts off ominously enough, with a strange alien who looks like he is an avid watcher of fitness made simple, drinking some black goo, which results in him dying a horrible death. Cut to the not too distant future of 2089 and we find two archeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green) in the midst of a major discovery. It seems that throughout earth there are cave drawings that indicate we were the product of alien creation. They dub the aliens “Engineers” and the Weyland Corporation (yeah the same one from Alien) finances a trip to the distant world to find them.

When they finally arrive in 2093 we meet the Crew which is made up of characters that are very much in keeping with the entire feel of the films that came before it. The synthetic David, (Michael Fassbender) The corporate douche (Charlize Theron) The grizzled but weary Captain Janek (Idris Elba) and a bunch of other character types you’ll find in any of the other alien movie are present.  The tech they use, the ship they have and the overall feel of “truckers in space” is there also. I defiantly felt like I was watching an Alien movie. That fact is almost a complaint because I found myself a little too familiar with what I was watching at first but thankfully plot elements and characters really surprised me in the end. The biggest question I’ve heard from people is; are their Xenomorphs (Aliens) in the movie? Well I won’t say much more than evolution is a hell of a thing.

The movie was visually breathtaking. It had equal parts gritty industrial and slick, clean and futuristic. The biggest joy for me was the use of practical special effects on many of critters that were running around. It just looked fantastic. There were some moments watching it that I had wished they didn’t use CGI but it’s just the nature of the beast, hint that means two things *wink wink*

Fassbender’s character of David is compelling and is easily the most interesting one of the bunch but I have to say that Noomi Rapace has a scene in the movie that is probably the most stomach turning example of being a badass I’ve ever seen. I’m not saying she’s Ripley level of badass here but damn. Big brass balls award goes to her character. Which reminds me, the deaths and gore in this film are top notch. There is a decent body count and they defiantly earn that R rating.

Some of the things I didn’t really care for were how rushed it seemed towards the end. I also felt like we didn’t get to spend enough time with characters before they were inevitable killed off. I hear that the directors cut is going to have another 20 or so minutes added to it so I have a feeling that will be cleared up. Also I realize it’s just a movie but the idea we would have fully sentient androids, deep space travel, hyper sleep and half of the other things they were using in less than 100 years seems a bit far fetched but whatever it’s a movie.

Finally I’ll address the general complaints I’ve been hearing about too many unanswered questions, or the plot wasn’t solid. While I agree there were unanswered questions Ridley Scott said they would be answered in the sequel if they get one but he worked hard to make sure Prometheus stood on its own. I actually don’t really think that it does. I mean I liked it a lot but not so much that I would deny it suffers from the same pitfalls as any film that is intended to be the first in a trilogy. I am really hoping for a sequel because I loved how it left off.

Prometheus is wonderfully written, visually stunning and full of characters that are destined to become part of pop culture history. There is still room in this world for R rated blockbusters and they don’t have to pander to the audience and Ridley Scott just proved it. Prometheus has busted the lore of the alien universe wide open and I want more.

“Oh God, what did I eat?”

Crawler (50 Tonnes of TERROR)

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , on June 8, 2012 by splatterpictures

One of the best things about Indie horror is the free range a lot of the filmmakers have to create movies around concepts that would make mainstream movie-goers scratch their heads. I don’t mean mainstream as a derogatory term at all but more to draw a distinction between the kind of person who hears “Bulldozer that kills people” and doesn’t roll their eyes. Well okay maybe most people still do. Crazy or not that is the plot of Crawler.

Crawler was released in 2009 and directed and written by Sv Bell. Robbie Ribspreader ( I guess that’s his real name?) also contributed with writing It was produces by Blackflag Pictures. The film stars Deke Richard, Heidi Hawkins and Keir Cutler.

Now when I say it’s about a bulldozer that kills people I’m not being entirely accurate because the thing in question isn’t actually a bulldozer at all but a “glamour djin” which is apparently an evil entity that has the ability to “look like something else” apparently for the last few decades it’s taken the form of a piece of construction equipment.

The film starts off with a guy coming in to rent a bulldozer for a construction job that needs to be done but sadly he was a day late so the dozer he was going to get had already been rented out. This is the kind of situation that dooms the lives of characters in horror movies. Sure enough after enough begging the construction worker convinces a clerk to rent him out this mysterious bulldozer that had a tarp on it that says not to rent it ever. People never read tarps.

Enter our hero Jimmy (Richards) who is the sites foreman, he has a troubled past and looking to do right. It looks like his past is catching up to him though because somebody deeply affected by that past mistake Karl (Cutler) is also on site. The two seem to share an uneasy truce until people start going missing. Eventually all hell breaks when the bulldozer starts picking off victims through various means and Karl seems to be completely under the bloodthirsty equipments power.

So whether this bulldozer is a demon or an alien or some thing from another dimension is never really specified but its pretty evil. The film itself shares a lot of elements of Stephen Kings Christine, you know the story about the car that kills people. This movie has that in common but the dozer itself has all kinds of creepy living components, like mouth tentacles that reminded me of Tremors, and probably the grossest ability which is to infect others with some sort of painful virus.

Cutler is really good in his role and was easily my favourite character in the film. He becomes obsessed with the bulldozer and worships it like some sort of dark god. The addition of his character goes a long way to putting some kind of face on the enemy who could at least communicate with other characters.

The special effects on this movie are well done. I really enjoyed all of the practical effects that were used, from the tendrils to the bulldozer itself. Plus the slow infection of one of the construction workers were fantastically disgusting once you got to the final shot of him bloated and spewing out black sludge.

I’d say the problems with the movie come from the plot itself. I know the premise is weird enough on its own but I thought a little more explaination on a few things would have helped. For example, they never really explain why the dozer was “sleeping”. It was just sitting there in the rental lot with a tarp over it. As soon as the tarp comes off it starts killing people and goes to the jobsite itself? How did the bulldozer know where to go? Another thing was that the entity or whatever it was seemed to random powers. Like it could infect people, take over their minds, project images into their heads, reanimate the dead and shoot lighting. Of course it also had all the benefits of being a giant bulldozer with mouth tendrils.Although, now that I think about it I really shouldn’t waste too much time trying to pick apart the plot holes in a movie about a killer bulldozer

It was interesting how serious the movie took itself. I don’t mind that really because honestly this wave of self aware horror really is getting old. It’s almost as if you can’t make a cheesy movie without making sure you’re winking to the audience every five minutes.

As I said before the best thing Independent horror has to offer audiences are more “out there” concepts. I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t get into a conversation with people about how much they dislike all the remakes, prequels and sequels that Hollywood churns out. Some people go so far as to say that creativity doesn’t exist in cinema. My flat response to that is that maybe you’re just watching the wrong movies. Sv Bell and Blackflag Pictures have made something that blends a lot of horror elements together and did it well and is a worthy addition to the growing genre of “things that randomly kill people”. Crawler is a hell of an entertaining ride that you should check out.

Tokyo Zombie

Posted in Horror Showcase, Updates with tags , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2012 by splatterpictures

Sometimes when I grab something off the DVD shelf I never know what I’m going get. I had a feeling about Tokyo Zombie: A movie with Jiu-Jitsu, zombies and comedy? Sold!

While I’m the first to admit that with all of the over-saturation of the zombie genre in the last few years I tend to roll my eyes at every new title announced I do find it fun that some things get region one releases where they might never have if zombies weren’t hot right now.

Tokyo Zombie was released in 2005 in Japan, and was given a region one DVD release in 2009. It’s based off the popular 1999 Manga written by Yusaku Hanakuma. The films directing duties were handed to Sakichi Sato and it stars Tadanobu Asano and Show Aikawa.

The year is unknown, I guess modern times but in this version of Japan there is a massive garbage dump at the epicentre of Tokyo. It’s full of toxic waste, garbage and the discarded bodies of the dead. The people call it “Black Fuji” because of the black ash that surrounds the mountain. Death and murder are treated pretty differently. If you kill somebody you just dump the body and forget about it. It makes for a few hilarious situations.

The main characters are Fukio and Mitsuo, (Asano and Aikawa respectively) they are you typical idiot and straight man buddy picture duo. The fun thing is how the pair are obsessed with becoming Jiu-Jitsu champions. They train all day instead of focusing on their jobs at a fire extinguisher factory (where they seem to be the only ones who work there). Their boss shows up and after a brief argument they accidentally kill him. So off to Black Fuji they go to get rid of his body.

This is about where the zombies start popping up and then it’s their fight for survival as they make their way to Russia where apparently the manliest men live and they can perfect their fighting styles.

The films take an interesting turn about midway through and does a time skip. I’m certain that’s just how the Manga ended up but as a movie it’s pretty weird. A lot of zombie movies take place either at the initial outbreak or well after the fact in sort of a post apocalyptic scenario where humans are barely surviving. A good example of the two extremes would be if Night of the Living Dead and then Land of The Dead were one movie.

When it gets into this portion the whole buddy comedy thing is over and now it’s just Fujio fighting in arena style matches against the undead. There is a hilarious twist towards the end of the movie though that I thought was fantastic. I usually don’t like it when movies switch gears like this so dramatically but in this case I felt it worked.

The jokes are mostly physical comedy which is good. A lot of times when you’re watching a movie from Japan the jokes can be lost in translation but I found myself laughing out loud at more than a few scenes.

I wouldn’t say it’s very gory so people looking for that type thing will be disappointed. It’s also plagued by some pretty bad CGI but I think in this case they knew it looked ridiculous and in a lot of ways it serves to enhance the comedy. Check it out!