Friday, August 24, 2012

Father's Day (2011)

The resurgence of 70s and 80s exploitation inspired films over the last five years since Tarantino and Rodriguez's Grindhouse  has been a mixed bag to say the last. While there have been some very entertaining films there has been an equal amount of crappy films that just have no idea what it is they're try to recreate.  FATHER'S DAY has been a highly anticipated release experiencing delay after delay until the release to Blu-Ray and DVD has finally made it to us.

10 years ago a series of strange murders hit the town (what happens to be Tromaville thanks to Troma's distribution of the film) where fathers were the victim. Not only were they brutally murdered with entrails being ripped out being a popular form of torture among various others but each and every father was anally raped. The man responsible, known only as Fuckman, has left families broken and lives destroyed and now a decade later he's back. Father John is a priest who is sent by his head priest who is on his deathbed to track down Ahab, an eye patch wearing loner who had a run in with Fuckman as a child and spent 10 years in prison for killing him. They are joined by a male teen prostitute named Twink to find out why the violations and murders have started again. Ahab becomes very personally involved in the job again when his little sister, who has now grown up in to a beautiful and sexy stripper, has been abducted by Fuckman. After a cat and mouse chase, Ahab slaughters the madman in a manner that makes the curb stomp scene from American History X look like a fight on the playground.

That should be the end of it, right? Justice has once again been served as Ahab saves the day with his companions and gets the girl. No dear reader, that is in fact not the end of it. And as ridiculously over the top the movie was up to this point, with seemingly endless gore and plenty of gratuitous nudity in a story that makes you giggle like Beavis and Butthead, we are about to throw all logic and coherence out the fucking window. Take what you had: a murderous madman with a penchant for raping the behinds of fathers, a trio of vigilantes and a hot stripper in distress and add in Satanic cults, heaven and hell, Lloyd Kaufman, demonic giants, more strippers, baby smashing and incest. Oh yea, the shit hits the fan (surprisingly not literally) in the third act.

This film was made by Astron-6 a group of 5 Canadian filmmakers who decided to team up under this banner and make these ridiculous films influenced by the sleaze and cheese of old 42nd Street that has become all the rage these days. The technical side of things is what it is- the direction is solid as the team shows they can make a decent movie. The special effects which are on display quite often are nice, with a lot practical effects mixed in with only a handful of CGI. What may be the strongest point of the film is the synth-driven score that adds a level of moodiness to the film that really helps balance out the humor. The writing is the obvious weak point here. While the story is ridiculous enough to work there are moments of dialogue that are just bad. This film could have easily been as atrocious as it was fun. I don't know if Astron-6 gets away with towing the line like this in their other films as this is my first exposure to the group but they were playing it dangerously close to almost having a movie that makes me want to punch myself in the face repeatedly. Instead they made it work, and that is the important part.

Does FATHER'S DAY capture the feel and character of a exploitation film from decades gone by? No. It certainly tries to just like many other films these days that just don't quite seem to get it, but they're among the ones that still ended up making a movie that was just plain fun.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Life And Death Of A Porno Gang (Blu-Ray Review)

Directed By: Mladen Djordjevic
Written By: Mladen Djordjevic
Starring: Mihajlo Jovanovic, Ana Acimovic, Predrag Damnjanovic
Color/112 Minutes/Not Rated

The Film
In the last couple of years Serbia has become infamous for the shocking cinema it has turned out. Most notably is A Serbian Film which nearly turned the horror community on it's head and had internet forums fighting like school girls. Was it artistic? Was it garbage? Did it have any merit or was it simply meant to disgust? Well now we have another film from the area getting a wide American release on disc that we will inevitably be reading the same type of comments about on message boards. 

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG is the story of Marko, a young film school graduate desperate to make his first feature film. Growing tired of life at home, having to entertain his father's friends including his own ex-girlfriend, Marko lands a job as a porno director. The porn industry is tied in with some shady people and when he uses money meant for a traditional sex tape on a more artistic adult film his mob boss is pissed and Marko has to leave town. He gathers a group of friends he's made while making porn and they form a traveling  "porno cabaret" going from town to town and village to village performing live sex acts and living out of their wildly painted van. Money is tight and some villages chase them out of town so when Marko meets a man who wants him to film snuff movies for big bucks with willing participants, Marko can't say no.

The group makes the snuff films whenever their "producer" has a willing subject, using the porn shows as their main day to day job. Things get more dangerous with the murders as they're approached to perform it live in front of a high paying audience in a Snuff Theater. Between the group's personal health and drug problems, the authorities crashing down on them and more mob problems the group begins to crumble.

Shock value can be a valuable tool in an exploitative film such as this. However when a film relies almost entirely on shock to carry the film it all falls flat and leaves the viewer with only the bad taste that the shock has and nothing of any substance to wash it down. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG is chock full of shock value. From endless amounts of nudity from the entire gang, and swapping of used needles and STDs, to beastiality and animal cruelty this film isn't a nice one. The question is if it uses shock to grab the audiences attention for something greater. This isn't a horror film about a monster that blood and gore can be used as shock to add to the entertainment value. This is a film solely about people and their time spent together so the shock value really needs to lead to something. A perfect example of this is in Ruggero Deodato's Cannibal Holocaust. I personally feel director Mladen Djordjevic fell short on this task. Marko is a character that for the entire film we're waiting for a profound breakthrough or something bigger than a traveling fuck fest. He's educated and has a good mind but we never get to see him use it. The ending may give us a very small glimpse but it could have been more. THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG may fall short of being a great film but there is more than enough here for fans of this type of movie to find a couple hours worth of entertainment.

The Video
The Special Edition Blu-Ray of THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A PORNO GANG comes to us courtesy of Synapse Films in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation in full 1080p HD and is all region. The picture quality is very good overall. The intended look of the film includes a documentary style at various points throughout that don't look as crisp as the more traditional scenes but even those still look good. This is another great transfer from Synapse.

The Audio
The film is presented in it's native Serbian with English subs in a DTS-HD 2.0 stereo track that is clean and clear of any hiccups or distractions. Levels are fine and steady. The subtitles are spot on and a breeze to read along with.

The Extras
Made In Serbia - This is a feature length documentary from the film's director on the Serbian adult entertainment industry.
"Making Of" Featurette
Deleted Scenes
Theatrical Trailer

The Bottom Line
Synapse Films knocks the ball out of the park here with another stellar package. The movie will certainly divide audiences and their feelings towards what they've seen but one thing no one will be able to discount is the top notch release the film was given.


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Live Like A Cop, Die Like A Man (1976)

The opening ten minutes to this film are a lawless (literally, as there were no permits) three bike motorcycle chase through crowded downtown Rome during rush hour involving a pair of crooks and a pair of cops. This introduction to the film is a punch in the face for what is about to come.

Alfredo and Antonio are a pair of policemen who are inseperable partners. They work together, ride together and live together. They work for a special division of the police force that takes down the sleaziest criminals Rome has to offer. While Alfredo and Antonio are the good guys, and are incredibly likable in what they do, their tactics certainly aren't by the book. The duo is a cocky, womanizing pair of shoot first and say "fuck the questions" hardasses. They seem to be endlessly reprimanded for their actions and attitudes but it doesn't stop them from taking down the baddies however they please. They have no problems putting the public in the line of fire because their extremely dangerous training techniques ensure they won't miss. Antonio and Alfredo are assigned a mission to track down a Mr. Pasquini and LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN follows their frequently violent and sometimes sexy adventure that leads to a climax that is appropriately explosive but in a low key "been-there-done-that" attitude.

The director of the infamous Cannibal Holocaust Ruggero Deodato directs this intensely violent and surprisingly funny Euro Crime flick that is written by arguably the king of the genre Fernando Di Leo. This film has a snarky sense of humor to it that straddles the line of making the viewer feel bad for laughing along with for the police duo's actions but never quite crosses that line. The humor is well timed and never gets so tongue-in-cheek that it makes you roll your eyes, the violence makes sure of that. From hostage situations, to shootouts and car chases, the blood spills and murder (including our heroes) is on tap. The key here is that you never scoff at the protagonists for their questionable actions because they are simply reacting to the heartless nature of Rome's grimy underground. You don't have to look any further than the opening scene for that to ring true. Genre film vet Ray Lovelock (Antonio) and Marc Porel (Alfredo) shine. Is their deeper meaning in their relationship than just friends and partner? It's possible, but the duo brilliantly leaves it extremely vague so that it doesn't become a plot point. They an asskicking team that takes no prisoners (literally) and it doesn't matter what else they may do in their free time (other than women).

LIVE LIKE A COP, DIE LIKE A MAN is violent, funny and just pure entertaining. It has more memorable characters than it probably should due to some villains being extremely cruel in their limited screen time and it will immediately become one of your favorite Euro Crime films.