Thursday, January 31, 2019

SUSPIRIA (2018) - Blu-ray Review (Lionsgate Films)

Italy, USA/2018
Directed By: Luca Guadagnino
Written By: David Kajganich
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth
Color/152 Minutes/R
Region A
Release Date: January 29, 2019

The Film
Upon leaving the theater after seeing SUSPIRIA on Halloween night my mind was racing with everything I was still trying to take in. Luca Guadagnino had not only completed a project that had been rumored about for a decade but he gave me something I was both challenged by and that I appreciated. He had remade Dario Argento's Suspiria, my favorite film. Now, there was never and instance that I thought this modern take eclipsed the original but I did think that Luca Guadagnino gave the audiences a fresh take on it. But even after I slept on it and eventually decided to put SUSPIRIA quite high on my favorite films of the year list I knew that I had to watch it again to take it all in and process it.

Now given the chance to see it again I'm left with some of the same questions I was before along with some new ones. Opinions were solidified or flipped on their head. A second viewing of Guadagnino's SUSPIRIA was memorable, as I'm sure each viewing of this film will be but not all of it will be positive memories. For one, and I do think this is my single biggest problem with this film, is that the music is simply nonexistent. SUSPIRIA is a tale about a dance academy that secretly houses a coven of witches, it was a ballet school in the original but it's a much more modern and interpretive form of dance being used in the remake but either way you would imagine the music would play a huge role in giving the dancers something to dance to and of course setting a mood. Goblin's bombastic score certainly did both, giving us a catchy little melody that was easy to latch on to as the dancers performed their routines and the rest of the film attacking our ears and minds with bellowing wails, sighs, and beautiful sounds that could be described as otherworldly. The original Suspiria's soundtrack is an experience in itself. Thom Yorke of Radiohead was tasked with the job of creating the remake's soundtrack and the music he delivered would be better suited for an Elliott Smith biopic than a horror film. On top of the music simply not fitting the film at all it's also totally lost in the film's audio mix, while often times the instructors opt to have their dancers perform to no music. Pretty brilliant, eh? It's not even that I'm comparing Yorke's score to Goblin's, it's that I'm comparing Yorke's score to any horror film score. His score has nothing to offer this film.

But Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson and the rest of the ensemble cast had a lot to offer the film. Dakota Johnson is fresh off the Fifty Shades Of Grey trilogy and proves she has real talent here as the lead Susie Bannion. She's the main focus of the film and gives a measured performance that fits in to the mood of this film perfectly. Tilda Swinton proves why she's Hollywood royalty playing a trio of characters. Her main character, Madame Blanc runs the school most of the time and has her hands directly tied in with Susie. I loved watching Tilda and Dakota perform together. The remaining cast including Mia Goth and Chloe Grace Moretz all turn in physically demanding and moving performances. There's no denying the power and ability this cast possesses and provides the film which leads back to the director and Luca Guadagnino creates some striking visual sequences including the brutal mangling of a body, the intense dance sequences that are much more aggressive and at times sexual than anything we saw in Argento's original.

SUSPIRIA just had a bit of disconnect with me on this second viewing that I think I overlooked on my initial viewing because I was trying to take everything in at once and in a film such as this you're not going to take it all in on a single viewing, at least not properly. When I went back to revisit the film I felt that the cold, hard look covered in mainly concrete greys and dull interiors, a stark contrast to Argento's original that is infamously drenched in color and texture, that visual style transferred over to the mood of the film and ultimately my connection to it. This was due largely in part that I feel there were subplots that dragged the film out needlessly to a run time nearly two and a half hours long and didn't bring the emotion to the film that they intended to.

After a second viewing I'm still a fan of SUSPIRIA. I don't think it rivals the original but I think it is a true piece of art with a lot of talent involved. It's a vicious horror film at times and no review of it would be complete without totally gushing over the black mass climax where Mater Suspiriorum reveals herself and uses a demon to dispatch of any body that didn't pledge their allegiance to her. The lengthy sequence is flooded in red lighting, drenched in blood as bodies literally explode into a shower of crimson mist while dancers violently gyrate around the mayhem and Helena Markos exposes herself as a disgusting mess of sweat, slime, scars and a totally inhuman monster form. I have no problem calling this scene the best black mass or witchcraft scene in any film of the 21st century. Hands down. I'd even say the film is worth checking out for that scene alone.

The Audio & Video
Lionsgate brings SUSPIRIA to Blu-ray with a spectacular A/V presentation. The 16x9 anamorphic widescreen picture quality is stunning with super deep black levels that have no issues with blocking or compression. The detail levels are very high giving life to the textures around the dance academy and the harsh concrete structures around the city. Colors are reproduced beautifully despite the film having a rather cold and dull color palette until its climax. Otherwise the picture quality is pristine and I have nothing negative to say about it. The audio is handled in a Dolby Atmos track and it sounds stunning. I don't know what else to say. Five stars all around.

The Extras
There are three different short featurettes that total less than fifteen minutes. "The Making Of Suspiria" gives a brief general overview and comparison to the original, "The Secret Language Of Dance" explores the dancing and choreography within the film and "The Transformations Of Suspiria" is perhaps the most entertaining of the three as it gives us a look into the prosthetic effects and makeup in the film.

The Bottom Line
SUSPIRIA is a film that will challenge and divide audiences and while it never had a chance to challenge the original it certainly stands on its own two feet as a beautifully crafted tale of witchcraft and I recommend it without hesitation.

SUSPIRIA is available HERE

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

LET THE CORPSES TAN (Blu-ray Review) - Kino Lorber

Directed By: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Written By: Helene Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Starring: Elina Lowensohn, Stephane Ferrara, Bernie Bonvoisin
Color/92 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: January 8, 2019

The Film
If you're not familiar with the duo of Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani you may be familiar with their two previous features, Amer and The Strange Colour Of Your Bodies Tears, a pair of films that add a strong arthouse style and vibe to the duo's love for Italian genre film, most notably the giallo. The duo has gained noteriety in the cult film community because of their flourishing direction and dizzying editing. Their films have been devisive among fans with some fans being turned off by the arthouse style and other gobbling up their contributions to the genre. If nothing else, their films are interesting companion pieces to the genres they are love letters to.

LET THE CORPSES TAN is Cattet's and Forzani's homage to the Euro crime and spaghetti western genres. The plot is one that you've heard before and could fit either type of film, a gang thugs steal a load of gold bars and escape to a sparsely populated, crumbling cliffside village to hide out. The gang will soon find trouble with the lusty painter and her guests including a writer, and another sexy woman and her son that are already at the villa. Soon a pair of motorcyle cops arrive on the scene and the film plays out with a lengthy showdown within the stone walls and rocky hills between the two groups filled with floods of color, intense closeups, extreme violence and multiple double crosses. The film's progression is framed with intertitles displaying the time, often times showing the same scene play out from various character's perspectives.

Cattet and Forzani deliver an onslaught of intense visuals, colors, extreme closeups and violence. The duo focus on the styles of the spaghetti western and the crime films that came out of Italy during the 1970s using signature camera angles and music cues. The traditional plot should have allowed for something more cohesive, and linear, though I know that isn't Cattet and Forzani's style, their approach often leads to the images on screen being a bit an incomprehensible mess of flying bullets and various closeups of appendages. I think characters are cheated a more fleshed out and well rounded existence had they been given more to do than just show up and shoot every fucking thing. I frequently found myself asking why or what, and never really receiving any sort of answer, it seemed to be decisions and action for the sake of decisions and action. There was no development in these characters, they're very much paper doll versions of who we are introduced to and become nothing more, even when they perform some sort of double cross or their intentions change with the wind.

I liked a lot of what I saw and I certainly found myself entertained but I can't help but wish the duo helming this picture turned their style down a few notches and instead of being barraged with style I would appreciated a film that had more developed characters and a more practical storyline. There still would have been plenty of room for Cattet and Forzani to blow their artistic load all over the place but at least there would have been some substance to it. I think there's a good movie in LET THE CORPSES TAN and a great movie hanging around right outside of it, especially for fans of the genres that Cattet and Forzani are proclaiming their love for but the duo are perfectly happy getting their nut and leaving us with blue balls.

The Audio & Video
Kino Lorber gives LET THE CORPSES TAN a home on Blu-ray with a 2.35:1 anaormphic widescreen transfer that looks and sounds exceptional. The look and sound of this film are its strong suits and this Blu-ray gives the vivid colors, intense use of shadow and silhouettes and distinct textures the proper treatment. The bombardment of sound comes through with a 5.1 or 2.0 DTS-HD audio mix that is mixed and layered very well with the dialogue and score and sound effects complimenting each other nicely. The film's dialogue is in French with optional English subtitles. The subtitles are timed perfectly and translated well for easy reading.

The Extras
Special features include an audio commentary track with film critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and Queensland Film Festival Director John Edmond and a trailer for the film.

The Bottom Line
I appreciate LET THE CORPSES TAN but I wanted to love it. If you appreciated Amer or The Strange Color Of Your Bodies Tears than I think you'll appreciate this one as well.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

MONSTER PARTY - Blu-ray Review (RLJE Films)

Directed By: Chris Von Hoffman
Written By: Chris Von Hoffman
Starring: Sam Strike, Virginia Gardner, Brandon Michael Hall
Color/90 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: December 18, 2018

The Film
Three troubled teen thieves pose as the wait staff at an upscale dinner party for a certain group of addicts in order to break in to a hidden safe and take advantage of the very well-off guests. The party takes a very wild turn when it's revealed that each of the party guests is a serial killer trying to maintain their sobriety.

MONSTER PARTY caught me off guard in almost every aspect of the film. The trio of teens are excellent and have a natural chemistry together that makes you believe they could be a fairly well oiled burglary machine and they're actually quite likable together despite being involved in an unsavory profession. Add in a supporting cast that includes Lance Reddick and Robin Tunney and you have a really well acted film. Chris Von Hoffman doesn't waste the talent he has on screen with boring, stagnant direction, as he adds bits of flair and little flourishes that elevate the movie above similar movies that are helmed by less capable directors.

MONSTER PARTY is fast paced and becomes increasingly bloody and gory as the movie progresses. The idea of recovering serial killers is not only an interesting one but is well thought out and is more than just an excuse for the killing in this horror movie. It sets up another level and a dynamic between the relationship of certain secondary characters that elevates the third act beyond being all about the splatter and scares.

The Audio & Video
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer has a great look with strong detail and a natural and healthy presentation to skin tones. During the more colorful moments of the film the palette is vibrant and strong without looking too hot or colors bleeding into one another. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is strong and powerful while still maintaining a well done mix between the soundtrack and dialogue.

The Extras
Sadly the disc is bare bones.

The Bottom Line
I would have loved to have seen some special features on this especially given some of the big names included in the cast but the movie alone is enough to recommend this release.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

MOLLY - Blu-ray Review (Artsploitation Films)

Directed By: Colinda Bongers, Thijs Meuwese
Written By: Thijs Meuwese
Starring: Julia Batelaan, Emma de Paauw, Joost Bolt
Color/91 Minutes/Not Rated
Region A
Release Date: October 2, 2018

The Film
When a maniacal gang leader catches wind that a girl with supernatural powers is roaming the barren wastelands near his camp he sets his henchman on a mission to capture her to be the new showpiece in circus where he forces competitors to fight to the death.

MOLLY stars Julia Batelaan as the titular character who travels a post-apocalyptic landscape by herself, staying alive and avoiding trouble when possible but when word gets out that you have supernatural abilities there's always going to be someone that wants to harness your powers for their own gain. Molly finds herself in constant trouble as she is chased for the duration of the film's 91 minute runtime by Deacon's (Joost Bolt).

Only when Molly discovers a young girl living alone among the dangerous landscape does the story take any sort of turn and it's more of a slight merge than a turn as it only adds a person for Molly to care for than actually changing the story. MOLLY'S weak story is its biggest downfall. There's just not enough story to make this movie a complete success but it still manages to be a successfully entertaining film. The directors were obviously influenced by films like Mad Max and maybe even some of the more low budget and exploitative rip-offs and they wanted to put their own spin on this style of film and where story isn't their strong suit the action scenes, of which there are plenty, and turning an obviously tight budget into a visually appealing production with set designs and characters that made the absolute most of the money spent on it.

MOLLY is also a well made movie with good fight choreography, good looking photography and a bit of stylish direction for good measure. I think it would have had a better flow at 75 minutes given the basic story and that some of the lesser fight scenes get a bit repetitive and at that point I'd be a bit more forgiving on the story but no matter how I slice it MOLLY was what I hoped it would be - a high energy post-apocalyptic romp that will hopefully help reignite the fire for these types of films.

The Audio & Video
Artsploitation Films gives MOLLY a properly beautiful presentation featuring a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that has a strong color palette and vibrant photography. Skin tones are natural and detail is good. The audio is presented in an English 5.1 surround sound mix that is free of any distortions. The mix blends music and dialogue with a proper balance so that neither gets overpowered or lost.

The Extras
Special features include a commentary track with directors Colinda Bongers and Thijs Meuwese along with a 30 minute making-of featurette.

The Bottom Line
MOLLY is far from perfect but I'm a nut for post-apocalyptic movies and MOLLY was so genuine and earnest in its delivery that I couldn't help but have a smile on my face for the duration.

MOLLY is available HERE