Archives for posts with tag: ghost

The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY TWELVE

Ouija

Kevin Tenney’s Witchboard (1986) remains for this reviewer the definitive horror treatment of the Ouija board phenomenon; but those wanting more in the same vein could do worse than last year’s Ouija, especially considering that Ouija board movies have never constituted a particularly robust or prolific genre. There is nothing very original in Ouija, but that is not necessarily bad. The first elegant hour or so of this spooker conforms to teen horror expectations well enough and is comfortably suspenseful in its attention to the conventions, with star Olivia Cooke and her friends finding themselves visited by an unknown force after attempting to contact recently deceased pal Shelley Hennig through the titular spirit-conjuring game.

The last half hour suffers from too much onscreen revelation, with CGI frights taking the place of the great unseen – the bane of far too many Hollywood horrors in this age of digital effects – but the relative strength of the first portion still makes Ouija marginally recommendable for less-than-demanding admirers of the genre. Cooke looks good and is tolerable in the lead, but cute and creepy character actress Lin Shaye, who also energized a memorable scene in the same year’s The Signal, is more worthy of mention for a puny but pivotal role as an insane asylum patient with some inside information.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Ouija is:

3. Insensitive! The idea that evil can and ought to be destroyed in a furnace may offend Chosen viewers of delicate sensibilities.

2. Multiculturalist. Bianca Santos plays the token Latina friend. Black mourners at blonde bimbo Hennig’s wake demonstrate that she was a decent person. Nona (Vivis Colombetti), meanwhile, puts in a good word for supernatural Mexican folk wisdom.

1. Ambiguously anti-family. Hennig’s house is haunted by the spirits of a little girl (Sierra Heuermann) and the spiritualist mother (Claudia Katz) who tortured her by stitching her mouth shut. It turns out the little girl was even more monstrous than her mother, who apparently was justified in performing this highly irregular surgery, while the mother’s other daughter, played by Shaye, is also a devilish lunatic. The biggest mystery about this family, which lived in the house in the forties and fifties, is why there was no father in the home. Was he a casualty of the war or did he abandon his wife and children? Is the mother’s frightful grotesquerie a commentary on the plague of single motherhood, or on the uncaring men who abuse them? The meaning of Ouija’s portrayal of the family hinges to a large extent on these unanswered questions; but Ouija with no uncertainty seeks to cast doubt on the idea of the perfect atomic age family as glimpsed in the vision of Norman Rockwell and various television sitcoms. This is a pathological past, in comparison with which the multicultural and erotically permissive present is normal and salutary.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Till Death Do We Scare

Till Death Do We Scare (1982) ****

Poor Irene (Olivia Cheng) – every man she marries dies as soon as they tie the knot! Fortunately (?), her three dead husbands, who loiter around the house as ghosts, want Irene to be happy, so they determine to locate another, hopefully more durable husband for her and pick incompetent radio horror show host Alan (Alan Tam). What follows is essentially a series of slapstick shenanigans as the ghosts, invisible to Irene and Alan, pull various stunts to bring the couple together. Complicating matters are the machinations of evil spirits who would prefer to see Alan dead. 

Till Death Do We Scare is typical fare for the Chinese ghost comedy genre, but with the odd, added attraction of stretchy Beetlejuice-style special effects by none other than Tom Savini. The best comic set piece in the movie is probably the haunted chair that refuses to let fat guy Eric Tsang sit in it; but other highlights include a deflatable ghost face, an animated pig’s head on buffet table, a decomposing princess with amorous intentions, and an unfortunate sucker who rolls down a hill and gets flattened by a steamroller. Till Death Do We Scare has the madcap energy viewers have come to expect of the Hong Kong film industry in the eighties, and should please devotees of the Chinese horror comedy.

4 out of 5 stars.

Breakfast

Vampire’s Breakfast (1987) ***1/2

Fat Piao (Kent Cheng) is a portly Hong Kong photojournalist investigating a series of what appear to be vampire murders, but police refuse to believe his stories, and only a sleazy thief (Keith Kwan) is willing to help him. Vampire’s Breakfast, like The Haunted Cop Shop (1987), is not a typical indigenous Chinese hopping vampire movie, but a horror hybrid featuring a rotten-looking blond Caucasian bloodsucker (Simon Willson) with the usual western susceptibilities to crucifixes and wooden stakes – or, as the subtitles would have it, a “mahogany nail”. Pretty, pouty Emily Chu, whom action enthusiasts may remember from John Woo’s classic A Better Tomorrow (1986), adds a deal of grace as Piao’s love interest, Angie, while Parkman Wong contributes irksome antagonism as skeptical Inspector Chen.

The movie drags a bit in the middle, but does feature a handful of suspenseful sequences, generally drenched in creepy blue moonlight and city shadows. A clandestine visit to a morgue makes for one of the more memorable scenes, while a spurting decapitation at the end should please gorehounds. One does wish, however, that the nastiness of one early scene in a strip club had been sustained throughout the film. Veteran viewers of Hong Kong horror will probably enjoy Vampire’s Breakfast, but prissier audiences accustomed to Criterion disc production standards are hereby warned that the subtitles on the Fortune Star DVD release are more than usually sloppy, resulting in lines of dialogue like, “Tow big eyes were ataring at me”.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Vampire’s Breakfast trailer

AHauntedHouse

To make a comedy that will satisfy its target black audience, experience shows that it helps immensely for certain crucial elements to be firmly in place. Does A Haunted House fulfill these requirements? Serious students of cinema art are encouraged to consult the following checklist of quality standards, not only in judging the movie under consideration, but in all future encounters with the African-American comedy form.

1. Stupid honkies? Check.

2. Honkies with insatiable lust for blacks? Check.

3. Industrial-strength-funk toilet humor? Triple check.

4. Jewish names credited as producers? Check and double check.

Clearly, in renting or (preferably) purchasing the remarkable Michael Tiddes joint/cinematic celebration A Haunted House, the viewer has in hand what promises to be remembered as a timeless classic to rank alongside The Ladies Man and (yes, even) Who’s Your Caddy?.

The flimsy pretense of a plot concerns the haunting of live-in lovers Malcolm (Marlon Wayans) and Kisha (Essence Atkins) and serves to set in motion an unremitting cavalcade of hit-and-miss sight gags and surplus dirty jokes. In its defense, A Haunted House does contain a few genuinely amusing cheap laughs at flatulence, bad breath, body hair, the sight of Marlon Wayans sweatily humping multiple stuffed animals, shitting on his own carpet, and so forth, but the film is only recommended to non-whites or the most contemptible and unsalvageable of white ethnomasochists.

3 stars for the full, screeching, monkey-like intensity of Marlon Wayans’s physiological investment in his part, and Cedric the Entertainer’s earthy turn in a disappointingly small supporting role as a ghetto priest. ICA’s advice: for a funnier, less disgusting movie about spooked blacks bugging their eyes out and acting like utter buffoons, see Mantan Moreland in Lucky Ghost instead.

Lucky Ghost

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Haunted House is:

10. Pro-life. “But good thing that clinic was closed,” Kisha’s mother (Robin Thede) says, remembering how she almost aborted her daughter. “Hoo, God is good.”

9. Sexist! Kisha once made a deal with the Devil for a pair of designer shoes.

8. Pro-gay. The ghost has anal sex with Malcolm, and psychic Chip (Nick Swardson) slobbers over the chocolate comic stud and gropes him in every scene in which the two appear together. Kisha experimented with lesbianism in college.

7. Pro-drug. Malcolm and Kisha get high with the ghost (see also no. 4).

6. Anti-gun. Malcolm promises Kisha that no harm will come to her “unless a nigger got a gun – and then you on your own.”

5. Anti-marriage/anti-family. Each couple in the film illustrates the new, childless norm of the West. Dan (David Koechner) becomes hysterical as he remembers how he caught his wife having sex with a mail carrier.

4. Anti-Christian. Father Williams (Cedric the Entertainer) keeps weed in his Bible and cocaine in his crucifix. While possessed, Kisha masturbates with a cross.

3. Racist!/anti-immigration. Mexican housekeeper Rosa (Marlene Forte) is irascible and duplicitous, pretending not to know English when in actuality she speaks it fluently. Kisha, displaying the typical touchiness and quickness to anger of the entitled American negro, suspects Rosa of seducing Malcolm and boils over with rage when Rosa uses the word “negra” (black), with Kisha mistaking it for “nigger”. Further tarnishing the reputation of Hispanics are the revelations that Rosa is running a cocaine ring out of Malcolm’s house and that she is also a murderess and nymphomaniac who has sex on the kitchen table while her employers are away. (Contrarily, if the intention is to portray Mexican women as sexy, sexually available, and proficient in English, then A Haunted House could be interpreted as favoring immigration – at least from the male standpoint – which, considering that one of the screenwriters is named Alvarez, is arguably more probable.)

2. Anti-white. The Caucasians in A Haunted House are awkward, neurotic apes obsessed with stereotypes of blacks. Chip, for instance, assumes that Malcolm plays basketball, while Dan the Security Man (David Koechner) has hardly set foot on the property before he starts blabbing about fried chicken, ribs, hot wings, cornbread, and watermelon. For some reason, he also begs Malcolm for permission to use the word “nigger”. “You can call me a cracker .  . . Let me say it.” Dan’s partner Bob (Dov Zakheim lookalike Dave Sheridan) is brain-damaged, illiterate, and, like Dan, a racist. When the pair first meets Malcolm, Dan asks if the owner is home. “You’re talkin’ to him,” Malcolm answers. “Yeah, right,” Bob objects, clearly disinclined to believe that a black man could be the legitimate owner of such a nice suburban home.

1. Pro-miscegenation (i.e., pro-AIDS). Not only are whites in A Haunted House as dumb as dung; they are also racially suicidal and bent on miscegenation at the cost of every dignity. Sickening prostitutes Alanna Ubach and Andrew Daly play the protagonists’ white friends Jenny and Steve, swingers who constantly try to get Malcolm and Kisha to swap partners. Hoping to entice them, Jenny flashes her breasts and snaps her teeth like an alligator, while enthusiastic cuckold Steve proposes to “double-stuff the Oreo a little bit, huh? Dirty up the white snow . . . black poles, white holes . . .” Finally, the couple settles instead for a “Mandingo party” or black-on-white gangbang with Malcolm’s primitive cousin Ray-Ray (Affion Crockett) and other subhumans assembled to do the job. This scene, which graphically visualizes a bare-bottomed ogre in the process of turd-rodding ecstatically grinning Jenny, is easily the most depressing thing this battle-hardened reviewer has witnessed in some time.

To see that Universal Studios, a brand once known for genre classics like Frankenstein and Jaws, has sunk to distributing biohazardous sludge like this is to realize how close to death this civilization really is. Ubach’s IMDb profile claims that this indeterminate slimewad is “Half Mexican and half Puerto Rican”, but she is no doubt supposed to be portraying a representative Caucasian human female. In any case, this person deserves the scorn of white moviegoers everywhere, who would be entirely justified in boycotting any future productions in which she, Daly, or other perpetrators of this hideous scene participate. Of all of the values, ideals, or lifestyles that Hollywood might spend its time, vast resources, and influence promoting – bravery, devotion, tradition, forbearance, intellect, or self-reliance – screenwriters Marlon Wayans and Rick Alvarez and their backers instead expect audiences to be entertained by the sight of a white woman rapturous in self-immolation and racial death as congoids line up to use her twat for a toilet. Aesthetic considerations aside, one might think that a basic human concern for the public’s health would prevent these lowlifes from promoting promiscuous sex with blacks, one of the most frequent sources of AIDS. But sex hygiene is so boring and unprogressive, right?

Odd Thomas

Anton Yelchin stars as Odd Thomas – which, the hero informs the audience, is actually the name on his birth certificate – a pleasant young man with an unfortunately morbid paranormal vocation. An “undercover detective for dead people”, he is able to see and receive communications from the deceased, who look to Odd for otherwise unforthcoming justice. Thus, Odd is able not only to assist Police Chief Porter (Willem Defoe) with the occasional murder investigation, but to attempt to prevent violent crimes from ever occurring. Odd alone is able to perceive the otherdimensional demons, called Bodachs, which congregate like tasteless tourists among the living just prior to a murder or some other evil event or catastrophe.

Odd knows something horrible is about to happen in his town of Pico Mundo, California, when swarms of Bodachs appear in conjunction with the arrival of Robert Robertson (Shuler Hensley), or “Fungus Bob”, or “Fungus Man”, as Odd alternately nicknames him. Odd is certain Robertson is up to no good, but he and Chief Porter are limited in what they can legally accomplish until more of Robertson’s plan materializes.

While the film’s computer-generated visual effects, including a bit of that irksome Blade-style speed-up/slow-down action, only range from good to tolerable, the central mystery confronting Odd is sufficiently interesting to sustain the 100-minute run time. The Bodach concept is exploited to taut effect in more than one suspenseful sequence, and the combination of the protagonist’s wholesomeness with the general unsavoriness of the subject matter makes for a winningly offbeat formula. Yelchin is amiable as Odd, while Addison Timlin, too, adds appeal as his bedroom-eyed companion Stormy.

3.5 stars. Worth a rental.

[WARNING: SPOILERS]

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Odd Thomas is:

8. Class-conscious. The psychotic Robertson “inherited a shitload” from his mother.

7. Multiculturalist (i.e., pro-yawn).

6. Sexist! “I’m a woman. We all have issues,” Stormy explains. Later, loading a gun, she objects, “I don’t need protecting” – a pretense given the lie when she dies at the end.

5. Christian-ish. Odd believes in “a higher power” and picnics in a church’s bell tower. This church provides only the most tentative sanctuary, however, when someone or something invades its peace with malevolent intentions. Materialism is frowned upon (“It’s too bad a car can’t love you back”), as are the prevailing pop culture vanities of the age (“fame is the altar at which most people worship”).

4. Anti-family. Odd has the typical dysfunctional background, his mother having gone insane. Odd Thomas endorses the single mother in the character of Viola (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

3. Gun-ambivalent. The Robertson plot keeps the bogeyman of the crazed mass shooter phenomenon alive, but any anti-gun sentiment indicated here is undercut by the fact that Odd defensively takes down one threat with a pistol. The additional development that the police force turns out to have been infiltrated by satanists points to the danger of giving the state a monopoly on firearm ownership.

2. Police-ambivalent and generally state-skeptical. Apart from Odd’s reliable collaborator Chief Porter, police are depicted in a derogatory light. Early in the film an officer slams a culprit’s head into a car door and quips that this is “one of the perks of the job.” By the end of the film, the force has no credibility whatsoever, with false flag theories even receiving a boost. Whether Odd is more properly viewed as a vigilante or as an extra-legal police auxiliary and black-bag man for the state is open to interpretation.

1. Anti-Semitic! Principal villain Robertson, a serial killer aficionado and aspirant, has exotic hair that “looks like a yellow yarmulke”. And could this character’s nickname, “Fungus Man”, be a derogatory comment on the Jewish people’s pattern of parasitic attachment to established cultures of the West? Odd, after discovering Robertson’s corpse in a tub, chooses to hide it in a disused gas chamber. Why? Is this supposed to be funny? Let Odd Thomas author Dean Koontz, writer-director Stephen Sommers, and all other perpetrators of this hateful celluloid libel know that the Holocaust will not be mocked!

Haunted Cop Shop

The Haunted Cop Shop (1987) ****

The story of goofy police pitted against the vengeful spirit of a Japanese general, this Hong Kong ghost/vampire horror comedy distinguishes itself from most other Chinese films of this genre by featuring western-style bloodsuckers with sunlight-and-crucifix-susceptibility, etc, rather than the usual Hong Kong hopping variety.  Interestingly, one noticeable stylistic influence is Fright Night (1985), though The Haunted Cop Shop‘s plot bears little resemblance and evinces a personality and concerns of its own.  Unexpectedly suspenseful and simultaneously funny, this one is a winner from a special period in Hong Kong genre cinema.

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