Archives for posts with tag: horror comedy

cooties

Elijah Wood, an aspiring novelist, shows up for his first day of work as an elementary school teacher only to find that the student body has been infected with a rapidly transmitted cannibal zombie plague, which complicates his hopes of sparking a geeky romance with faculty colleague Alison Pill. Cooties is a difficult film to review for the reason of the impression it gives of being two stylistically clashing stories forced into uncomfortable cohabitation. It is, on the one hand, a delightful take on the quirky romantic comedy genre and, at the same time, as repulsive a dose of dysfunction-inducement as has ever been splattered onto celluloid.

For the mostly harmless first fifteen minutes or so, the unsuspecting viewer might mistake Cooties for merely a fun but biting social commentary on various twenty-first century neuroses; but the extreme evisceration and the trivialization of violence toward children that follow steer the movie into an altogether darker and more upsetting territory. Cooties is wittily scripted and brilliantly cast, with several very memorable character turns from Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill, and the other adult performers; but it is too bad that their efforts work to strengthen such a remorseless assault on already collapsing demographics.

Cooties earns 4 out of 5 stars for the fine comic talent on display, but goes onto the list of films whose producers will be interned in the pitiless gulags of an imagined moral future. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Cooties is:

6. Pro-drug. Jorge Garcia gets through the ordeal with the help of a bag of psychedelic mushroom “medication”.

5. Racist! Indulging in a bit of hipster racism, the film features a Japanese janitor (Peter Kwong) who (naturally) turns out to have mad martial arts skills. In a scene that can be read more than one way, a seemingly random reference to “shekels” creates a moment of strange discomfort in the faculty lounge. Is this a sly reference to Jewish hegemony in the world of high finance, or an indication that only socially awkward types who alienate their peers take an interest in such conspiracy theories?

4. Pro-gay. Jack McBrayer appears as a screechily drawling homosexual.

3. Liberal. With one set dressed in decorations for the school’s Fourth of July pageant, Cooties advertises itself as a commentary on twenty-first century America. Conservatives and terrorists, it seems, are to blame for turning a generation of children into rabid maniacs. The snottiest of the boys (Cooper Roth) was born on 9/11 and therefore named Patriot. His aspiration, he says, is to kick “towel head ass”. Alison Pill’s perky teacher character, however, claims to have beaten the terrorists “with a positive attitude.” Nasim Pedrad plays a shrill anti-government nutcase who ridicules the idea of evolution.

2. Pro-miscegenation and anti-white. “I always wanted to have sex with a prostitute who was non-white,” confesses Leigh Whannel in the role of a socially diseased weirdo. It is also noteworthy that the only two children to survive the zombie epidemic without being affected are a white girl (Morgan Lily) and a docile mulatto (Armani Jackson). The viewer is left to assume that these two will go on to repopulate a new and more peaceful human community. As in Reclaim, whites are invited to find hope and consolation in a racially alien pseudo-posterity.

1. Antinatalist. Set in Fort Chicken, Illinois – a name suggestive of cowardice and defensiveness – Cooties both expresses and exacerbates millennials’ anxieties about procreation, casting children as monstrous annoyances fit only for extermination. Pedrad’s character wears a “rape button”. Considering her workplace and suburban location, however, it is less likely that she fears sexual assault than that she has a problem with the prospect of adult sexual intimacy and motherhood. She and other freaks in Cooties reflect a generation’s psychological immaturity. The film, however, rewards them with a tentative survival for their determination to stamp out a possible posterity. As disturbing as the savage fire-extinguisher head-smashing and other means devised to murder children in the film are the multiple verbal associations of children and sex in a context of violence. “I’m givin’ you kids an ‘F’ – for ‘Fuck you!’” declares Rainn Wilson during the climactic battle sequence. “Fuck you, mom,” a boy tells his mother earlier in the film. Most disgustingly, a child is told to “eat a cock” as a truck’s chicken-shaped bumper ornament is rammed into his face to kill him.

Rainer Chlodwig von K.

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Between gigs as the smirkingly hip host of the “Weekend Update” on Saturday Night Live in the eighties and his present occupation as a soullessly carnage-enthused neocon radio maniac, Dennis Miller appeared in a handful of movies, one of which is the entertaining Tales from the Crypt Presents Bordello of Blood (1996), which followed Tales from the Crypt Presents Demon Knight (1995). Miller plays sleazy Jewish private dick Rafe Guttman, who is hired by prim Christian career woman Katherine Verdoux (Erika Eleniak) to find her brother Caleb (Corey Feldman), who has gone missing after visiting a whorehouse that doubles as a funeral home.

Bordello of Blood coverVampires, as this writer has discussed in further detail here and here, are symbolic stand-ins for the Jews; and Bordello of Blood, written by A.L. Katz and Gilbert Adler, who also directs, evinces a definite knowledge of this traditional understanding. Before being enticed into the vampires’ den of immortal vice, the mischievous Caleb is already doomed to a horrible fate. He does not share his sister’s Christian values, and wears a little Star of David patch on the back of his leather jacket. It seems to indicate that Caleb has been marked for death and foreshadows his later conversion into a happy-go-lucky parasite.

A further indication of the Jewishness of the vampire plague in Bordello of Blood is the choice of giving the name Lilith to the vampires’ queen (Angie Everhart). Lilith, in Hebrew mythology, is Adam’s rebellious first wife, the world’s earliest feminist, who told her husband, “I will not lie below” (i.e., with a man on top of her). In later elaborations of the Lilith myth, she has vampiric traits, and superstitious Jews feared her as a demon who preyed upon boys. In Bordello of Blood, a midget explorer (Phil Fondacaro) in the tradition of Indiana Jones restores Lilith to life, and hopes to keep her under control by means of a charm or “key” decorated with Stars of David. This prop, appropriately enough, is the key to understanding the film.

When Guttman goes to the whorehouse, posing as a horny customer so as to pick up some first-hand intelligence, he finds himself face to face with a vampire in dominatrix Tamara (Kiara Hunter), who of course intends to suck his blood. As Guttman begins to remove his shirt, she is horrified by what she at first mistakes for a crucifix, but is relieved to discover is only a Star of David pendant, to which vampires are clearly immune – another of the film’s indications of the affinity between Jews and vampires. Guttman, however, has no patience for Tamara’s sexual pushiness and succeeds in turning the tables on her and making his escape. During a later adventure, Guttman tracks the gore-gobblers to an abandoned factory, where he remarks, “I’m gettin’ some really bad juju off this place” – which is, of course, to say “Jew-Jew”.

Bordello of Blood key

The “key” to Bordello of Blood

Another interesting feature of Bordello of Blood is Lilith’s relationship with a sleazy televangelist, Reverend Current, played by Fright Night’s Chris Sarandon. (The casting of an actor most closely associated with a vampire role as a Christian minister is itself highly provocative and intentionally insulting to Christians.) “You know, I can’t decide what to do with you,” the bloodsucking super-Jewess tells him in words that seem to resonate with a broader relevance to Jewish attitudes toward Christianity. “Should I kill you or let you live, make you my dog?” – by which she presumably means turning him into a John Hagee type of groveling Christian Zionist Shabbos goy. Lilith settles on the latter. “I want this sanctimonious shit to watch what happens now that I’m free,” she declares, referring to the sadistic, vampiric pleasure her kind derives from watching Christians squirm under the onslaught of the cultural rot inflicted upon them by the very ethno-parasites they revere as “God’s Chosen People”.

i_109_K57Current, though a corrupted man, is reluctant to acquiesce to such evil, and decides to stage a last-ditch effort to stop the vampires in their lair. “I, uh, I know I can’t fight you all, so I’ve come to join you,” he says – but just as no Jew can trust a Christian, no matter his protestations of good will, the vampires see through him and so the battle of the bordello commences, with Current and Guttman dispatching the Judaic creatures with holy water. The preacher, after containing his anti-Semitism for so many years, seems to experience a cathartic thrill in setting the vampire sluts ablaze, consigning them to the flames of a veritable whore-Holocaust. This sequence, significantly, plays out to the tune of the Sweet’s glam rock song “Ballroom Blitz” – the word “blitz” carrying a strong association with a certain European anti-Semitic initiative.

During the final confrontation with Lilith, which takes place in the TV studio where Current does his Christian crusade program, Guttman uses a laser to scorch a cross into the vampire bitch’s back, after which Katherine impales the hag with a populist pitchfork. A rabbi (Robert Rozen) then “consecrates” Lilith’s remains – this mumbo jumbo, one assumes, is some sort of “good Jew-Jew” – after which Guttman and Katherine are free to commence interfaith miscegenation – one of Bordello of Blood’s obligatory concessions to cultural Marxist expectations. A further surprise awaits the viewer, but this writer does not intend to spoil it.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Read more about Jewish movie vampires:

Monsters We Do Not Need

The Vampire Elite

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Deathgasm

High school heavy metal outcast Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) has little going for him until he meets fellow metalhead Zakk (James Blake) in a record store. Along with a couple of hopeless nerds, they paint their faces a-la-KISS and form the ominously named band Deathgasm. The group would seem to be doomed to obscurity until Brodie discovers an ancient satanic manuscript and turns it into one of Deathgasm’s songs – the resulting dirge unleashing demonic forces that turn the people of their sleepy New Zealand town into rabid zombies. It then falls to Brodie, love interest Medina (Kimberley Crossman), Zakk, and the rest of the gang to rid the planet of the impending ultra-bogusness.

A New Zealander film, Deathgasm follows in the tradition of Peter Jackson’s early splatterfests Bad Taste (1987) and Dead Alive (1992), and might also appeal to those who fondly remember such metal-themed horror outings of the eighties as Hard Rock Zombies (1985), Trick or Treat (1986), and The Gate (1987). Gorehounds and aficionados of things gross should definitely come away from this feast satisfied, with Deathgasm’s veritable buffet for the depraved boasting mass blood-vomiting, forcible earring removal, dildo violence, blood-shitting, urine-squirting, decapitation, sodomy with a chainsaw, and a demonic zombie’s penis getting weed-whacked off.

4 out of 5 flaming pentagrams. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that this “brutal as fuck” Kiwi film experience is:

Fucking Andrea Dworkin A Wyatt Mann9. Anti-Semitic! During band practice, Zakk wears a t-shirt bearing a caricature of Jewish feminist Andrea Dworkin created by the infamous Nick Bougas, aka A. Wyatt Mann.

8. Pro-gay. Medina, on hearing her first blast of metal, envisions herself as a warrior goddess with fawning lesbian slaves at her feet.

7. Anti-bully. Medina is turned off by her boyfriend’s bullying of Brodie. The film even treats Brodie’s coldblooded murder of this character as a moment of comedy.

6. Feminist/pro-slut. Boringly, once the supernatural splat hits the fan, Medina (of course) transforms into an ax-wielding, zombie-butchering metal chick. “I was thinking about getting a tattoo,” she says, because “It would drive my dad crazy.” She then displays to Brodie the spot on her chest she would like to disfigure.

5. Pro-drug. Brodie gets high with Zakk, who is also shown drinking and driving with no adverse outcomes. It is noted that Brodie’s mother was institutionalized after going nuts and debasing herself under the influence of meth, but this information is presented with irreverence rather than caution.

4. Anti-family. None of the characters like their parents. Zakk’s father even has to be killed after he turns into a zombie. In addition to its subversive treatment of conventional domesticity, Deathgasm also features a dashboard trinket in the shape of a baby smoking a cigarette – antinatalist imagery celebrating death, corruption, and nihilism.

3. Anti-Christian. “Hell is awesome,” the viewer learns. Brodie’s churchgoing aunt and uncle, described as “balls deep into Jesus”, are revealed to be hypocrites when anal beads and dildos are discovered in their bedroom. “Older Christian people maybe should steer clear,” star Milo Cawthorne says in an interview included on the DVD.

2. Conformist. Getting across the stupidity of “conspiracy theories” and those who espouse alternative interpretations of history and current events, the unsophisticated Zakk attributes his neighbors’ strange behavior to “the Illuminati pourin’ fuckin’ fluoride in the water or something.”

1. Superficially anarchist. Though stupidly consumerist in their obsessions, Zakk and Brodie steal the things they want – even stooping so low as to siphon fuel from an ambulance.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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The Ideological Content Analysis 30 Days Putsch:

30 Reviews in 30 Days

DAY TWENTY-ONE

Electric Boogaloo

Like most men who grew up in the eighties, this writer has a treasure trove of fond memories emblazoned with the immortal Cannon logo. Producers of everything from musicals and dance exploiters like The Apple (1980) and Breakin’ (1984) to science-fiction weirdies like Lifeforce (1985) and the remake Invaders from Mars (1986), the Israeli moviemaking duo of director-visionary-madman Menahem Golan and “shrewd businessman” Yoram Globus is most closely associated with a string of classic over-the-top action movies including Enter the Ninja (1981), Death Wish 3 (1985), American Ninja (1985), The Delta Force (1986), Cobra (1986), and Cyborg (1989). The wild variety of the Cannon output furnishes much of the wonder of this documentary.

Lightning-paced and packed to the gills with interviews with an array of writers, directors, actors, and editors who share with the viewer their first-hand memories of this crazy company, Electric Boogaloo is a feast of film clips, archival footage, and funny anecdotes. At a disastrous preview screening of The Apple, for example, the complimentary soundtracks provided to the audience ended up being angrily thrown and embedded in the screen! Actor Alex Winter describes director Michael Winner as “a pathologically brutal, sadistic, insecure, egotistical character” who delighted in depicting rape, while Sharon Stone “was hated on the set [of King Solomon’s Mines (1985)]. All the South Africans hated her. She took a milk bath [and] they peed in the water.” Meeting with Clyde the orangutan from Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Golan is said to have turned to his female head of publicity and asked her, “Would you fuck this monkey?” Cannon staple Charles Bronson, meanwhile, is said to have insisted on being chauffered “about three feet from his dressing room” to the set in his personal Jaguar. “It was more like watching a man golf than act.”

Cannon catapulted to prominence (if not respect) in the industry through its formula of thriftily produced exploitation, outrageous content, and pre-sales chutzpah, the end coming when the company grew too big for its britches and tried to make extravagant special effects blockbusters conceived to rival major studio output but ended up with a list of duds like Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) and Masters of the Universe (1987). Responsible for products ranging from turkeys like the midget-in-a-suit chimpanzee film Going Bananas (1987) to the highly regarded Runaway Train (1985), Golan and Globus receive praise and vitriol ranging from actress Martine Beswick’s opinion that they were manipulative, “rotten and horrid”, to director Franco Zeffirelli’s assertion that they were “the best producers I ever worked for.” It is these delicious contradictions of character and clashes of larger-than-life personalities that make the story of Cannon Films such a fascinating ride.

5 stars. Highly recommended. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Electric Boogaloo is:

3. Multiculturalist. Adolfo “Shabba-Doo” Quinones recalls with pride how the Breakin’ movies brought the races together where even the United Nations had failed.

2. Zionist, endorsing the official War on Terror narrative. “In a way, [1985’s] Invasion U.S.A. was a very prescient film,” reflects editor Daniel Loewenthal. “We didn’t really think about terrorism, the terrorism was more of an abstract idea.” In fact, Cannon had a very conscious agenda of vilifying Arabs in the American consciousness, as evidenced by the portrayals in The Delta Force. Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films alludes to these unsympathetic representations, but approaches the subject with a sense of humor rather than seriousness. Menahem Golan’s birth name was Menahem Globus (he is Yoram’s cousin), but he changed it to Golan in celebration of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. They are also credited with helping to popularize the Jewish supremacist term of abuse “shiksa” with American audiences in their Elliott Gould vehicle Over the Brooklyn Bridge (1984).

1. Oy vey, scratch that last one – this movie is anti-Semitic! Golan and Globus are repeatedly described in terms that reek of Jewish stereotypes. Producer Pieter Van Brugge says, “There was always that wheeling and dealing and that wheeling and dealing was very much – I mean, they were Israelis, and they were defined by that culture.” Laurene Landon, star of America 3000 (1986), excoriates: “You people have a cash register where your heart should be.” Described as being “very conservative”, both Golan and Globus thought nothing of corrupting American morals with their cultural Marxist depravity, one interviewee summarizing their winning formula as “something minus good taste”. Editor Mark Helfrich recalls of The Last American Virgin (1982), “An abortion is being played with U2 music under it, and you go from a doctor performing an abortion to some guy cutting up pizza. […] That’s insane. That’s just nuts,” he goes on, adding, “For instance, after the abortion Gary brings her a Christmas tree and a bag of oranges. That must have meant something in Israel.”

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Zombies vs. Strippers

The Tough Titty, a strip club in a seedy Los Angeles slum, finds itself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse in this silly Full Moon outing. Spider (Circus-Szalewski), the proprietor, along with his bevy of shapely and jiggly employees, must cope with swelling numbers of undead perverts who congregate around the building while everyone also tries to come to terms with how they will spend what may be their last night on Earth. A pair of lewd customers wants nasty thrills; DJ Bernie (Tanner Horn) just wants to get high; while Spider and the strippers increasingly find that staying alive is more important than making money they might not be able to spend.

Slightly better than the tacky and unimaginative title might suggest, Zombies vs. Strippers is still an unremarkable pile of trash and risks overstaying its smelly welcome even at a meager seventy-four minutes padded with lengthy opening credits. There are, of course, curves galore, and a few witty one-liners; but the zombies, after a nice gradual tease during the exposition, offer only a modicum of suspense and pay diminishing returns as more and more of the snarlers appear onscreen. Good enough for a slow night, but hardly the movie this viewer would want at the top of his queue at the end of the world.

3 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Zombies vs. Strippers is:

13. Diversity-skeptical. Black stripper Vanilla (Brittany Gael Vaughn) dismisses “crazy fuckin’ white boys”.

12. Pro-gun. Guns are used defensively against the corpses.

11. Anti-slut. Fornicators are punished, with the zombie plague being compared to venereal disease.

10. Anti-X.  Like Creep Van, Zombies vs. Strippers holds Generation X/Y in low regard, particularly in terms of their value to employers.  DJ Bernie is a pothead, and the strippers can be foulmouthed and sassy. “I’m a professional. That used to mean something,” bouncer Marvin (J. Scott) reflects disapprovingly on the slacker mentality. “The American Dream is stuck in the mud,” children’s host Hambo the Ranch Hand (Chance A. Rearden) says before advocating the extermination of the rising generation.

9. Anti-TV.  Paralleling the zombie plague is the zombie-like vapidity and desensitization of the characters in the film from what seems to have been a lifelong diet of dumb television. “What would Hambo do?” Spider asks, the pig-nosed TV personality having apparently taken the place of Jesus in his life. Characters are more than once unable to distinguish between entertainment and imminent threat.

8. Anti-police. The LAPD, whether from cowardice or indifference, never enters the neighborhood of the Tough Titty. Bikers laugh at the threat of a call to the police.

7. Pro-choice/euthanasist. The infected must be put out of their misery for the good of humanity. Hambo, holding up two eggs, calls for the “eggstermination” of the young.

6. Anti-drug. Spider insults a zombie, calling it “crackhead”, and tells Bernie that weed will lower his sperm count. Later, offering a reefer to a zombie, Bernie is bitten.  When Bernie the zombie is killed by Vanilla, she cries, “This is your brain on drugs, motherfucker!” and pierces his head with her high-heel shoe. Drinking impairs the judgment of more than one character. One man is killed just as he is about to light a cigarette.

5. Capital-ambivalent. Zombies vs. Strippers presents a warts-and-all but basically sympathetic portrait of the American small businessman in Spider, who despite his efforts has failed to make the Tough Titty profitable.  Spider is not above trying to cheat a customer out of his money, but his chosen victim, musician Spike (Adam Brooks), is dishonest and an admitted thief. Adding to Spider’s woes are disrespectful and lazy employees like Bernie, whose poor turntable efforts prompt Spider to threaten to replace him with an mp3 player.

4. Anti-Christian. Christians are represented by biker Red Wings (Brad Potts), who spouts biblical claptrap but makes little secret of his nasty-mindedness. Spike gets tired of listening to his “religious crap”. One of the strippers irreverently dons a nun costume.

3. Pro-miscegenation. Black stripper Vanilla, announced as two scoops of chocolate ice cream that will make a man’s banana split, is desired by the white men around her and engages in flirtation with Red Wings.

2. Feminist.  The name of the strip club, the Tough Titty, says it all. Strong women stand the best chance of surviving. The representative male chauvinist pig (Patrick Lazzara) who uses abusive language against the strippers is certain to meet with an unpleasant end.

1. Relativist/nihilist.  “We’re all a bunch of criminals. A whole world of ‘em.”

 

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Little Bit Zombie poster

Steve (Kristopher Turner) and Tina (Crystal Lowe) are, despite their cutesy neuroses, happy together and engaged to be married in a week.  The only problem is that Steve is starting to get cold feet – literally – after a plague-carrying mosquito bites him and turns him into a brain-craving corpse.

Neither the first nor the last romantic comedy to consider itself cleverly different and adorable for featuring a zombie in love, A Little Bit Zombie does nothing to distinguish itself from the rest of the horror comedy pack.  With its derivative ideas, cloyingly broad comedy, indomitable preciousness, and the nearly nonstop yammering of Lowe as the shrewish, controlling Tina, A Little Bit Zombie is, sadly, a little bit of a chore to endure.  Even the gratuitous gross-out humor, including an homage to Bloodsucking Freaks, gets old before very long.

The film does, however, have a polished look to it, and supporting players Kristen Hager and Shawn Roberts (who resembles a muscular Seann William Scott) are attractive and fun in their respective roles as Steve’s sarcastic sister Sarah and macho, raunchy buddy Craig.  Stephen McHattie (a poor man’s Lance Henriksen) is also picturesque as rugged, no-nonsense zombie-hunter Max.  Still, it can hardly be said to count in a film’s favor when the mosquito that bites the protagonist is one of the most sympathetic characters.  Consequently, ICA advises potential viewers to skip it and watch Warm Bodies (2013) instead.

2.5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that A Little Bit Zombie is:

14. Pro-gay.  “I support your decision,” Craig jokingly says of the idea of a hypothetical homosexual zombie wedding.  (cf. no. 5)

13. Anti-religion.  “Holy fuck, dude.”

12. Anti-German.  Craig, overhearing talk of shit-eating, asks if the reference is to Germans.

11. Pro-wigger.  “My bad,” concedes Max.  “Thug life,” comments Craig at Tina’s plan to abduct a stranger for Steve’s nourishment.

10. Gun-ambivalent.  Firearms are fetishized in picturesque moments, but are not employed with consistent wisdom.

9. Anti-obesity.  More than one fat zombie meets with flippant disposal.

8. Anti-family.  It is at Steve’s family’s cottage where the fatal bite occurs.  Steve has a dream mocking stereotypical 1950s domestic bliss.  Craig makes reference to Steve’s “fuckin’ freak family” and also calls them the Manson Family.  Max’s father left him to fend for himself in a Filipino jungle.  He says he would unhesitatingly shoot his mother in the face if she became infected with the plague.

7. Drug-ambivalent.  Craig and Sarah are both secret smokers.  Drinking makes a dupe susceptible to abduction.  One drunk urinates on another.

6. Anti-police.  Tina suggests that they ensnare a police officer so Steve can eat his brain.

5. Anti-redneck.  A local yokel sits outside and stares with open-mouthed fascination at the sun.  Craig calls eccentric meat market proprietor and gun aficionado Capt. Cletus “Admiral Redneck”.  Cletus refers to Craig as a “queer-lookin’ feller”.

4. Un-p.c.  Steve kills a rabbit by biting into its skull.  A “team-building” exercise is described as “retarded”.  Craig more than once calls Steve a “gay-ass zombie”.  “I hate the Portuguese,” Tina confesses.  Max calls a hybrid a “fucking hippie car.”

3. Feminist.  “I could teach you to cook,” Tina offers, eliciting a disgusted sigh from Sarah.  The pair outsmarts a “big scary guy” by using their womanly wiles.  Women fight and wield guns with comfort and effectiveness.

2. Pro-castration, celebrating the sensitive, wimpy man in Steve, a fellow for the “workplace conflict resolution initiatives” who allows his fiancée to micro-manage his life.  Craig, after playing the macho man and advising Steve to “grow some nads”, wimpily asks him not to tell Sarah that he smokes.  He also cops out in the end and apologizes for calling Steve a “gay-ass zombie”.

1. Pro-marriage.  Tina sticks by Steve despite his disconcerting condition.

 

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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

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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