Tag Archives: Exploitation

Review of Capone (1975)

18 Mar

caponeCapone (1975) is a crime/drama/biographical film, loosely based on the life of Al Capone.

Directed by Steve Carver (Lone Wolf McQuade (1983), Big Bad Mama (1974)).

Written by Howard Browne (The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967), Mission: Impossible (1966 TV)).

Starring: Ben Gazzara, Susan Blakely, Harry Guardino, Sylvester Stallone, Harry Guardino, John Cassavetes and others.

So here’s a Roger Corman produced Al Capone biopic. It is about as accurate as Death Race 2000 was a prediction of the year 2000.

Doesn’t happen so often with American movies, I was pleasantly surprised to see Vilis Lapenieks, a director of photography from my small home country, Latvia, appear in the opening credits. Had it been the closing credits, I would be unpleasantly surprised, because the movie excels at looking totally bland.

In the first scene I noticed that the sound editing was not so great, often the background noise cuts with the shots, it is a bit jarring, but it either improved later or I got used to it, so I wasn’t that bothered by it. It’s far from Birdemic levels of sound direction incompetence.

It sort of is a biopic, but it explores Al Capone’s life as much as the original Scarface. I would have liked if they had spent a little time developing and showing more Capone’s backstory and character, instead of instantly throwing him in to rapidly climb the mobster career ladder by punching and shooting select people.

Also there’s very little sense of passing time because they don’t really manage to make Ben Gazzara look much younger in the earlier scenes.That is not to say Gazzara is bad here. For this larger than life portrayal of the person he is ok. He achieves a convincingly menacing performance, selling the simmering anger even when he is smiling and being polite. Since he’s not provided with any redeeming qualities, he serves not as a complex anti-hero, but a one-note villain pushed into the protagonist’s position.

At times he seems to be drifting through the movie only to engage in instances of outbursts of rage, otherwise taking a step back to various mob dealings, that I failed to care about. Some of the scenes are delivered just as plot progressions being explained, leaving the viewer uninterested and distanced.

If you, like me, decide to watch this because Sylvester Stallone is in it, be aware, he appears pretty late into the movie and is not featured as prominently as you might imagine. He briefly manages to breathe some life into the movies, but it’s pretty much a lost cause.

"Wow, Stallone playing Al Capone? That should be interesting!"

“Wow, Stallone playing Al Capone? That should be interesting!”


However this is not at all surprising because it is after all a Corman movie and could be classified as exploitation (mobsploitation, if you will), than an actual historical retelling. But the problem is that it takes itself too seriously, no doubt inspired by The Godfather films.

So it’s not cheesy enough to be entertaining as a B-grade gangster flick. I kept tuning out during the dull dialogue scenes and not getting excited at the repetitive drive-by shootouts. At some points even using footage from another movie, which is of obviously lower, both sound and image quality.

Overall, this is a shitty gangster flick, that except for Sly being in it, fails to have anything remarkable about it to make it worth watching. Not recommended.

"That's right, smile, Ben. One day, I'm going to be the reason people watch this movie."

“That’s right, smile, Ben. One day, I’m going to be the reason people watch this movie.”

Review of Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

27 Aug

Hobo with a Shotgun is an action/comedy/exploitation film, based on one of the trailers appearing in the Grindhouse double feature.

Directed by Jason Eisener (Treevenge (2008 Short), The Pink Velvet Halloween Burlesque Show! (2006 Short)).

Written by John Davies (Hobo with a Shotgun (2007 Short)).

Starring: Rutger Hauer, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Nick Bateman, Gregory Smith, Robb Wells, Jeremy Akerman, Pasha Ebrahimi and others.

What? Rutger Hauer going around and blasting everyone away with a shotgun? Count me in!

Right from the first moments you know what kind of movie this is. The acting is over-the-top, the gore is gratuitous, the humor is blacker than tar and a lot of the things happening make little t0 no sense. I am not complaining.

It starts off with homeless Hauer wandering into the city and witnessing various acts of mindless violence. The streets are filled with hobo’s pushing shopping carts full of junk and standing around burning barrels. No stereotypes here. Hauer makes a sign that says “I am tired, need $ for lawn mower.”, here we learn that for some reason Hobo thinks if he can buy a lawn mower, he can open a mowing business. That’s the kind of logic that fuels the movie.

The bums are used by youth for having violent fun. One guy pays homeless people to do humiliating stuff and films it. A big part of youth life is hanging around at the arcades. So it’s 80’s? I guess it’s not, the movie goes more for the way how 80’s movies portrayed dystopian future. The movie is really heavy on trying to be this over-the-top cheesy 80’s B-movie, but I think it succeeds. I wouldn’t believe if someone told me this was from the 80’s, but it has the feel pretty damn close.

The movie is packed with entertaining shit. Starting from that not a minute goes by that there’s not something bad happening on the streets to the intentionally bad dialogue like “So, how many people have you killed?”, “What am I? A mathematician?”. Then there’s the B-movie cliche – the hooker with a heart of gold.

Then at one point, the Hobo gets enough money for the mower, but in a heart-breaking scene, gives up his dream and buys a shotgun and goes on a killing spree, clearing the streets of scum. He even makes newspaper headlines, which are all puns like “Hobo stops begging, demands change.” This upsets the local crime-lord.

I wish they made all the Grindhouse trailers into feature-length movies. Can’t wait for Werewolf Women of the SS, Don’t and Thanksgiving to become real movies. Though, admittedly the movie is in a way a one-note gimmick, a spoof of sorts, but it’s also a very energetic, fun and entertaining movie. Almost all of the dialogue is quotable and even more hilarious out of context. Rutger Hauer gives a legitimately good performance and plays it completely straight.

Also I wanted to note that I loved how they concealed the crystal clear quality of the Red cameras by using some heavy oversaturating and color correction, which made it look really interesting and cool.

Overall, I found it more entertaining than Macheteand if you like totally insane exploitation mixed with dark comedy, recommended.

“Order your shotgun today and receive this stylish sewer-lid neck-brace for free!”

Review of Freaks (1932)

17 Feb

Freaks (1932) is a horror/drama film, that actually used real sideshow performers as actors.

Directed by Tod Browning (Dracula (1931), Mark of the Vampire (1935)), best known for directing the horror classic Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi.

Based on Tod Robbins’ short story Spurs.

Starring: Wallace Ford, Leila Hyams, Olga Baclanova, Harry Earles, Daisy  Earles and others.

We open up to a text crawl. Already I feel almost like I’m watching Star Wars and, to be fair, that had it’s fair share of freaks as well. But still it doesn’t prepare you for what you’re about to see.

I’m a person that can watch horror movies where a person’s mouths are stitched to another person’s anus or a guy is raping a recently decapitated girl, but seeing real disfigured people really ”freaks” me out (see what I did there?) so I just don’t get why people ever wanted to go see some freaks at the circus.

I mean a lot of people call horror films perverse and sick, but the thing about them is that they’re fake, so you know the actors are safe, you are safe and there’s little probability of getting yourself into a real life slasher film scenario. However, when I hear someone telling me that they stubbed their toe and the nail came off, well that shit makes me cringe.

And in this film, although the plot is fictional all the disfigured people are real circus performers and that I find disturbing. And I’m torn about the reasons why. Because, while I do feel sorry for them, I also kind of find them disgusting and at the same time don’t want them to be shunned from society. Since I knew this is incredibly not-PC, I’ll stop right there.

So what we get is an incredibly mean-spirited story about a guy with some sort of midget-type disease (this is the medical term for it) and a good-looking completely normal woman who tries to scam him. From this we get the hilariously inappropriate tagline „Can a full-grown woman truly love a midget?”, the answer turns out to be no.

While the movie is very mean, it’s not really demeaning to the „freaks” , yet it also doesn’t present them as the most pleasant people to have around, their little society resembles more of a bizarre cult, than a quiet group of just regular people. I mean sitting around a table and chanting „one of us, one of us, gooble gobble, gooble gobble!” isn’t really a normal thing to do. Also the scene by the end where the freaks are crawling through mud in a storm, attacking people, while a powerful image doesn’t really portray them as nice people.

The acting is decent for an early 30’s „horror” flick.

I’d say this just might be the most disturbing 1930’s movie. Allegedly a woman claimed to have had a miscarriage from seeing this film, which is hilarious. But really I’d say this film should be rated R, because if I saw it as a kid, I’d have nightmares and most 13-year-olds would misinterpret this movie. Although, even I don’t get what this movie is trying to say, you’d think it would say freaks are just people like us, but here it seems like they’re really not.

Overall, I don’t even know. It’s a decent movie, but I don’t know if I’d recommend this to anyone, if you want something along similar themes I’d suggest choosing The Elephant Man.  But it is a peculiar piece of cinema history.

To be fair, all group photos tend to be a bit wacky.

Review of Cannibal Holocaust (1980)

19 Jan

Kind of says it all, doesn't it?

Cannibal Holocaust (1980) is an Italian exploitation/horror/mockumentary film, because of its graphic portrayal of civilized people interacting with an indigenous tribe, it was charged for being a snuff film.

Directed by Italian director Ruggero Deodato (The House on the Edge of the Park (1980), Last Cannibal World (1977)), who is best-known for doing various gory genre films.

Written by Gianfranco Clerici (The New York Ripper (1982), The Bloodstained Butterfly (1971)).

Starring: Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Luca Barbareschi, Carl Gabriel Yorke, Ricardo Fuentes and others.

The movie was highly controversial, because of its relatively realistic semi-documentary format and graphic violence and this is one instance (unlike A Serbian Film or Human Centipede) where I actually can see why it’s controversial. It has some really quite disturbing shit and since they used real indigenous people as the tribe members and as we now know the animal killings are real.

It starts with some overhead shots of landscapes with a romantic music in the background, which makes it seem like some made-for-TV romance flick, which it really is not.

For such a low-budget movie the acting is pretty good, which might have also helped the controversy. Robert Kerman is great, he has an awesome pornstache. You know why? That’s right, he’s been a porn actor previously. Also he looks like Thomas Jane. And I really believed all those documentary crew characters were assholes.

The animal killings were just incredibly hard to watch, and especially that turtle gutting scene (spoilers?), I actually had to turn away, for me animal cruelty is really sickening. Well, I didn’t care much for the killing of the tarantula. I guess I would have been fine if I didn’t know they were real, I’d just be sitting there and thinking how awesome the special effects are. So in a way it is a snuff film. And the special effects are great as well.

I think all the animal violence was really unnecessary and after this the characters became irredeemable to me. Definitely one of the most graphic and cruel movies ever, even not counting the animal killings.

I feel bad, but I really liked the film. I thought it went out to shock the audiences and shock it did, 30 years later I was still amazed at its total rawness. And it is also surprisingly well-made, really solid.

And what most exploitation films miss, this actually had a message. You could argue it was unintentional, but I’d like to think it was on purpose. Because it really does serve as a commentary on how journalism and documentary filmmaking have a tendency to concentrate on violence, it was true then and it is even truer today.

Overall, a good movie, but I recommend it only to exploitation fans, because it’s not a film for the faint-hearted.

"Oh, I think I've got something in my eye."

Review of Cabin Fever (2002)

23 Dec

Cabin Fever (2002) is a horror/comedy film made by the horror enthusiast Eli Roth on a relatively small budget ($1.5 million). The film grossed about 20 times its budget.

Directed by Eli Roth (Hostel (2005), Hostel: Part II (2007)) and this is his directorial feature film debut.

Written by Randy Pearlstein (Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever (2009)) and Eli Roth (Chowdaheads (1999 TV), The Rotten Fruit (2003 Short)).

I’ll start by saying that Eli Roth can’t write dialogue, he seems to have learned how people interact from 80’s slasher movies and haven’t been good at that either. However, I must admit that he’s not all that bad at directing, although at times he’s not great at that either. He makes a jarring choice to have a scene where he is playing some bald guy in a campfire story immediately followed by him stumbling in with a fake goatee and acting as a total douchebag.

The characters just suck so much, almost everyone is written as an idiot or a dick/bitch. It is not good that you want the protagonists of a horror movie to die. They are neither likable nor realistic.

The acting is pretty bad, but I’m not sure if they are to blame, because it would take good actors to make the script tolerable and they are not good actors. Well, Rider Strong is sort of ok, maybe it’s because of the horrible performances from the others or the fact that I was a fan of Boy Meets World, but he stands out as not irritating.

The police deputy character was kind of funny, but then again I felt like being slapped in the face by the total disregard of any realism to introduce another stupid comic relief character. Also he shows up twice in the movie and the second time, which is the next day, his moustache is a lot thicker.

“Pancakes! Pancakes!” a kid in a bad wig at the gas-station screamed for no reason, before busting out in kung-fu moves. I guess it was to accentuate that the townspeople are real rednecks and he’s probably a child of incest. You know, a flesh-eating disease isn’t enough, we need some asshole hillbillies as well.

The special effects are pretty great, like when a girl decides to shave her rotting legs and the result shows that she could’ve basically just used a potato-peeler. So yeah, the gore is good, what I can’t say about a scene where they show a dog’s POV and it’s all tinted red. Why? Then there’s a shot where a guy has swallowed a harmonica horizontally, which I very much doubt could be possible.

Overall, it’s an ok throwback to 80’s “cabin-in-the-woods” movies, it is fun if you look past all the idiotic shit. I’d actually recommend it, although I didn’t like it that much.

"This is the last time I try to bleach my femstache using sulfuric acid."

Review of The Last House On The Left (1972)

3 Dec

The Last House On The Left (1972) is an exploitation/revenge thriller/horror film, inspired by The Virgin Spring, a Swedish film, directed by Ingrid Bergman.

Directed by Wes Craven (The Hills Have Eyes (1977), Swamp Thing (1982)). This film is his directorial debut, which led to his highly succesful career as a horror filmmaker.

Written by Wes Craven (My Soul to Take (2010), The People Under the Stairs (1991)). He is one of those directors, who, more often than not, write their own movies.

Starring: Sandra Peabody, David Hess, Fred J. Lincoln, Jeramie Rain, Marc Sheffler, Richard Towers, Cynthia Carr and others.

This is a fairly typical exploitation film, not really crossing borders too much. It is graphic at times, but mostly it’s not that explicit. Although if it had an NC-17 rating it wouldn’t surprise me and I don’t really understand why they tried to get the R rating, because it is obvious they wouldn’t get it in 1972.

The start of the movie is the worst part. It shows all the worst acting the actors are able to do and the worst writing Craven can do. Wes Craven shows his deep insight into both the hippie culture and female psychology. He shows us that there is no greater purpose in the life of a young hippie woman than to be amazed how her breasts have grown. They have grown big enough for her to stop wearing bras and go around saying “tits”. Also important is their enjoyment of ice-cream and trying to buy drugs. At this point the movie takes a dark turn.

Well, at least half of the movie does. The two hippie girls walk into an apartment, where a bunch of criminals are hanging out. So now they are screwed and can’t leave. But then there’s the other part of the movie that takes place at the same time, but at our protagonists house. There we see her parents messing around with a cake, while some silly music is playing. And then we cut back to the criminal apartment where one of the girls gets punched in the gut and Sandra Peabody gives an awful mess of unsure acting, which left me wondering, what emotions were she trying to express.

Further on, I don’t want to get into spoilers, but since it is a revenge thriller, you can guess that something bad happens and then the revenge happens.

Also all the scenes, that don’t have the criminals anywhere near is in one way or another comedic. I really don’t get this decision on Craven’s part. The cops are two idiots, one of them is almost unrecognisably young Martin Kove. They run into different shenanigans, at one point having to sit on a roof of a truck full of chickens, that’s driven by a crazy, old, 4-toothed black woman. Again, there is wacky music in the background, that really seems inappropriate. Most of the music is cool, especially the part when the criminals have done their worst, a slow ballad starts playing. That’s the only part where the good, but out of the place music works.

The acting is not that great for the most part. David Hess is pretty awesome, with his robust, yet handsome facial features, adding to his intimidating performance. Also Fred J. Lincoln is perfect as a despicable, sleazy asshole. No wonder he went on to do porn movies.

They managed to make the fake blood’s color uncommonly realistic for the time.

Overall, I liked the movie. It isn’t great and if I have to recommend, there’s other, both exploitation and revenge, films I’d recommend over this, but this is a decent one too.

And for some reason he's acted in only two movies.

Review of A Serbian Film (2010)

6 Nov

A Serbian Film (2010) is a Serbian (no shit!) shocksploitation/horror/thriller film, which has been called, amongst other things, the most controversial and disturbing film ever made.

Directed by Srdjan Spasojevic and this is his directorial debut.

Written by Aleksandar Radivojevic (Tears for Sale (2008)) and Srdjan Spasojevic.

Starring: Srdjan Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic, Slobodan Bestic and others.

I guess I should start by addressing the controversy surrounding the film. It is on one hand understandable, because it is a pretty damn graphic and sick movie. On the other hand, it seems that these people who claim it to be the most this and that are born yesterday, which would restrict them from seeing other exploitation films. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely think its release should be very limited, however, this is not the first movie with scenes of graphic rape and violence. Then again, it is full of disturbing shit and probably shouldn’t be seen by anyone.

And my main problem with this movie, is its exploitative content really serving no purpose. I have come to expect this kind of movies to contain some underlying message or at least to be darkly comedic in its over-the-top approach. The author insists that it is a commentary on how Serbian people are being raped by the government, I call bullshit on this allegory, because the only thing that suggests something like that is the title of the movie, which sadly associates the film’s content with the nation. And you can basically interpret anything as an allegory for anything else. So all this pseudo-subtext is really just for the film’s apologists to have something to defend their enjoyment of it with.

But while it’s certainly not a film that should’ve ever been made, from a technical standpoint it is a very well made movie. For a genre film it has a really nice looking cinematography. It is also put together very professionally. All this makes it feel more like a very grotesque art film, than a gritty exploitation film. It is nice to look at, but not so great to actually watch.

Some of the parts were unnecessary, like when Milosh watches the videotapes in the forest and there’s the infamous „newborn porn”  scene’s guy going on again with his sick endeavours, which contribute nothing to the plot. Speaking of „newborn porn”, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of that term, I think maybe because there’s really not a big market for that in real life. At least I hope there isn’t.

I didn’t feel particularly disturbed by any of the sick stuff. I guess that doesn’t say anything good about me as a person. Ok, the ending part went a little too far and is hard to watch mostly because you know what the main character does not. I didn’t feel like turning away at any point, although there is enough to make a lot of people turn away and cry in the shower.

At the end it reaches into the over-the-top territory, when [Spoiler Alert!] Milosh stabs a guy with his dick and then goes into improbability, when Milosh somehow figures a bullet will go through two bodies, killing 3 people with one shot.

The acting was also pretty decent and convincing. Srdjan Todorovic is good as an aging porn-star Milosh or as I kept referring to him in my mind by a title of one of his pornos „Milosh the Filthy Stud”. Other actors are good as well in portraying all these disgusting characters.

So yeah, I’m not sure what to say about this film. It is well made, but it’s written in unnecessarily crude fashion by obviously disturbed people. I can’t really recommend it to anyone. Maybe with the exception of curious desensitized bastards, who want to know what’s all the fuss about, like me. Although no, still don’t watch it.

Who wouldn't trust this face?

Review of Grotesque (2009)

5 Oct

The king of japanese grotesuqe movie. Wait, what?

Grotesque (2009) is a Japanese horror/exploitation/splatter film.

Directed and written by Kôji Shiraishi (Noroi: The Curse, A Slit-Mouthed Woman)

Starring: Tsugumi Nagasawa, Hiroaki Kawatsure and Shigeo Ôsako.

I guess this is a provocative film, because of their problems with the ratings board and being banned in the UK. But I don’t think it’s all that outrageous considering it’s an exploitation film. It’s just that it serves no other purpose than to showcase gore effects.

I don’t want to say it’s not a feature-length film, but with its running time being around 70 minutes long, at least it’s a quick watch.

This movie is the definition of the term “torture porn” which I think is a bullshit term invented by pretentious film snobs.

I don’t consider it would be fair to say that this movie has no story. It does. It has about a minute of exposition and then it has flashbacks with some 2 minutes of back story and then it has its overall plot, which can be condensed to like 3 minutes, so you can cover literally all the story in clip of 6 minutes or less. But really none of it matters.

There were parts a bit hard to watch. But that’s why you watch (or probably don’t watch) a movie like this. Other than that, I didn’t find it all that disturbing, if you couldn’t handle the eye scene in Hostel, then you might.

Chainsawing off some fingers and then making a necklace out of them? Yeah, because Dolph Lundgren’s ear necklace was so 90’s.

So if you don’t like: [SPOILER ALERT!] cutting off nipples, stabbing in the mouths and stomaches, chainsawing off fingers and arms, nailing testicles to a table, gouging out eyes, cutting off penises, vomiting, slicing anuses in order to pull out intestines, hanging intestines on a metal hook, cutting off intestines with scissors, chainsawing abdomens, decapitations and biting into necks (that last part was totally ridiculous) [End of Spoilers] You probably will not enjoy this movie.

For those who would be kinda turned off this just because it is a foreign film and you have to read subtitles, you really don’t have to worry, because this movie doesn’t involve much dialogue and even if you watch it without the subs, you wouldn’t miss anything important.

So if you’re a gorehound or interested in controversial movies, sure, watch this, it’s not awful, it’s just there’s nothing else to it than the violence. Otherwise, you should avoid this.

And this little piggy went "PLEASE HELP ME!" all the way home...