Phenomena (1985) – Review

I know that a lot of people dickride Argento, and now I know why. This is the only film of his I’ve seen so far, and if this is any indication of what his other work is like, I’m going to have a great time getting to know Dario. Let’s see, we get bug-whispering, a straight-razor wielding monkey, a swimming pool of decaying flesh, and a crippled scientist. That’s a lot to unpack, I know, but somehow it all works. This film almost seems like a bunch of half-finished scripts were melted down and glued together, but it never fails to fully flesh out the ideas that are put in place during the course of the movie.

So basically, Jennifer Corvino is the daughter of a famous film director, and is sent to a boarding school away from her home in America. A murderer is killing young teens in the area and, coincidentally, her telekinetic/psychotropic bug powers might just be the solution to everyone’s problems. After stumbling upon her roommate’s carcass, she is sent on a journey to avenge her death by John McGregor, an entomologist and professor.

Let’s set something straight. The soundtrack/cinematography combo in this movie is next fucking level. The POV-killer shots really drive the mystery forward without being overly gruesome to satiate gore-hounds. The atmosphere is dangerous, although ominous, and the scenes we get that take place in nature feel almost lonesome and gave me a feeling of the supernatural. One thing I did find odd though, was the dialogue. Before you’re strapped in for the ride, you immediately notice the dubbing, and boy, can it be painful to sit through. This falls to the wayside though, as through visuals and mythos we get a much deeper story than what some shoddy dialogue might make seem shallow.

It’s fantastical, dreamy, lucid, and more. I almost couldn’t get enough of it. After being burrowed in my brain for a week, I definitely know how I feel about this film, and I feel a lot of love. I highly anticipate watching other Argento film’s, though I don’t know how you can top one such as this, though I know Suspiria will put that to the test. If you’re in the mood for a slow-motion stabbing and rich-people problems, give this movie a watch. If you want to steer clear of maggot-pools and disfigured-evil-demon children, I’d skip this one.



Starry Eyes (2014) – Review

Hell and Hollywood, Satan and stardom, sex and the sinister. We have seen it time and time again in movies for as long as I can remember, and while I’ve seen it done quite well in movies such as Mulholland Drive, I think the way Starry Eyes portrays the relationship between sex and stardom comes off as not original or as enticing as I would’ve hoped.

The first two acts of this movie, while quite a slow burn, actually had me invested and interested into where the film would end up going. Our lead, Sarah, is facing a moral dilemma, and struggling to make it in a shit-hole world where it seems dreams are never as easy to achieve as we would want them to be. We get hallucinogenic 80s-esque sequences through the first two acts of the film, and while slow, it really brings tension to the film and honestly I liked the speed it was going though it did feel more like a suspense film with eerie shots and music to set the tone. The synth-filled soundtrack and blueish hue the movie has throughout really evokes a mood that I wish the last portion of the film would’ve maintained in its entirety.

Now I know I shouldn’t trust any opinions but my own, but I’ll admit I did take a look at the IMDb page for Starry Eyes and I saw that many people found this movie divisive. It’s a love/hate film, and unfortunately I think I fall into the hate category. I think that’s all because of the last act; this carefully crafted and suspenseful beginning ends with gore-porn and while I am a fan of good eyeball-crushing kills, I thought these, unfortunately, don’t sync up with what the beginning of the film had to offer. I mean we go from Sarah screaming “I’m dying!” and crawling around on the ground, to murdering four of her friends in a matter of 10 minutes.

All in all, I won’t say this movie is terrible, I just didn’t enjoy the payoff. It’s definitely a “what-the-fuck” film and enjoyable if you aren’t looking for an A+ grade movie with a plot that will change your life, though I know some people will beg to differ. If you feel the need to see a couple of titties and a bald-headed cultist, give this movie a watch. If you don’t feel like seeing someone bludgeoned with a barbell or a fingernail-peel-off scene, I’d skip this one.

“Hail Astreus!”



Chopping Mall (1986) – Review

Chopping Mall is a cliché 80’s film, which means it’s full of horny teenagers, robots who shoot lasers and sleep darts, and abysmal dialogue. What more could you ask for? The Park Plaza Mall, our location in the film, has just installed a new state-of-the-art security system, complete with steel doors on the exits and three AI-controlled robots with the capability to detain and incapacitate thieves at large. Three sex-crazed couples, and one “doomed to survive” duo, decide to throw a party in one of the furniture stores in the mall where a few of them work. Multiple tit-shots ensue, and an obligatory “yes, yes, you’re the king!” porno-esque dialogue is shared. Things are all going cordially until lightening strikes the mall, and the computer-controlled robots lose their ability to differentiate friend from foe. The movie then plays out quite how you’d expect. The latter 40-ish minutes of the film consists of run, get trapped, fight robots, someone dies, rinse, and repeat. This may sound as a distasteful cash-grab on the Robocop and Short Circuit formula, but god, is it fun to watch.

(Chopping Mall, 1986)

At the very least, the movie seems to acknowledge the absurdity of its own plot, and in somewhat of a nod to the audience, embraces the fact that you know exactly what you’re getting into when watching the film. Its contextual references to exploitation films of the past, notably the scene where Ferdy and ‘Curly-hair’ watch “Attack of the Crab Monsters”, show what the movie is getting at while still preserving the charm that the sleazy horror films asked of directors and actors in the 80’s. This most likely due to the director being Jim Wynorksi, who’s made a career of directing exploitation films and has 75 feature-lengths under his belt. This movie, obviously will strike you as one that is truly garbage. With that in mind, who doesn’t love to watch a garbage fire? The acting can be laughable, the special effects are not great by any standards, and the gore is definitely lacking. The movie itself makes up for all of its downfalls with it’s charm, though. The movie is an invitation to laugh and cringe all at the same time, and never puts itself in a place where you think the creators are taking themselves too seriously. As a horror fan myself, something I could’ve done with more of is the gore. The scene where someone’s head explodes is there, but even that is a quick shot and not as satisfying as going all out in a film like this. On a similar note, a few people also die from electrocution, and where’s the fun in that when these robots are obviously able to explode heads and chuck propane cylinders? The movie does seem to tighten the rope the farther we get into the plot, probably in conjunction the more characters that die, and even at a runtime of 77 minutes, it can seem to be a bit boring at times. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the surviving characters are your average celibate do-gooders of the 80’s, and don’t have much to offer us besides “thank you, have a nice day”. Still though, what is to be expected in a movie of this caliber, it is harder to ask for deep complex characters in a film that lacks a lot of subtext and plot points to begin with. At its best, Chopping Mall is a bad movie with good watchability, and for that I can’t be mad at it. It’s not an abysmal chef-d’oeuvre, or anything quite good for that matter, but the ride it took me on was enjoyable and the references and laughs I shared with it are ones that I appreciate. With the right friends (or drinks) I’d recommend this film on a night with nothing better to do.



Mandy (2018) – Review

Mandy is a bizarre, psychedelic-fueled ride that will test your patience at parts, and reward your patience at others. Red Miller (Nicholas Cage), and his partner/girlfriend Mandy (Andrea Riseborough) live an idyllic life in the ‘Shadow Mountains’.  That is, until, they cross paths with a small religious cult headed by a self-prophetic leader, Jeremiah Sand (Linus Roache). Jeremiah claims he is the god of all things in the universe, and upon seeing Mandy, wants to assumedly recruit or enslave her into being apart of his ‘society’. Things go awry for the couple when Red is left for dead. On a quest of revenge and vengeance, Red encounters four-horsemen-like leather clad bikers, chainsaw battles, and blackish goo that causes us, and Red, to truly question his sanity. Mandy isn’t really a movie about plots, more so about the atmospheric experience that director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) is crafting through distinctive imagery in the movie. The movie feels as though an 80’s metal band’s album cover has come to life, and also implicates other 80’s memorabilia and nostalgia along with it. The revenge formula is there, but one can find themselves wondering what else Cosmatos is communicating through the silver screen.

 The problem with this is that it’s easy to lose viewership along the way, as some people will either stay for the journey that is ‘Mandy’, or check out wondering what kind of art-house bullshit they decided to watch. While both phantasmal and engaging at parts, Panos seems to leave story elements behind for the sake of visual stimuli and creative decision-making.  The possibility of connecting with the movie essentially relies on whether or not this movie’s atmosphere engaged you or not. The overall plot is minimalist, campy, and basic, so the performances the actors give can really be sharp and cutting at times. For example, Nicholas Cage goes full ‘Rage-Cage’ towards the middle and end of the movie, and it really plays to some of the better qualities that this movie has. This movie almost seems designed for the modern-day stigma that Cage carries with him, and he plays into those facets in a remarkably beautiful way. Cage fully embraces the insanity of the film, and I believe that it’s one of its biggest strengths. Mandy, a campy 80’s revenge movie never seems to belittle the viewer or make fun of what’s happening onscreen so much as praise the absurdity of what this movie is.

Cheddar Goblin (Mandy, 2018)

There is a film trapped within this fever dream that only takes a third of the time to deliver the same results, but Cosmatos’ sheer love and indulgence seems to hinder it in some ways. The score of the film (Johan Johannsson) is varied and musically diverse. He draws from the metal influences on this film and creates a sonic backcloth suitable for a film as brazen and distinctive as Mandy. If you can appreciate what this movie is, and not what it could’ve been, it is quite a fun ride. Following the crazy unconventional nature of the film and not as much of the plot and characters still left me to be intrigued and interested in what the film had to say. If you can’t, this movie is definitely one to let slide and maybe not labor through the runtime that hinders it. This criticism may sound discriminating based upon the nature and dreamlike state that film takes place in, but I do believe that even in dreams we tend to flesh out more story and shape to an image. Mandy is a dream with a loose plot structure, impeccable images, and even more remarkable feelings, and that can end up being some of its pitfalls. I do enjoy the strange, but almost wish the strangeness were more connected.



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