Powered by Blogger.



The independent filmmaker should be considered one of the tragic heroes of our time. They put in years of their lives, untold numbers of hours and put themselves in tremendous debt all in the pursuit of making a film that will most likely be completely forgotten before it even comes out. For every Evil Dead, Bad Taste or Clerks there are thousands of indie films that just end up getting lost in the shuffle. The incredible documentary American Movie is the tale of just one of those tragic stories.

Mark Borchardt is just such a tragic figure. He has dreams of making it as a filmmaker and breaking away from the life of a typical worker in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. After making a few short horror films with his friends, he decides to start working on his dream project: a film known only as Northwestern. Unfortunately, due to a lack of money, problems with his family and the fact that Borchardt himself may be more than a little disturbed, the project stops and Borchardt instead seeks to finish an old short film called Coven.

The film puts us in the trenches with Borchardt and his cast and crew as they scout locations, attempt to raise money (including a $3000 loan from Mark's uncle Jim) and listen to Borchardt talk... and talk... and talk about how awesome this film is going to be once it's completed. We also get to meet some of the people in Borchardt's life, most notably, his best friend Mike Schank who is so optimistic and eager to help that we can't help but fall in love with him and the aforementioned Uncle Bill who is the real highlight of the film. Mark's enthusiasm coupled with Uncle Bill's world-weary realism make for a perfect balance. Uncle Bill also gets the biggest comic highlight in the film when Mark needs to shoot thirty takes for a scene where Uncle Bill only has to say one line! It's a classic moment of awkward humor that would make the cast of The Office cringe in embarrassment.

In the end Mark Borchardt does finish Coven and we get to see its big premiere. After watching it now all I can say is "that's it?". After three years of grueling work and an untold amount of dedication, we're left with a film that is at best, decidedly average? Just another short horror film to add to the hundreds that are released every year? Well ... yes, but it doesn't matter because Coven is Borchardt's film, dammit! And that's what's important. My favorite scene in the film is where Mark watches the 1997 Academy Awards with his family and Billy Crystal announces that that year is the year of independent films. Nuts to that! Those rich phonies don't know what independent films are. Movies like Coven and by extension, American Movie are the real independent cinema and without an equal number of dreamers and lunatics, it wouldn't exist at all.


★ ★ ★ ★ ½



PODCAST 261: Godzilla Vs Biollante & From Dusk Till Dawn

The Horror Duo have returned from Pittsburgh. Forest kicks off his Heisei reviews with Godzilla Vs Biollante - sequel to Godzilla 1985. Cory selects a contrasting flick with strippers, vampires and Tom Savini, From Dusk Till Dawn.


WRITTEN REVIEW: Ban the Sadist Videos!

Violence is in our nature as a species. We fight wars, brutalize our peers, bully each other, the list goes on and on. We are a violent society as a whole. So what do we do when we aren’t being violent? Well we go the movie theater and watch violent films. It’s just what we do.

With that being said, it’s natural for people to wonder what drives people to violence. Of course, this always leads us to the usual suspects of film, music, video games, and just media in general.

While we’ve always had our share of moral crusaders here in the Good Ol’ USA, our neighbors across the pond in the UK pretty much have us beat when it comes to trying to save the youth from themselves and the evils of violent films.

In the two-part documentary, Ban the Sadist Videos! director David Gregory, who is known for a multitude of film documentaries, shows us a modern day witch-hunt against video store owners and distributors in the UK during the video player hey day from the the 1980s and early 90s and the so-called Video Nasties that put the island on high alert.

The 1960s and 1970s were the apex for schlocky gore, sex, and every other taboo in horror films. From The Driller Killer to Zombie social avengers like Mary Whitehouse and The Daily Mail made it their job to assure that the youth weren’t corrupted by the ultra violence, sex, and gore that ran rampant throughout these films.

While many of these films were released uncut in the theater, home video was a different animal all together. Home video made many of these films available to children, and of course this had to be stopped.

With the passage of the Video Recordings Act in 1984, fines and jail time were possible penalties for video store owners who peddled films that were blacklisted by the moral majority in England, led by figures like Whitehouse, Member of Parliament David Alton, and James Ferman, the head of the British Board of Film Classification, for several years.

Following two high-profile crimes, like the Hungerford Massacre and the kidnapping and murder of two-year-old James Bulger by two ten-year olds, the restrictions would have become stricter with the passage of the Alton Act, but it was later pulled. However, watchdogs were still on high alert and endless cuts were made to films coming to the UK for home consumption.

I guess thinking about it we do have a lot of moral defenders here in the US; from holding rallies where people step all over rap and heavy metal tapes and CDs, and the constant banter of talking heads and why video games drive people to deviant behavior and why excessive violence on film is corrupting our youth, our First Amendment always comes through and protects our rights to do what we want. It’s easy to lose sight of how good we have it in this country, whereas in the UK, while they do enjoy nearly all the same freedoms we enjoy, there are a lot of gray areas, especially with Freedom of Speech, hence the hysteria and the endless censorship of film for nearly 30 years.

Imagine being a video store owner and having films confiscated and taken for evidence and threatened with fines and possible jail time for owning a copy of Faces of Death or Dario Argento’s Inferno, that’s coming out of Nazi Germany or another fascist regime. No wonder the Sex Pistols were so pissed off about their government and the way they treated their “subjects”.

Ban the Sadist Videos! is a great watch to compare and contrast how we see and consume films here in America versus the issues that British citizens were dealing with for a long time. Sure, banning these films opened up a lovely black market for video collectors and sellers, but having to deal these films behind closed doors while fearing a raid by the local MP I’m sure was a nerve-racking experience for buyers and sellers alike.

While censorship has reared its ugly head numerous times here in America, there’s never been a fear of downright censoring or banning art, even if it can be taken out of context, and with the emergence of a more focused P.C. society and everything being watched by the Internet, it would be interesting to see if something like this happened in this day and age, how would people take it and how would it be discussed over Twitter and Reddit. Imagine the madness!


★ ★ ★



They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But sometimes a motion picture is only worth one. Simplistic Reviews gives you a minimum one word review from avid film buffs Justin Polizzi, Matthew Stewart and DJ Valentine. If one isn't enough, you can read on and enjoy their further analysis of the film or television show. Simplistic Reviews is, for lack of a better word, GOOD.

Download the Simplistic Reviews Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn Radio and the Google Play Store.
Twitter: @SimpleTweeters | Letterboxd: Simplistic Reviews
Facebook: SimplisticReviews | YouTube: SimplisticReviews1



PODCAST 260 Part II: Critters 3 & Critters 4 [Five Year Anniversary]

This week the Horror Duo travel to Monroeville Pennsylvania to take part in the ALL horror edition of the Steel City Con. In doing so they, and Slaughter Film's resident physician, Dr. Bork, chew the fat of one of the 80s most memorable monster/alien horror franchises. This time weighing in on Critters 3 and Critters 4.


PODCAST 260 Part I: Critters & Critters 2 [Five Year Anniversary]

This week Cory travels to Monroeville Pennsylvania to take part in the ALL horror edition of the Steel City Con. In doing so he, and Slaughter Film's resident physician, Dr. Bork, chew the fat of one of the 80s most memorable monster/alien horror franchises. Even Forest surprises the guys, when he unexpectedly shows up and weighs in on Critters and Critters 2.


WRITTEN REVIEW: Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau

The 1996 adaptation of The Island of Dr. Moreau is regarded as one of the biggest cinematic disasters of all time and like any doomed production, has a making-of story that is far more interesting than the film itself. The documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley's Island of Dr. Moreau tackles the troubles and heartbreak of this fascinating cluster-fuck.

It all begins with Richard Stanley, an ambitious young director who after breaking into the scene with some successful indie genre films like Hardware and Dust Devil, approaches New Line with his dream project of adapting the H.G. Wells novel. New Line offers him a deal but almost instantly the producers seem to want to cut him out of the project. Stanley fights for his vision but due to the combination of a director's inexperience, an actor's egotism and just a string of bad luck, the project is stopped after just four days of shooting and Stanley is fired. I feel bad for saying this, but this documentary really starts to pick up after Stanley is taken off the project. This is the point where the making of this film goes from bad to surreal.

A new director is hired and he immediately starts re-writing the script. Then Val Kilmer begins creating friction with the director and the other actors due to his poor attitude and on-set bullying. Then, most bizarrely of all, star Marlon Brando begins making increasingly insane demands. He comes to the set wearing white make-up on his face (insisting that all outside scenes be done like this), begins demanding that he get different types of hats to wear (even at one point wearing an ice bucket on his head) and he convinces the director that Nelson de la Rosa, the world's smallest man who had been cast in a supporting role be with him in every scene. Also, in typical Brando fashion, he hadn't even bothered to learn his lines.

Just when it seems like things couldn't get any crazier, the film hits us with another surprise at the end. During filming, some effects people learned that Richard Stanley had never taken his flight back to England and had been living in the jungle near the movie set. These crew members then make him up as one of the beast men so he can basically observe the set and watch his dream project die right before his eyes.

Lost Soul is an interesting film, but the really interesting stuff doesn't come until the very end with the on-set insanity. Before that it's just a typical story of an ambitious director being railroaded by a studio. However, it's also a unique glimpse into the movie industry and how much time and hard work goes into a project that sometimes ends up dismissed and quickly forgotten. Even if it's a doomed journey half the time, everyone behind the scenes puts their best efforts into it and that makes the journey an interesting on at least.


★ ★ ★