Giuseppe Makes a Movie (2014)

I finally caught a screening of this after months of kicking myself for missing the premiere (because I couldn't finding parking of all things). Giuseppe Andrews has been my favorite contemporary director since I blind bought Trailer Town in 2006. Consistently poetic and repulsive, his films are truly the pinnacle of modern trash cinema. I almost feel like calling them "trash" is too easy, it goes a little deeper than that. My experiences trying to expose people to Giuseppe Andrews over the years has been mostly frustrating and uncomfortable. I recall one incident in the small town shithole where I'm from. I brought Trailer Town to a friend's house. I was sure it'd be a crowd pleaser. The reception was so negative from my peers, a bunch of degenerate jabronies, I was weirdly chastised by these kids and I believe still to this day have a reputation of being the girl with shit taste in movies. I'm getting a little wrapped up in my personal relationship to these films but my point is; people either get Giuseppe Andrews or they don't. If they don't, fuck 'em. Their existence must be agonizing. We should all feel sorry for them because a world without these films is not one I want to live in.

Director Adam Rifkin follows Giuseppe in the process of preparing for and filming his latest movie, Garbanzo Gas. Giuseppe's methods are so unique, it's truly inspiring to watch the Micro-auteur at work. You get the sense that he lives an incredibly liberating lifestyle that circles completely around creation. The usual cast of characters are present, there no surprises there if you've seen any number of his films. Walt Dongo, Old Man Tyree and Vietnam Ron are just as they appear. Everything about this universe is raw and driven by eccentric bums and local weirdos. Because of that realism, this simple documentary FEELS just like one of Giuseppe's own films.

I happened to catch it on my birthday and I can't think of a better way to have celebrated. I walked away feeling infected by that tenacious creative energy that Giuseppe exhumes. His needs are few, he rejected Hollywood, he's living the dream. Best of all, he's still at it and will likely never quit.


The film is having a limited run at the Nuart (throughout this week), if you're able to catch it, I give it my highest recommendation.


The House on the Edge of the Park (1980)

 I have a confession to make: I'm not very fond of Last House on the Left. Or rather, I have mixed feelings as apposed to the unfettered affection some of my fellow horror fans seem to have for it. I recognize it's importance and wouldn't discredit it as an achievement. It just rubs me in all the wrong ways, as intended. I consider it torture porn in beta stage. A huge part of this reaction has to do with what a fantastic performance David Hess gives. He's one of the few actors I can think of that would probably make me uncomfortable in person because of how alarmingly disturbing his acting range is. I'm sure he's a perfectly charming and intelligent fellow. All of this said, I'm mildly afraid of David Hess. That's the root of this confession here. David Hess is intimidating and frightening. Sometime after that viewing, The House on the Edge of the Park came into my field of vision. Similar phrasing in the title, same actor portraying a clearly similar character. It was off-putting. I didn't prioritize it. This Schlocktober has been a little more freeing, letting my inhibitions go so to speak and this is a perfect opportunity to show the benefit of that.

The movie opens with Hess cat calling a young woman through the car window while they're both driving. When she ignores his um, advances? He cuts her off, breaks into her car, rapes and kills her (Road Rape). Not far from what I was expecting upon entering. David Hess up to his old tricks again. Thankfully, from there on though the film goes in a slightly different direction. An undisclosed period of time passes and Hess (not the character's name but I can't help but call him that) and a friend are closing shop at the garage where they work. A young yuppie couple pull up and ask for assistance, Hess initially turns them away because he's "ready to boogie" (he's dressed like it too), but while flirting with the gorgeous rich girl, Hess' buddy takes a look and discovers it was just a loose connection. When Hess discovered that the couple are attending a small get together, having pretty much made up his mind about what he wants to do to the girl, he invites himself and his pal to come along. Getting almost no resistance at all, they hop in the car and go on their way, but not before Hess gets his straight razor out of his locker.

From here House on the Edge of the Park turns into a home invasion film, and in a much less gritty and rape-y way than Last House on the Left. What I liked about it was that it took a disquieting and playful approach rather than simply trying to offend the audience. Like a spiritual sister of Funny Games, you're left feeling an overwhelming tension in the lapses between violence rather than burning out on shock value. You also get to see both the good guys and the bad guys as fully realized dimensional characters. Knowing that was Ruggero Deodato in the director's chair, and of course the aforementioned nervousness of watching yet another movie where David Hess rapes and kills women, I couldn't have asked for a better outcome. Entertaining and multi-layered. Great 80's Italian costumes and Annie Belle is quite the vixen.

I was also impressed with Giovanni Lombardo Radice as Hess' cronie; skeevy reluctant rapist.

No complaints here. I hope my next David Hess experience is just as satisfying.


Feng Shui (2004)

Something about Feng Shui jumped out at me. The cover isn't that enticing but lately I've been trying to dig a little deeper to find interesting lesser known contemporary Asian horror movies and  stumbled upon this moderately successful Pinoy flick from 2004. Now, I don't claim to be an expert on Filipino cinema. In fact, quite the opposite. I've seen no more than I could count on both hands and that's mostly limited to the goofy cult comedies of Joey De Leon. Modern and straight forward is just not on my radar but with reviews comparing it to a Filipino Ju-On, I knew I had to make it a priority.

Kris Aquino plays Joy Ramirez, loving wife and mother who's doing her best to help her family adjust to life in a new house. One day she's taking the long commute home from work when a man on the bus leaves something behind, she chases after him  to return it but he seems to be purposely avoiding her. She opens the crumpled newspaper to reveal a Chinese Bagua mirror. Traditionally used in Feng Shui to bring good fortune and ward off negative spirits. For those who are unfamiliar, it's the octagon shaped thing on the cover. This one isn't your garden variety Asian dollar store Bagua. It's kind of worn out and clearly an antique. The old lady who works at the bakery tells Joy that it's an unusual one and that she should hang it outside on the door instead of the living space which is traditional.

Within the next few days Joy starts having an amazing good luck streak. She gets a promotion at work and makes a ton of money, same thing happens for her husband, a distant relative dies and she inherits a fortune, she wins a drawing at the supermarket for an entertainment center. Things seem to be going well for Joy and her family until people around her start mysteriously dying. First, the old lady at the bakery, then a security guard in the gated community she lives in, and then another. It doesn't take long for her to realize that it's the Bagua. She tries to write it off as coincidental until the spirits of the dead start hanging out in her house. Literally, just hanging out. She'll be at work and neighbors noticing ghosts just walking around through the windows. They don't do much more than scream at or startle everyone, but when shit starts flying around Poltergeist style Joy knows that something has to be done.

One recent death is reported in the paper and she recognizes the man as the man who originally discarded the Bagua on the bus. Shortly after the curse was transferred to Joy, he was hit and killed by a another bus. Hoping for some answers, she reaches out to his widow who lavishly lives in the most glorious Filipino mansion. The lady doesn't seem fazed by the death that surrounds the bagua but more than anything, she wants it back. She's become addicted to fortune and Joy sees the effect it could have on a weaker person and leaves with no real answers.

At her wits end she visits a Taoist priest who tells her the story of a Chinese Princess who was having her feet bound in that sadistic way that they used to do to women in ancient China, so she'd be delicate and deformed, the way a proper lady should. Wrapped tightly and bound in Iron, they called her "Lotus Feet". One day there was a fire and her family left her behind, she couldn't walk or run so she burned to death, clutching that very Bagua, staring at herself and cursing it's future owners. Whoever looks in the mirror will die at the hand of their own Chinese Zodiac symbol. The man on the bus was born in the year of the rabbit, a bus called the "Rabbit Line" hit him. The old lady at the bakery was born in the year of the rat and died of poisoning from rat urine. This of course doesn't apply to the owner. She or he will have great financial gain as long as they don't mind the people around them dying horribly and being surrounded by their angry spirits. You know, no big deal.

This images reminds me of the 1981 HK horror movie The Imp that I reviewed last Schlocktober.

Elements of Feng Shui were a little cheesy. It's kind of a classic Monkey's Paw type of tale, with an Eastern spin of course. What makes the movie so interesting to me isn't necesarily the story, but the general flavor which felt totally new to me.  There was clearly a nice budget and the director, Chito S. Rono has a unique artistic vision. At times reminding me of classic Argento lighting and hearkening to Hong Kong horror masters such ss the Shaw Brothers. Rono creates an atmosphere that is truly unlike any film I've ever seen from any country. Tonally strange, color palette chosen not only creates an other-worldly unease, but a borderline sense of insanity.

I get to look at your awesome Mondrian color blocked house AND I can have this corned beef??

Suddenly the movie became Suspiria in the Suburbs of the Philippines.

A friend compared the house to a "Nightmare Full House", I was thinking similarly that house reminded me of a Halloween episode of the Simpsons.

One of my favorite things about this movie is the director's (or Art director's/designer's/cinematographer's) amazing use of a single color on color. Here you can see both mother and daughter are wearing pink in the pink kitchen which is lit with a pink hue. An unusual choice. 

Kids room is all about the greens and yellows.

Everything is Ochre with eerie neon highlights. Creates an almost apocalyptic feeling of dread.

Kris Aquino is lovely, she looks great in every single frame.

Joy's husband with a derpy look on his face, but there's the color thing again. Orange City, welcome to it.

Feng Shui is by no means ground breaking in terms of story or development. As far as the comparison to Ju-On, I see very little of that aside from a long haired female ghost who happens to be Asian. There are a lot of horror cliches that an american audience would be immune to. However, Stylistically this is one of the coolest horror movies I've seen this whole year. Hence the overkill in screenies. I found myself rewinding and pausing constantly just because I wanted to see what they did. From a technical standpoint Feng Shui is a modern masterpiece.

There are also a ton of quirky moments that will keep this film close to my heart forever...

Yes, son. A "Brown-out".

Remember when she gave the man at the door some Corned Beef about 20 pictures back?

There are few things I love more than SHAMELESS product placement.

I can share one thing though.

One thing I love more than shameless product placement...

Our leading lady getting hit in the head with a, clearly very much made of rubber, "dead" lizard.

I had such a blast watching this movie. It was announced earlier this year that both Chito S. Rono and Kris Aquino would be returning for the upcoming Feng Shui 2! I couldn't be more excited! If it's remotely as colorful and charming I'll be satisfied. This review is more of a love letter to Feng Shui than anything. It's a film that demands it's viewer to LOOK. Almost aggressively "LOOK AT ME. LOOK AT THE COLORS. ARE YOU LOOKING? WHAT ABOUT ALL THIS GREEN? ". This film has spoken to me and it's message is haunted rainbow. A haunted rainbow that reaches from Manila to my heart.