viernes, 18 de junio de 2010

S&M, Kink and Surreal Goofyness: The Cin(Sin)Ema of Matthew Saliba

I first heard of Mr. Saliba while looking at the Severed Cinema website, and reading these reviews of a couple of short films by some canadian guy. I was captivated right away, in part by the beautiful lighting and composition in the photos, and because they were done in photographic stills instead of the usual film/digital way, similar to Chris Marker’s classic La Jette. But most of all, I was captivated by the beautiful nude ladies. That was it, I had to watch them. I tried looking for these shorts but didn’t have much luck, so I decided to just contact the filmmaker point blank, to see if he could offer me his films in exchange for a review on this blog nobody watches. Curiously enough, he said yes. Since then I’ve been able to have small conversation with Matthew, and have noticed he’s a guy that takes his work seriously, but not himself, which is a good trait in a filmmaker (so many of us have such fragile egos).

So I got the package in the mail last Friday with five films by Mr. Saliba (which means drool in Spanish, btw) and started giving them a watch. First, we have two early short films, The Manipulator And The Subservient and Pandora’s Paradox. They were both shot in a familiar manner, and have a very ‘film school’ vibe to them, which isn’t a bad thing. The problem with these two shorts is that we can see a filmmaker trying to find his own style, but not getting there yet. On the plus side, the acting is pretty damn good, frenetic and energetic as the story dictates. Pandora’s Paradox goes for a surreal David Lynch vibe that I can kind of understand, but for the life of me, I couldn’t stop laughing. I found the movie to be a surreal black comedy, and I hope this was Saliba’s intentions. From the woman giving birth to the giant toe, to the crazy S&M between the parents and the goofy-looking doctor, I couldn’t stop giggles.
After these two shorts came She Was Asking For It, and boy, here we really started cooking. The story involves a man who is raped and abused by a duo of women, so he decides to take revenge against them with a giant dildo. This is where Saliba’s photographic style began, at least based on the films I received. Saliba is style and substance, as he is able to show in a short film what a lot of people wish they could achieve in feature length films. The colors are vivid, with many gels and surreal tones adding to the dark images. Not only do they reflect the darkness of the story but o f the psychology and revenge of the characters. Many people would probably think ‘Argento’ first, but I have to say that he reminds me more of another giallo filmmaker, Sergio Martino, particularly All The Colors Of The Dark. The only flaw in the film, for me, is the music. Most of it comes from the Lost Highway soundtrack and it’s more distracting than mood-enhancing. Still, this is a great short film.
Even better than She Was Asking For It, was his second short in the photographic style, known as Vampyros Lesbos. Now, before you hit the brakes, yes, I know that this is the title of a Jess Franco film. My favorite Franco film, personally. It doesn’t surprise me that Saliba would do his own re-envisioning of Franco’s work, as both filmmakers share similar themes, particularly the stuff Jess made in the late 60’s/early 70’s (Venus in Furs, Succubus). The story deals with a female vampire who seduces Saliba’s girlfriend and steals her for himself, so Saliba decides “I’m staking these bitches”.

This is the best of Saliba’s films. It takes the promise of She Was Asking For It and takes it to the higher level. Not only is the story better and more complex, but so is the style. You see, as much as I liked She Was Asking For It, the way it was made makes it very self-aware. Here, the style isn’t as noticeable and blends better to make the story easier to follow. There’s also a ton of nudity in this film. As beautiful as the homicidal and vampiric as Isabelle Stephen and Kitty Daly are in their roles, my favorite has to be Kayden Rose as Morpho. I wish the Morpho in the Franco films was as beautiful as the one here.
Matthew has said in many of his interviews that his movies are mostly about creating a mix between horror and sadomasochism, a sexual lifestyle that I must admit that I take no part in. Not my thing. But Saliba’s films have to be applauded for making their approaches to sadomasochism in a very realistic and truthful way (before the murders happen). It’s a relief from the typical use of s&m as automatic comic relief (if you want proof, watch Tomboys or Euro Trip). So search out his films as soon as possible, his profile is in both Myspace and Facebook. He’s a nice guy and will gladly share his art with the world.

Come back soon for my review of Frankenstein Unlimited, a five-part film omnibus produced and created by Saliba!

viernes, 11 de junio de 2010

The Ten Best (and Five Worst) Movies to be featured in MST3K

When I was a young guy, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 pretty much ruled my life. Before my passion for horror or filmmaking or anything, it was MST3K that gave me an education in bad cinema and cheesy comedy. Looking bad on it, it’s still hilarious. The writing is great, the characters have a lot of chemistry, Clayton Forrester is a hilarious villain, the robots look great and the props are cheesy. Hell, I even love Tom Servo’s singing voice. But hey, not ALL of the movies they featured were that bad. These are my 10 favorite movies to appear on the show.

10. King Of The Rocket Men
OK so I’m cheating a little here, as this is more of a serial than an actual movie, but for a whole season MST3K used to open with this short before moving to it’s main bad movie. And to be fair, this is a pretty cool serial, with a cool superhero (well, kinda) and pretty inventive special effects sequences. Some of it didn’t make a lick of sense, but it’s very entertaining. And what a fun costume!

9. Robot Monster
What can I say, this movie is bad, but I love it, it’s hilarious. I already spoke about this is in a previous post, so I’m not going to go into detail. I can only say that I wish I had the Ro-Man’s costume.

8. Godzilla Vs. Megalon
Even though this poster makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE, this is one of the most ludicrous of the Godzilla film series, and that’s saying a lot. The monster with chrystler buildings for hands that burps red eggs is a true triumph of cheesyness, and Jet Jaguar? Well, what can I say about Jet Jaguar that hasn’t been said before.

7. Parts: The Clonus Horror This is a movie that definintely suffers from being in MST3K, since the movie has nudity and explilcit violence that was cut from the show. Still, the movie is a damn good scifi-horror film that was recently released thanks to the guys from Mondo Macabro, and comes highly recommended.

6. The Brain That Wouldn’t Die
A quasi-feminist horror/sci fi hybrid from the 50’s has some truly surreal moments, even though it’s got some of the lowest budgets in the history of the movies to be featured in the show. With guys with deformed arms, a sexist doctor looking for the perfect body for his old wife, and a female head which shares a psychic power with a giant made out of spare parts (I have no idea), there is no way that this movie couldn’t be entertaining.

5. Gamera
I love Gamera as much as I love Godzilla, but I can’t say I’m a fan of the old series. After all, they’re all cheesy kids movies who couldn’t appeal intelectually to anyone older than 12. Still, the first Gamera movie is still pretty damn good, has a lot of kaiju action and the monster itself is pretty cool. Still, the series didn’t get as good until Gamera: Guardian of the Universe came out in the 90’s.

4. Revenge Of The Creature
I was actually shocked when I found out this movie was in the series. I mean, this is a 30’s MGM musical compared to some of the no-budget monstrosities the show has shown. This movie continues the adventures of the Gill Man, trying to terrorize people and falling in love, this time with a blonde. The first half of the plot takes place in a marine park, pre-dating Jaws 3D by about 20 years. Man, Jaws 3D should have been on this show, that movie sucks.

3. This Island Earth
I’m breaking the rule a bit for this one, since it was on the MST3K motion picture that came to theaters for like, 2 days in the mid 90’s. Even if the jokes the guys make are hilarious, the movie isn’t that bad, as far as 50’s sci fi flicks go. And I really like the Metaluna mutant’s design.

2. Squirm
This is one of the best eco-horrors of the late 70’s, featuring mutated earthworms killing people. The special effects are pretty creepy and gory and the acting is damn good. It almost sours the fact that Jeff Lieberman was really angry that his movie got parodied in the show. Get a sense of humor, dude.

1. Danger: Diabolik One of the best of the spy movies from the 1960’s, and directed by the master Mario Bava, this movie has it all: pretty girls, amazing sets, kick-ass action sequences and one of the most badass anti-heroes in the history of cinema. I fucking love this movie.

But it’s not all fun and games; after all, this movie is KNOWN for bad movies. And for me, these 5 almost made me want to shoot myself when I saw them without the MST3K riffing. I am convinced there is no way anyone can stay sane watching them in their normal way.

5. The Final Sacrifice
This Canadian backyard production was quite a woozy, with some amateur production values and villains that are as threatening as a recently-born kitty cat. The only good thing about this flick is ‘professional adventurer’ Rorsdower.

4. Eegah
Watch out for snakes! One of the most popular films in the series is quite a migraine when you watch it without the riffing. Jaws from the James Bond films goes around trying to get a girl and fighting Arch Hall Jr. and his cheesy, bad rockabilly music.

3. Beginning Of The End
The wooden acting of Peter Graves fights badly-rendered giant locusts. What more can I say?

2. Monster A Go-Go.
A half-produced film that was hijacked by Herschell Gordon Lewis and turned into some cheesy sci-fi horror hybrid has some headache-inducing voice over and some of the worst audio in the history of cinema. It drags at a snails-like pace and nothing really happens with the exception of a ‘monster’ walking around and people reacting. Awful.

1. Manos: The Hands Of Fate
Oh boy… this movie. If you don’t turn this off before the first 15 minutes, you’re a brave soul like me. You might get some hilarity from the soundtrack and the infamous Torgo character, there is truly nothing there to recommend. The only movie you’ll see made by a fertilizer salesman.