Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Un-Killable Genre

I usually watch a movie from the Leprechaun franchise on St. Patrick's Day, but this year I checked out 2012's Leprechaun's Revenge, aka Red Clover, aka St. Patrick's Day Leprechaun.

It's pretty amazing that a story that has been done about eight ways or more now -- the whole Lep series (7 films altogether), Unlucky Charms, plus the rich history of leprechaun lore in books, other movies, music, etc -- is still finding fans, and mileage. I found Leprechaun: Origins utterly horrible and haven't seen Unlucky Charms yet (Red Box carried it for awhile but doesn't seem to anymore, and it only seems available on DVD to buy), so I was pleasantly surprised how solidly B-movie Red Clover is. Sure, it's also solidly so-bad-it's-good, and has some absurdities that no bad leprechaun genre film would be without: the titular evil leprechaun knows how to drive a car instinctively somehow, for instance, or is found inexplicably in a Dumpster behind an Irish (of course) bar at one point. But these groan points aside, the film does a good job of being an homage, somewhat original, and meta, all at the same time. (At one point, one character says to another something like, "If this were a bad monster movie....")

All the worn-out, er, tried and true elements are intact: an evil, gold-thirsty leprechaun somehow reawakened from slumber; a romance between two leprechaun-hunted young adults (think Leprechaun 2); an old drunk (probably the best actor in the film, veteran William Devane) with the wisdom and huevos to do battle with the lep (again, straight outta Lep 2); a slew of victims; a disbelieving populace; etc. But somehow I found the story somewhat fresh. It has a decent production value even though some of the decorations appear to be straight from the dollar store, and the filmmakers used the ol' green filter on the lights for certain scenes. The digital blood is faker than real fake blood. The leprechaun is one-dimensional. But, somehow, it's still worthwhile. Or maybe it's just that I'm an evil leprechaun film expert and need to stay current in my field....

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hey Sam the Butcher, Grind Me a Pound of that Grindhouse

Really interesting article about how various people/companies are working to save and restore old, damaged, forgotten, and unwanted exploitation films. It made me feel sad that a company liquidating its 35 mm films was about to not even sell -- some of these prints will go as low as $5, which is sad in itself -- its films, but dump them in the San Francisco Bay. This is wrong on all kinds of levels. I can't imagine this is good for the ecosystem of the Bay, and it must feel crappy to have worked on a film that meets its end dumped in the ocean, or a print sold for only $5.

Granted, there are some really bad films in the general category of exploitation, but I don't think that means they should be destroyed or neglected. I also have mixed feelings about cannibal films -- a genre that blew up in the 1970s and whose most visible example is probably Cannibal Holocaust, the inspiration for Eli Roth's recent Green Inferno*. While my head appreciates how groundbreaking Holocaust is -- the film-within-a-film, the unsimulated sex, actual animal abuse, lifelike special effects, envelope-pushing -- my heart hurts at the animal abuse. I find it a bit unnecessary, gratuitous, affected, and, well: exploitative. At the same time, Harmony Korine, a filmmaker who's dabbled in his fair share of controversy and envelope-pushing, said this quote which I've always found very beautiful:

If I was ever to make a 'western,' for instance, and a horse died because I asked too much from the stallion, I would not shed a tear simply because it died by my command. I would weep only if the horse died off camera. Cinema sustains life. It captures death in its progress. Thus the horse dies for the world as did Christ himself.

So the animals abused and killed in Cannibal Holocaust were not only part of a larger narrative, but retain a kind of immortality even though the making of the film itself took their lives.

I am glad companies like these are around to help people remember and preserve the great grindhouse era (some of which I caught, having been born in the 70s and growing up in the 80s): the Grindhouse Cinema Database, Vinegar Syndrome, Something Weird, Grindhouse Releasing, Alamo Drafthouse, and all the people and filmmakers involved in the resurgence of this genre.

* I read recently that while making said film, Eli showed his cast of tribal indigenous people the film Cannibal Holocaust, and not only had most of them never seen a film before, but they found it the funniest thing they'd ever seen.