Posts Tagged ‘shlock appeal’

Shlock Appeal // J.C.

July 15th, 2016 | Film | 0 Comments


My favourite little theatre in Williamsburg, Spectacle, is playing this 1974 biker movie J.C. this month, so I decided to check it out. Yes, the guy is supposed to be like Jesus, but only sort of. Despite being kind of an insane movie, J.C. is actually incredibly enjoyable and features a strong social commentary.

The basic plot is that J.C. left his small Southern hometown when he was young to go off and become a biker vagabond travelling the country with his motley crew. One day he gets a little sick of the road and decides he and his gang are going to go back to his hometown to hangout with his sister, who he hasn’t seen in a while. Of course, the townsfolk and the two policemen in town don’t take too kindly to these hairy, non-comformist biker types. The bikers tell them they don’t want no trouble, and indeed, they are a very well-behaved bunch, but the townspeople just don’t like the look of ’em and decide they’re not going to give them any rest until they’re gone.

J.C. has a black friend, and in an unfortunate instance of timeliness, the police arrest him for some b.s., lock him up and repeatedly beat the crap out of him. J.C. and his crew try and negotiate with the police to let him go, but it doesn’t go anywhere. The bikers say they’ll leave town and never come back if the police just let him go. No deal. Eventually the bikers try to break him out…and all hell breaks loose.

The whole Jesus angle doesn’t get too deep a treatment in the film, but J.C. is a simple, relatively well-made film with strong characters. It deals with issues like intolerance – both of people’s race and lifestyle – in a blunt, effective way. I especially took note of how the barely-challenged power of the police seemed to be a corrupting force, and how defensively both the police and townsfolk reacted to anything outside of their ordinary, accepted culture. That being said, this is still a cheap grind house movie and there are plenty of WTF moments – as in any good grindhouse film. After Easy Rider, I’d say J.C. is now my favourite biker movie.

Shlock Appeal // Robot Jox

June 22nd, 2016 | Film | 0 Comments


Considering how much people love the idea of giant robots fighting, of course Pacific Rim couldn’t be the first movie to show that on film. I don’t know if Robot Jox was the first, but it’s the kind of movie that simply had to exist: an 80s/90s B-movie with bad acting and cheap special effects in which giant robots (or mechs, really, since they have human pilots like in Pacific Rim) fight each other. Even better: America beats the Soviet Union. And thankfully it was directed by B-movie master Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, From Beyond).

The plot is that in the future there are no more wars – when countries have a dispute, they send in their best mech pilots to fight each other and whoever wins wins. America has this pilot Achilles (Gary Graham) who’s a real hot shot. He has to fight the Ruski’s hot shot Alexander (Paul Koslo) to decide who gets Alaska. There’s also a girl involved named Athena (Anne-Marie Johnson) who’s a real bad-ass. The love story between Achilles and Athena is kind of lame, but the heart of the movie is the frenemy bromance between Achilles and Alexander. Forgetting all that though, the reason to watch this is for the cheese factor and fairly impressive non-CGI robot fighting. And Robot Jox has plenty of both.

Shlock Appeal // Possession

February 25th, 2015 | Film | 1 Comment


Polish director Andrzej Zulawski‘s characters are almost always doing at least one (if not more) of the following: screaming, fighting, having sex. His films are full of B-movie hallmarks like excessive violence and nudity, all quite unnecessary to the flimsy plot. And Possession is a movie that, on it surface, is about a woman screwing a squid. Despite this, there’s a deep European intellectualism at play beneath everything. What the philosophical message behind the squid-f$cking is, I really couldn’t tell you, and I’m not sure if Zulawski himself could. But anyone who understands film to any degree will recognize that Possession is something else, and definitely not a b-movie – it just sounds like one.

Mark (Sam Neill) is a spy who’s just returned from some mission or something to find that his wife Anna (the gorgeous Isabelle Adjani) is not all that happy to see him again. “Can’t you see that you disgust me!” she shrieks at him, stumbling around their claustrophobic apartment, knocking everything over and creating a constant mess of the place. Mark gets the picture – there’s another guy. Apparently it’s not the new agey kung fu master Heinrich (Heinz Bennent) who’s captured his wife’s attentions, it’s someone else – so who is this guy that’s got her so head over heals crazy in love?

Desperate to find out, Mark hires a private eye to look into the matter. And what he finds is that Anna’s been shtupping what looks like a giant, vaguely-humanoid squid.

Though Possession starts a bit slow, once it gets going it becomes something incredible. It’s an insane movie, but its insanity is cogent, contained, and focused, rather than all-over-the-place, like in Zulawski’s (also excellent) The Devil, for instance. In both, though, Zulawski is trying to get at something about choice and evil; how humans are driven into the arms of the truly nefarious. Perhaps this is what also led him to focus La Femme Publique around the filming of Dostoevsky’s The Devils (also translated as The Possessed), which explores similar ideas of evil and nihilism.

These are very real concepts that exist in reality, but Zulawski must express them in biblical or mythological terms to display their hefty weight; the woman who sleeps with a squid is meant to exemplify the depth of depravity to which the human soul is capable of sinking. Indeed, that may be the philosophy behind Possession: the monster isn’t always the one making love to the beautiful woman, but rather, the beautiful woman making love to it.

Shlock Appeal // Things

July 27th, 2014 | Film | 0 Comments


Recently I’ve been kind of interested in canuxploitation movies, which, for those who don’t know, are Canadian horror/sci-fi/WTF movies, usually from the 70s and 80s when the Canadian government was investing heavily trying to develop an internationally respected Canadian film industry. A lot of film-makers – including sometimes young, creative type likes David Cronenberg, perhaps the most succesful of all directors to come out of canuxploitation – were able to get money from the government and investors looking for tax havens and just make weird, crazy movies.

In my internet explorations of the genre, I came across people talking and writing about Things, a cheap 1989 horror film made in Toronto (or Scarborough, to be exact) by some crazy film students. Actually, to say this movie was made cheaply is an understatement, even though the internet says they had a budget of over 35,000. I would guess most of that budget went towards buying drugs.

Luckily, I knew that living in Toronto next to a video rental place like Eyesore Cinema and not far from Suspect Video, I would almost definitely be able to find this film, and I was right. Eyesore had a copy of the recent Intervision DVD of it. So I rented it and brought it over to my buddy Kevin’s place to watch. And despite my absolute bewilderment, I fell in love with this movie. However, to call Things a ‘movie’ might be misleading; it’s more like if two weird dudes on acid decided to actually film a feature length movie using 80s camcorders, and then somehow convinced someone to actually release it as if it were a ‘real’ straight-to-VHS movie.

The essential ‘plot’ of Things is that this guy can’t get his wife pregnant, so they go to a doctor who performs experiments on her that impregnate her with bug-like ‘things’ that then come out and kill people. What actually ends up happening is that this happens, and then the guy and his friend end up just hanging around their house on the lookout for the things, eating cheese sandwiches, talking about whatever. Then I don’t even know. Somebody screwed up with the footage or something because things just stop making sense completely as far as I can tell. And yet the movie keeps going.

Things is, by any standard appreciation of film, a terrible movie. But it’s the kind of terrible movie that has a sort of artfulness too it. Watching it, I felt like it was kind of the film equivalent of the weird music a lot of Canadians make in their bedrooms and you then hear on Weird Canada. It has a homey, innocent, almost childish charm. Hobo With A Shotgun director Jason Eisener said that the scenes where the guys are just chilling in the house eating cheese sandwiches remind him of young guys drinking beers and hanging out in houses in Nova Scotia, where both Eisener and Things actor/writer/producer Barry J. Gillis spent their formative years. Having spent my first year of university in Halifax, I know what he means and it’s true. Things has that kind of ‘Canadian bros chilling and having fun’ vibe.

If your tolerance for ‘weird’ is low, you will have no interest in sitting through one second of Things. However, if you love the weird, the homey, the WTF – this is a Holy Grail of a movie. Grab some friends, drink some beers, make some (vegan) cheese sandwiches, and watch Things at 3 AM. Your mind will be blown wide open.