I’ve been waiting quite some time for Panos Cosmatos to follow up his dark epic adventure film ‘Mandy’ & to my surprise he did so late October. I guess I’m late to the damn party on it as I really don’t watch much streaming content on Netflix anymore, for me personally most of the stuff on the platform just doesn’t cut it. Most of it feels like factory filmmaking, but I was pleasantly surprised to check out Guillermo del Toro’s ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ there and come to find an episode of his new horror anthology called ‘The Viewing’ fresh from the director of ‘Mandy’ and ‘Black Rainbow’!!
I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure just what to expect but this bizarre episode packs a punch with its finale and along the way manages to blend in some great humor and the cast of interesting characters to keep this mysterious story moving quickly with intrigue. It’s an interesting plot too, taking place in 1979, with icon Peter Weller (Robocop) playing an elusive billionaire who invites several TV personalities to his bizarre mansion for a “viewing” of something seemingly otherworldly.
Cosmatos constructs a genuinely humorous character study as the drug fueled gathering slowly transitions into utter chaos by its end. I really enjoyed this episode, it definitely had the signature “Panos” feel to it, at least visually and sonically. It really has that same dreamlike quality as his previous two features and the score again here with The Viewing is something I’d definitely listen too in my spare time.
It’s rich atmosphere is full of color and visually abstract in all the best weirdest ways possible. I was a bit surprised with the humorous tone presented, which sticks around right till the very end, leading me to be extra curious about what his next film ‘Nekrokosm’ might bring to the table. Take note though, it’s not all fun and games, when the shit finally does hit the fan (which does sorta take a little longer than I’d hoped) we’re treated to some legit WTF moments of monster mayhem and headscratching horror in the way Panos most definitely excels at.
The FX here too are quite impressive, as I’d hoped and kinda expected them to be. It’s clear that The Viewing rises above the rest of the flock as a all too welcome walk into the mind of one of the genres most creative visionaries. I can WAIT to feast my eyes and mind upon his next full feature film…if you dug ‘Mandy’ go check this shit out!
‘White Fire’ from 1984 is one helluva bizarre movie, it’s not only filled with a ton of crazy ass action sequences but it’s also got a complete WTF plot going for it that you kinda just have to see to believe. ‘White Fire’ starts off with two siblings (Bo and Ingrid) who witness a gang of crazed soldiers sadistically murder their parents. There’s fully over the top action kicking into gear right from the very start including a bonkers attack on the kid’s dad with a flame thrower that you just gotta see to beleive. It’s one of those “rewind & watch it again” scenes as the stunt dude is completely bombarded with a flame blast with no head or face protection, and for an instant the guy is fully engulfed in flame. Anyway only the two kids manage to survive the bloodshed. Flash forward twenty years later… Bo and his beautiful sister are grown up & employed at a hi-tech diamond mineshaft operation located in the desert that looks straight out of a 1960’s sci fi flick. The inseparable pair soon stumble upon the discovery of a legendary supernaturally powered diamond, called the “White Fire.” Both are immediately pursued by a gang of evil villainous thugs who’re dead set on getting their grubby hands on the diamond themselves. Check out this radical poster/box art for the flick:
Well once the pursuit starts, things get outta hand pretty quickly and we witness the bro and sis duo’s bizarrely epic kung fu skills & brother Bo even resorts to grabbing a chainsaw to fuck up a whole gang of goons on a dock. They’re a great team and soon we get to the real weird shit, lots of his sister Ingrid fully nude at a private swimming pool and Bo comes around afterward and rips his sisters towel off her refusing to give it back. They proceed to laugh about it while she’s completely exposed in front of her brother for far far to long. Ahhh that good old innocent brotherly love! Shit gets even weirder when his sister dies soon after while kung fu fighting a whole gang of villainous goons while still sporting her towel, that now refuses to fall off.
Naturally Bo is super duper bummed out to find his sister has been murdered but the next day he runs into a random lady in a bar while greivin’ n’ drinkin’ whom he ends up approaching with an offer she just can’t refuse! 50 grand to get a face transplant from his dead sister and learn to imitate her! Naturally the woman goes for it, because for some reason I’m a bit confused about still, having his sister alive will help them get the diamond or some shit? Whatever, Bo naturally falls in love with the woman and when she gets the face transplant things get mega awkward!! Now she looks identical to his dead sister, but what’s he to do, he’s already madly in love with her!
The rest of the movie’s a blast, iconic bad ass Fred Williamson shows up as a hired bounty hunter dude to raise some hell for the duo and there’s action a plenty to behold, even a dude who gets his crotch fully mangled by a table saw! There’s a surprising amount of gore here sprinkled throughout to compliment the bonkers plot that will leave you continuously scratching your head in confusion. White Fire’s got some rad locations too, most of it takes place in Turkey and it’s a treat to see the city of Istanbul in the 1980s. Directed by Jean-Marie Pallardy, who mainly directed porno flicks, ‘White Fire’ is definitely a party flick worth a watch with a gang of rowdy cinema fiends!
Unlike a most people I’ve STILL got the dvd mailers from Netflix coming my way. Let’s face the facts folks most movies online on Netflix watch instantly kinda suck, it’s crazy how many movies I’ve started and never finished on that damn website! So I’ve been combing the DVD version of the site trying to find cool old b-movie movies they’ve got in their ample reserve. Surprisingly I’ve found some decent lil’ gems there, most of said movies have terrible reviews and super duper low star ratings. I’m going to chronicle those here, the first one I’m recommending is a movie from 1989 called “Amok Train” or as it’s also known “Beyond the Door III”. Keep in mind this movie actually has nothing to do with either of the two previous ‘Beyond The Doors’ but even the Amok Train’s title screen calls it ‘Beyond the Door III’ in the actual movie.
Directed by Jeff Kwitny, who only directed four movies, one was the 1988 ski horror flick “Iced” that I now need to see as well. I wasn’t expecting a god damn thing from “Amok Train” to be honest but this movie actually delivered all the glorious 80’s cheez I personally crave on all levels! From it’s start I could tell just from the odd setting alone, as it was shot in Serbia and actually features some stunning locations that it had some promise going forward. The plot follows some American college students who head off on a class trip to Yugoslavia and witness some crazy ass pagan rituals, after traveling on a creepy ferry, which were surprisingly effectively pulled off. After most of the students survive the deadly encounter from the crazed locals they frantically run off into the woods and come across a moving train that’s barreling through the countryside. Of course they are able to just barely hop aboard (most of them at least) to their “safety” and of course that’s where the rest of the flick’s craziness mostly ensues.
I totally dig the setting of “the trapped on a train with evil forces” aspect of this one. The movie moves along at relatively fast pace as well. It’s got it’s fair share of impressive but ridiculous special effects, as well as some of the most idiotic “train out of control” sequences I’ve ever seen out on film. These scenes though, for me at least, enhance this C-level cinematic experience to higher levels of fun as the train seems to have an evil mind of it’s own. It switches course to evil paths on randomly appearing moving “possessed” train tracks. There’s some pretty cool yet cheezed out shit going on here, like the fact the train’s engine suddenly begins feeding on people rather than coal and the train is on a tight schedule to get one of the “virgin” college students on a perverted play date with the devil himself.
There’s also this cool 80’s badass soldier lady that joins the gang on the train who talks a lot of tuff guy shit and a killer scarf..yeah a killer scarf! The cast who’s got a It’s got some good gore also and stars Bo Svenson for anyone who gives a shit. For a flick I had zero expectations for it made for quite a fun evening of tokin’ and boozin’ it up a bit. If you dig obscure horror stuff that’s not on anyone’s radar then seek this out especially if you’re like me and still get pumped when you see that red and white Netflix dvd envelope in your mailbox!!
Ok so I wanted to take a minute to briefly comment on Netflix’s ‘Iron Fist’ as I FINALLY finished the whole damn thing. So at first I admit I thought the series wasn’t too bad but as I completed the finale it was clear that this show just didn’t deliver much of anything interesting. Now I’m not saying it deserves a 19% rating on Rotten Tomatoes but hey let’s be honest it kinda sucked. The show was pretty damn boring and I admit EVERY one of the Marvel Netflix shows reach a point where this becomes the case. There’s simply way too many episodes, way too much exposition and it just gets to be a bit of a LOOOONG ass process trying to get to the end of these shows. Some of these Iron Fist episodes felt like they were hours long. Combine that with the terrible meandering plot of ‘villains’ Harold and The Hand and the corporate board room BS and it just drags on and on.
I really wanted to like this one but god damn am I glad it’s just over with. One thing this series excelled at was being totally consistently mediocre. Even the finale was a bonafide snoozefest. He barely ever even used the ‘iron fist’ at all throughout this damn show but damn was he hyped on telling everyone he was “the Iron Fist” every damn chance he could. I even kinda liked Finn Jones as the clueless, largely directionless, tantrum throwing rich brat superhero. And to be clear Danny Rand was most definitely not a “white savior” in any respect in this series. He actually was more of a “white screwup” – so to all of the people who had their undies in a bundle I suggest watching the show before you throw your online tantrums. Iron Fist could and should have have been great, pushing the kung fu action to crazy new levels, sadly I give this one a solid D+. Oh well let’s hope they get it right in The Defenders!
On the brighter and more exciting side of things I did start a relatively new series on Netflix last night called “Hap & Leonard” it hooked me right away and I ended up watching three of the six episodes last night. SIX episodes thankfully NOT thirteen!!! I had to mention this one because it’s got some damn good things going for it & here’s a few reasons why you should check it out. First it’s based on the Joe R. Lansdale book series based on these characters. He’s responsible for writing some incredibly cool stories that have been adapted to film like ‘Bubba Ho-tep’, ‘Incident On and Off a Mountain Road’, ‘Cold in July’ & ‘Christmas with the Dead’ to name a few.
Next the directors Jim Mickle & Nick Damici have done some cool flicks like ‘Stakeland’, ‘Mulberry Street’ & ‘We are What We Are’. There’s a big horror connection to this series but so far it really doesn’t quite fit into any genre really. Instead I see aspects of horror, mystery & adventure all crammed nicely into this series. Another plus for me is that it takes place in 1988 and damn do I love the eighties. It’s got some real interesting characters as well, Hap’s a poor rugged private investigator and his best friend Leonard is a gay, black, conservative cowboy who finds more in common with Elvis than Martin Luther King. Both guys are also martial artists and into getting into all sorts of mayhem in the backwoods of east Texas.
It also stars Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks (who’s a total babe and a great actor) as Hap’s ex wife who’s sent them on a wild goose chase to find a sunken getaway car supposedly filled with a million bucks somewhere on the bottom of a alligator infested river. There’s also a weird ass serial killer duo on the loose, one of them is Pollyanna MacIntosh who’s known for her intense role in Lucky McKee’s horror flick “The Woman”. She’s just as wild n’ crazy in ‘Hap & Leonard’.
Yeah it’s a breath of fresh air after Iron Fist that’s for sure. Check it out, it’s a thrill so far and full of surprises!! I’m thrilled this one’s got a second season as it appears there’s plenty o’ crazy source material for out there already from Mr. Lansdale!