Earthpages.org

The Real Alternative


Leave a comment

Review – Tales of the Dead (DVD)

Image courtesy Reality Entertainment

Title: Tales of the Dead!
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Distribution: Reality Entertainment

Originally posted 2010/09/08

Just in time for Halloween. Tales of the Dead is a vivid introduction to the realm of horror as envisioned by the independent UK filmmaker, Kemal Yildirim.

Not being a huge horror fan, myself, it took me a while to get past my biases and crack open the DVD case, let alone watch this film.

On first try I just reviewed snippets to prepare myself for what I’d be in for. This allowed me to get my proverbial shields up and watch the entire film, later that evening. And yes, this definitely is a movie to be watched after dark. You might want to take it to a Halloween party. Maybe not!

Tales of the Dead is not for the weak of heart. It’s pretty shocking, contains brief nudity, and isn’t shy of presenting graphic violence.

Without serving up a spoiler, the basic story is about five friends who gather for a private Halloween party. This convincing part of the film is replete with drinking, smoking and profane language, as many of the younger crowd no doubt carry on in these days of global recession and the war on terror.

The film quickly shifts to the surreal as the revelers begin telling ghost stories and grim tales of urban horror. Several the five party guests bring short horror videos to share with their friends, which effectively leads into and unifies different shorts.

The first video, “Less is More” calls to mind several classic horror themes, aptly synthesized to make it difficult to trace a particular influence to a given scene. A bit of Edgar Allen Poe here, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle there. The plot involves a severely troubled woman who desires a mysterious surgery that she believes will cure all her problems. Her decent husband tries to understand but, as her obsession mounts, he can only take so much. A social worker suggests she try a psychiatrist, but a coincidental encounter in the night takes her entirely somewhere else.

The result? Well, let’s just say that this kind of film making is certainly not for everyone.

The second short, “Wolf Cry” is surprisingly clever at places, even if you’re not into horror, per se. We see into a young man’s incredibly delusional, amusing and horrifying imagination. This is probably the smartest segment of the DVD, sociologically speaking. Some scenes turn out to be ingeniously fresh vignettes about systemic hypocrisy and, as the sociologist Max Weber once put it, the Protestant work ethic.

“Penance,” the third short, also plays on several existing horror themes. In the DVD’s special features, Yildirim explains that he wants to pay homage to some of the great directors within the genre while still making his own cinematic statement.

And this he does.

In this short, a boozy British police inspector is called to investigate a disturbing homicide. The inspector apparently has links with the killer, and sometimes we wonder if he, himself, is the maniac.

The fourth short, “Missing” plays on the fabled Cromwell’s Curse, which in urban legend is linked to the historical Northamptonshire witch trials of 1612. This portion contains some haunting street and good library scenes, but I found it the least engaging of the lot. We hear lots of “Oh my God… did you see that?” but don’t really witness anything for ourselves.

Oh yes, it’s all fiction and archetypal fun. I forgot. But if so, a few actors running through the night in white sheets might have helped.

The final tale is told by the only woman at the Halloween party. Like her guy friends, she’s trendy and hip. But unlike her groovy pals, she doesn’t bring a video to the party. Her story is apparently real…

Special features for Tales of the Dead include “The Making of Wolf Cry” and “The Making of Penance.” These sneak peeks show how an indie horror film is actually made. They reveal the hard work, camaraderie and technology that goes into independent film making—ironically humanizing our experience of an, otherwise, totally “out there” film.

—MC


Leave a comment

Review – Rose (DVD)

RoseRose (2012)
Genre: Urban Drama
Producer/DirectorKemal Yildirim
Writer: Stephen Loveless
Stars: Mike Mitchell, Helen Clifford, Patrick Regis

The feature film Rose is a giant step forward for the British filmmaker, Kemal Yildirim, whose 2008 short film Rose was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. The short version was a difficult but redemptive tale based on a true story. A promising film, it was well received by several charities and proactive groups. But the latest incarnation of Rose takes the story to a whole new level.

This suspenseful, sophisticated drama stars Helen Clifford as Rose who, to quote from the film, is “a worn out hooker with a habit.” An otherwise girl next door type who also starred in the previous adaptation, Clifford manages to look godawful through most of the footage (with a little help from talented makeup artists). And totally in sync with Rose‘s stepped up production values, her performance is far more powerful and nuanced than it was in 2008.

Rose falls into deep trouble when her callous pimp, Blondie, (Mike Mitchell) gets word that she’s been taking customers on the side—“freelancing.” Blondie is handsome, wears fine suits, and imports sex slaves from southeast Europe.

Mike Mitchell, who appeared in Gladiator and Braveheart, plays this creepy kingpin to a tee. As the resident crime lord and club owner in Hellville (a metaphorical underworld with a bit of a comic strip feel), Blondie is one bad dude. If anyone crosses him, chances are they’ll get a knife at their throat (or worse) within 48 hours. It’s that bad. And Rose is trapped.

Like many of the main characters in other Yildirim films, the traumatized Rose longs for release. And her angelic young daughter, Ellie, (marvelously played by Chelsea Alcock) reminds us that tenderness, beauty and hope are always possible, even amid the worst kinds of tawdriness, violence and neglect. Rose’s love relationship with Tony (Patrick Regis) also calls to mind the importance of caring. One of my favorite scenes is when the troubled Rose, Tony and Ellie are at the beach, and Ellie is entranced by the sight of a well-to-do couple and their contented child.

Tony, himself, is a favored goon and washed up boxer who fights in backrooms for the amusement of Blondie and his jaded inner circle (these scenes reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes). But Tony is an enforcer with a conscience, and doesn’t like what he sees—especially when Blondie decides to teach Rose a hard lesson for moonlighting.

Regis’ compelling performance as the tough but puppy-eyed Tony is another nice surprise in Rose. After seeing how Blondie hurts Rose and, later, getting thrashed in another backroom brawl, Tony’s not going to kiss up to Blondie any longer. And so the film heads into its gripping climax.

No review of Rose would be complete without tipping one’s hat to actors Eileen Daly (Yondra, a retired prostitute), Lucy White (Magdelena, a statuesque heavy) and Rami Hilmi (Baldo, a mindless stooge), along with several relative unknowns who add texture and intrigue to Rose’s life story.

The impressive cast is augmented by Rose‘s innovative cinematography and minimalist soundtrack. Altogether, Yildirim creates the haunting ambiance that audiences have come to expect from his movies. But this one is different. The director’s considerable talents and influences have fused into a laser-sharp focus. And it shows.

—MC


1 Comment

Apocalypse 2012: The World After Time Ends (DVD Review)

Title: Apocalypse 2012: The World After Time Ends
Genre: Conspiracy, Prophecy, End Times
Production Company: Reality Films

Apocalypse 2012: The World After Time Ends is a bit of a mind-bender. Just when you think you can forget about the world’s problems, sit down and have a nice cup of tea, along comes Reality Films with this engaging, sometimes disturbing film.

The premise of Apocalypse 2012 is that the Earth is alive, a living organism. Hippies from the 70s or students from the 80s might remember James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis. Or maybe Lewis Thomas’ The Lives of a Cell. These two scientists have their differences, but both agree that the Earth looks like it’s some kind of self-regulating, living system.

That’s a nifty idea, but Apocalypse 2012 takes it to a whole new level. A panoply of elders, sages and unorthodox thinkers all seem to be saying that the Earth doesn’t just look alive. It is alive—and not just as a simple organism or self-adjusting system.

Many of the film’s speakers believe that Mother Earth is a conscious entity, one that demands payback for terrestrial abuses. So 911, for instance, wasn’t caused by a single group of extremists but, rather, by our collective exploitation of the planet. We’ve been treating the Earth as a money making resource instead of seeing it as a source of life. And this, according to the film, is an unforgivable no-no just asking for planetary retribution where countless people get hurt and die.

Pretty heavy stuff. I started to feel a bit glum after the first hour. So I paused the DVD and went out to do some shopping. (Food shopping that is, and thank God I didn’t drive a SUV or the roads might have cracked before me..!).

Reality Films

Okay, honestly, I struggled a bit with this film. Part of me felt it was naive but another part sensed that it was important. At least, important for me to see at the time.

On the plus side, 2012’s archival footage and editing are amazing. It’s worth watching for that alone. And the soundtrack is effective. Also, its eclectic mix of speakers aren’t identified until after the show is done, which is a great idea. This sort of levels the playing field so we hear what’s being said without prejudging on the basis of credentials or honorary titles. (I hope that’s vague enough to avoid a spoiler!).

On the not so great side, the DVD offers a simplistic view of history that seems to glorify a distant, golden age that most likely never was (unless one takes Adam and Eve and other creation stories literally). The industrial revolution is portrayed as the Big Bogey Man that’s chasing us toward our collective downfall. But what about the Black Death of the Middle Ages, and various other lethal diseases spread by contaminated water in ancient and medieval society? All this happened well before the industrial revolution.

Having said that, can we really deny that the 21st century is dangerously imbalanced, globally speaking? The news media tells us that so-called mental illnesses are on the rise, as are the environmentally polluting drugs manufactured to treat them (most people forget that man-made medications, now matter how nicely they’re presented by pharmaceutical marketing agencies, are constantly being urinated back into the water supply). And as 2012 rightly says, the oil supply will eventually run out. Not even the Canadian oil sands are limitless.

Reality Films

But as to what happens next, I disagree with some of the film’s more gloomy pundits. I’m no gambler but would be willing to bet that God allows us to continue only so far on our haphazard course until we come up with better solutions. Technology isn’t necessarily the problem. We just need to develop better technologies, as many green companies already are (ask Neil Young if you don’t believe me).

I mean, where would we be without electricity? Just think of music. No Chuck Berry and “Johnny B. Goode.” No synthesizers or digital keyboards. No Close to the Edge or Fragile by Yes. Come on. Obviously this blending of art and technology was meant to be. True, those classic 70s albums warn us, as does 2012, to take stock of our situation and make a better world. But, again, I believe God knows what’s going on, and won’t let us slide too far without giving us the necessary light and practical conditions to make that change happen. In the worst case scenario, a lot of people might go insane, murder, die or commit suicide. But the whole human race won’t.

Apocalypse 2012 was probably also meant to be, a DVD that uses all sorts of high tech gadgets and natural resources to get its message across. But just because something is meant to be doesn’t mean that I agree with everything it says. To be fair, though, the second hour affected me more positively than the first. I could feel it working away on my opinions, shaking my proverbial cage, and compelling me to reflect.

And that’s exactly what this film sets out to do.

—MC

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,457 other followers