Sunday, January 30, 2011

Robocop II

And not the movie.

This is going to be my first attempt at a music review, so please excuse the lack of in depth analysis of each instrument and track.

Maine's own grindcore/power violence trio recently released their new full length on J. Randall's (of Isis and Agoraphobic Nosebleed fame) Grindcore Karaoke. This 24 minute release packs elements of power violence, grindcore, thrash, sludge, and noise into its 13 tracks. Combining their two earlier releases, plus a few new tracks, into this re-mixed release, Robocop II is not only an interesting album but a solid one at that. The intensity of the band really comes across on this release and that's why Robocop is the band I anticipate seeing the most when I'm home. From the droning, sludgy intro track to the hardcore and thrashy "Assassination Markets," Robocop definitely brings it. The album is well mixed, the elements of each genre stand out yet blend perfectly, and all the tracks feel like they fit--even the tracks consisting of just noise or manipulated samples. Overall this is a really fun release and is a must have for any fan of grindcore, feedback, grimy distortion, or blast beats.


You can download Robocop II for free here. You can get their older release for free here (Just click the blue 13.8MB link).

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pre-Code Awesomeness

I'm one of those losers that, for the most part, enjoys school. I always get to my film classes early to shoot the shit with the professors who are just as movie obsessed as myself. The professors in one of my classes always play YouTube videos of whatever they feel like before class to kill time.

I have a hard time with early Hollywood movies--anything up untill the 1960s or so. The stylization, the content, subject matter, the 60+ year cultural gap, something just causes a disconnect. One day, one of the professors showed a clip from Cecil B. DeMille's 1932 movie Sign of the Cross. Honestly, I don't know what this movie is really about nor do I really care. I could regurgitate what it says on IMDb or Wikipedia but if you're that curious you can check it out yourself. What I do know about this film is that it isn't pre-code but pre-strict enforcement of the Hays Code which American cinema is in/famously known for, takes place during the reign of Nero in Ancient Rome, and was re-cut, re-edited, and toned down to be more acceptable and related to World War II for a re-release in 1944.

The reason why I enjoyed the clip and felt the need to write about it here is that I'm always surprised when early American cinema deals with "taboo" topics. I guess I picture early American cinema as being overly sterile and having a stick up its collective ass--most likely because of the dominance of the Hays code during that time. But this clip is pure awesome--an early American attempt at shocking its audience with the decadence of Ancient Rome (which was somehow attributed to the fascist regimes of World War II in its later release). In this clip you'll see elephants crushing and mangling Christians, spiked gauntlet boxing matches (with blood!), crocodiles being released on a bound and helpless woman, and a lot more controversial scenes.  Not to ruin all the surprises, but keep your eyes peeled for a "little" segment involving a decapitation and impalement.


And on the second day, God said...

It's only day two of this blog and we've already made some changes. We just added another one of our friends as a contributor. JPG doesn't have the same exact tastes as the other two of us, but we do share some. He will bring new perspectives to the blog and provide a welcomed changed of theme and pace. Look for his reviews of shitty indie albums and other schlock in the weeks to come.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Movie Review: Diary of the Dead (2007)

This is a review I wrote for an English class my sophomore year of college.
Title:  Diary of the Dead
Year: 2007
Director:  George A. Romero

We find ourselves again in the world of George Romero, where it’s the zombie apocalypse all the time. This 2007 movie was written and directed by the master of horror himself and seemed like it could resurrect his career after Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead and his own Land of the Dead (2005). This movie is not a sequel to any of Romero’s earlier work, but a “rejigging,” as Romero calls it, of the original zombie myth started with his 1968 masterpiece Night of the Living Dead.

New to the “Dead” series is the documentary style of the movie. The actual movie that the viewer watches after they press play is The Death of Death, a documentary made by the characters that follow the events as they unfold. The movie starts with footage showing the outside a hospital as an ambulance unloads the victims of a fatal family hostage crisis. For some reason, the camera man is rolling as the news crew gets read to report. Suddenly, the believed corpses come back to life and attack the near by police, paramedics, and news crew. The voice over of Debra, one of the few survivors at the end of the film who ultimately compiles the documentary, explains that this was footage downloaded off the internet. The rest of the movie is comprised of footage shot by the characters themselves and more footage taken off the internet.

The film follows a group of film students as they try to make their way from the woods where they are making their own horror movie and first hear of the zombie attacks, to their individual homes, and ultimately to a mutual friends house where they can find safety. Along the way they face all of the challenges one would expect a group of survivors in a zombie apocalypse would, the nonbelievers, the moralists who equate killing the flesh-hungry undead to killing real people, broken fuel lines on their motor home/only hope for survival, the killing of zombiefied loved ones and friends and the emotional stress associated with it.

This no star cast could easily be confused with the living dead ambling around apocalyptic Pennsylvania. The dialogue is frail. The delivery rigor mortis ridden. The puns mortifying. The most believable lines are delivered by a deaf Amish man with a speech impediment who provides the survivors with temporary safety when the motor home breaks down. Unfortunately, Romero has moved on from the real life, goretastic special effects of Tom Savini to visually appalling CGI. However, the true zombie fan will find some satisfaction in the familiar Romero signatures. There are no running zombies. A strong, black male character comes to the rescue (à la Night of the Living Dead and the Dawn of the Dead). Romero makes a cameo as a police chief at a press conference seen on a TV. There is a scene reminiscent of Romero’s 1973 The Crazies as a law enforcement unit in yellow hazmat suits raid an apartment looking for infected people. The final scene, in which Deborah poses the bogus moral question of “Are we worth saving? You tell me,” in a voice over, echoes Tom Savini’s fantastic 1990 remake of The Night of the Living Dead as it displays a couple rednecks shooting at zombies tied to trees for entertainment.

After the atrocious role-reversing Land of the Dead and all of the terrible B-movies that are associated with the “Dead” series that only receive any attention due to name recognition (Flight of the Living Dead? Are you kidding me?), Romero really needed something to bring his franchise back to the forefront of the horror genre and separate it from the freeriders. Unfortunately for Romero’s career, this Diary contains its suicide note.

Review: The Informers (2008)


This is a review I wrote for an English class my sophomore year of college. After re-reading it, it's terribly obvious that it's more summary than review, but whatever.



Title: The Informers
Year: 2008
Director:  Gregor Jordan

[WARNING: Contains spoilers for the novel and movie]

Welcome to Bret Easton Ellis’ Los Angeles of the early 1980s, where greed is good, sex is easy, and youth is forever. This adaptation from Ellis’ 1994 novel of the same title was directed by Gregor Jordan with the screenplay written by Nicholas Jarecki and Ellis himself, keeping this movie more along the lines of the novel than with the other Ellis adaptations of American Psycho, The Rules of Attraction, and Less Than Zero.

But before I begin, I have a bone to pick with all of the other movie critics who have reviewed this movie. First premiering at the Sundance Film Festival on January 22, 2009, the movie instantly began receiving negative reviews, and that trend hasn’t stopped. On rottentomatoes.com, Sean Means of the Salt Lake Tribune writes, “Ellis doesn't create a single authentic moment or sympathetic character in this lurid pastiche of disconnected vignettes.” Majorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle writes, “Just because your characters are vacuous, less-than-zero types, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the tone and structure of your movie has to adopt the same conditions.” The rest of the reviews contain similar disdain. Now I pose a question. Have any of these reviewers actually read any of Bret Easton Ellis’ work? I doubt it. Having read almost all of his work, I understand what I call “the Bret Easton Ellis effect”. His writing offers no escape. You are thrown into the sex, the drugs, the parties, the debauchery along with the main characters and you take on their superficiality and their nihilistic levels of callousness. When I finish a novel by Ellis, I feel empty, bordering on depressed—and I love it, and it’s what makes Bret Easton Ellis fans come back for more. The Informers is the only film adaptation to successfully pull off the Bret Easton Ellis effect, to the dismay of the mainstream film critics. But my protective, inner fanboy digresses.

The Informers follows the stories of the main characters: Graham (Jon Foster), a late teens, early twenties kid living in the decadence of 1980s LA; Graham’s father, William Sloan (Billy Bob Thornton), a Hollywood movie executive who is cheating on his wife (Kim Basinger) with news anchor Cheryl Laine (Winona Ryder); Bryan Metro (Mel Raido), a burntout rockstar and lead singer of the group The Informers; Jack (Brad Renfro), a lower class working stiff with a presumably dark past; and Tim Price (Lou Taylor Pucci), one of Graham’s friends who is forced to go on a trip to Hawaii with his estranged father, Les Price (Chris Issak), to try and reconnect.

Graham is more or less the movies main character. He goes to the parties, does the drugs, sells the drugs, and has the sex. But in a scene later in the movie, while doing blow in his Porsche with his friend Martin (Austin Nichols) on top of a cliff overlooking LA at night, Graham, asking if there is any deeper meaning to the sex between his girlfriend Christie (Amber Heard) and Martin, shows signs of being fed up with the way his life is going and angrily declares “I need something more than this. I need someone to tell me what’s good and bad.” To which Martin mildly mocks Graham for having true feelings of love for his girlfriend Christie.

Jack, who works as the doorman at Christie’s apartment complex, has his life turned upside down when a long lost--and most likely for good reasons--friend Peter (Mickey Rourke) tells Jack he is coming to stay with him to avoid some trouble. Along with Peter comes Mary, a drug fed, sedated, undoubtedly underage girl who is Peter’s current love object. Peter, in an attempt to make some money, kidnaps a young child skateboarding down the sidewalk and plans to sell the child into a pedophile ring. Later on, Dirk, a character that appears in the book more than the movie, shows up at Jack’s house looking for Peter and to collect the “package”. Jack, not knowing where Peter is and not wanting to surrender the child to the Dirk, finally gets him to leave. Eventually Peter returns and Jack tells him about Dirk’s visit. Peter says they better leave before Dirk and company return because Jack doesn’t understand what they are capable of.

Most of these main stories are interwoven in good Ellis fashion. Graham’s friend Martin is not only having sex with Graham’s mother, but openly with Graham’s girlfriend Christie (Amber Heard). During a conversation between Jack and Graham, Jack says that his friend, referring to Peter, used to work for the company that Graham’s father owns. A movie that William is trying to get put into production is a movie that a producer is trying to get Bryan Metro to star in. In the book, as well as across all of his works as a whole, characters reoccur and the fact that there are so many stories happening at once, the reader is not able to entirely connect with the characters, something that the movie was able to truly capture. Sorry Means, sorry Baumgarten.

The end of the movie offers no resolution, a major complaint of the critics. But that’s how Ellis works. William and Laura arrive at a fundraiser to appear together one last time before they decide to split for good. William exits the car; Laura, having seen her husband’s love interest outside of the venue, closes the door of the car and drives off, leaving William alone, watching the car leave. We watch as a pale, gaunt Bryan Metro saunters down a hallway with an anguished look on his face, approaching a stage to play another show and continue his life of drugs, sex, and estrangement from his son. We watch as Tim walks away from his dad on a beach in Hawaii after telling him there is nothing he can do to change their relationship.

One of the greatest divergences from the novel happens as Peter and Jack scramble to leave Jack’s house. Peter pulls out a switchblade and heads towards the bathroom to where the gagged and bound child is being held. Jack stops him from killing the child and offers to kill the child himself after Peter explains that killing the child is a much more humane fate then letting Dirk find him. Peter heads to the van and Jack enters the bathroom, only to cut his own hand and cover himself with blood; in the novel, Jack kills the child and the scene is told in brutally graphic detail. As Jack, Peter, and Mary drive away, Jack looks into the rearview mirror to see the child run from the end of his driveway into the darkness.

In the last scene of the movie, Graham is woken up by a call from Nina Metro, Bryan Metro’s ex-wife and one of Martin’s many love interests. She tells Graham that it’s an emergency and that Christie, who moved in there with Martin once she started feeling sick, needs help. Graham arrives at Nina’s beach front house and walks out onto the beach to find a thin, pale, almost lifeless body, covered in bruises on the lying on the beach under an overcast sky. We now see that Christie’s copout complaints of “I don’t feel well” earlier in the movie the movie may have been legitimate; earlier in the movie, she brings up to Graham that she has the two weird bumps on her arm and foot. These ailments are highlighted by a news report discussing the relatively new phenomenon of HIV and AIDS heard in the background of a scene earlier in the film. Graham tries to convince her to leave and get help, to which she replies, “But I need more sun.” Graham utters the last line of the movie “There’s no more sun,” before getting up and walking out of frame, leaving Christie there to die.

Much to the dismay of mainstream critics, this movie ends how it should. Ellis offers little to no resolution in his novels and this movie does the same exact thing. It’s a shame that the mainstream needs a happy ending and some overt declaration of a positive message for a movie to be considered “good.” When I walked out of the theater after seeing this movie, I felt like part of me was lying on that beach with Christie.

Welcome!

Sleaze and Scream is the brainchild of two friends wanting to share their two cents on the entertainment world. As hinted at by the title, the posts on this blog won't be about your typical mainstream movies and music--at least for the most part. We both share a strong interest in horror, primarily Italian horror, exploitation, sleaze, B-movies, grindhouse, and Troma movies and metal, including but not limited to the genres of sludge, brutal death, slam, death, thrash, grindcore, crust, drone, doom, and post rock/metal. Although most of our posts will be related to the topics listed above, we won't limit ourselves to them.

On this blog we hope to provide our readers with entertaining and worthwhile reviews, random rantings and banter, and to expand the readers' knowledge of the things we, the writers, enjoy. Look forward to more posts and upgrades to the blog in the coming weeks.

-KB and NAR