Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Blood Beat review

Hunting for meaning in a film fill of abstract mind fuckery; you tend to take a lot of naps. It took me two naps to wade through the neon polarization effects of Blood Beat and I’m sure my mind is incapable of processing the entire film, without spinning out in the wild jungles of insanity. The best I can convey from the film are a mish mash of images and a slap dash of scenes that more or less evoke the same common feeling; confusion. Blood Beat is Insidious with a major head injury. It’s The Shining with the measles. I have to apologize as a reviewer; I can only approximate what Blood Beat is really about, I can’t give you an accurate portrayal of the movie. It’s like trying to describe a moving abstract picture. The best I can do is talk about some of the scenes in the film, how they boil into existence then fizz away half forgotten, almost like a bad LSD trip.

Blood Beat is a samurai ghost summoned via an accidental blood ritual; someone finds a samurai sword in their closet and accidentally cuts her finger on the blade and lo and behold a samurai ghost appears from the nether realms. It’s clear the ghost is a malevolent poltergeist of some sort because it stabs people throughout the movie like any true samurai ghost should, but it’s not really clear what the ghost wants. The psychic mother says it wants her children but it can’t have them. She says this over and over in the movie but it still doesn’t really explain squat. It spends a lot of time harassing one family but it’s clear it’s not confined to a house like a normal haunting; it can go through the woods and even travels to kill the neighbors next door for no apparent reason.

Let me paint this scene: a couple and their dog sit on a huge water bed. The man screams at his wife about “getting his orange juice”. I had to laugh because, why orange juice? In a normal movie he would have asked her to get him a beer, but Blood Beat just can’t give you anything straight, so we get a water bed and orange juice. The woman, wife, whatever goes to fetch his beloved orange juice from the kitchen and is cut to pieces by a ghostly samurai. Bet she did not see that coming. The samurai kills the man too after some bumping around. This strange MO is confusing to me, even for a ghost. I mean, it makes sense in a horror movie kind of logic to pad the run time with some killing, but why the neighbors? 

I have to back up a bit, this all may seem a bit confusing but all the exposition in the world won’t clear the fog. The movie begins in the woods, following a hunter tracking a deer. He brings it back to his girlfriend, who gets headaches and bad premonitions and doesn’t want to marry him. I only bring this up because they seem to make a big deal out of the fact the couple won’t get married because the psychic woman had a bad prior marriage, but I honestly can’t recall this ever being brought up again in the film. Like so many other things it seems important at the moment but is lost by the time the next scene rolls around. It’s around Christmas (another fact that doesn’t amount to much, it kind of is just there) and her kids are coming home for the holidays. Because the mother is so psychic and stuff she gets a bad vibe from her son’s new girlfriend Sarah, and it’s pretty dead on because she is the one to accidentally summon the samurai ghost warrior. She also uses her psychic abilities to peep in on her son while he is having sex with Sarah, which was actually pretty creepy. 

The mother in this movie seems to be the only one who knows what is going on, having knowledge of the world beyond our own, however she really doesn’t say much of actual use. At one point the rest of the cast is shaking her, yelling at her, pleading with her to tell them what is happening, and she says something to the effect of “it’s him, he wants the children but can’t have them” and they all shake their heads like they understand but I was absolutely lost. The movie spends a lot of time with the psychic mom (Jenny) and she is kind of a lump on a log. She paints big ugly brown abstract pictures and kind of just mosses around the house in her shawl all day making cryptic statements about life. 

Deer hunting seems to have a major part in this movie, but like everything else it doesn’t seem to gel with the samurai ghost plot or really anything else going on. A man says “check out my nice guns” and he really doesn’t mean his arms, he means his rifles. There’s a deer gutting scene and many references to the joy of hunting, but it doesn’t seem to make any thematic sense of tie-in with other elements of what was happening. Maybe they were comparing the deer to the people, and the ghost samurai was hunting people for trophy, but that really wasn’t spelled out. He never takes trophies from the dead victims. It is much like the fact that this takes place during the Christmas holiday season; it’s just kind of there.

The movie wraps up with a big psychic showdown of flashing lights and neon effects that would probably impress someone from some indigenous tribe in the jungle that has never seen a movie. It doesn’t do much for anyone else. At one point the psychic mom holds her hands out to her sides, they glow white, the room flashes blue and black for a solid minute of running time to really drive home the effect, but it’s unclear what she’s actually doing. Is she fighting the samurai ghost on some psychic plane of existence? Is she weaving a spell? Is she constipated? It’s really not clear, and I’m not sure I want to answer these questions. That’s the beauty of Blood Beat; you don’t quite understand what is going on but it’s so cheesy and funny and unique you just can’t stop watching.  Honestly, it may have something to do with the samurai ghost induced orgasms.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Savage Water

The theme music welcomes us to the world of white water rapids through gentle country song.  It’s folksy and down to earth cadence sets the tone for the rest of the movie.  That tone is telling me that meandering is acceptable and encouraged.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Let the entertainment wash over you in gentle caressing waves and let the movie whisk you away on an adventure through the American heartland; the Grand Canyon.  It’s like the pig-tailed girl in the movie said; it’s named Grand for a reason.  Bask in its natural glory.  The savage water ripples through the state at a furious pace, but unlike its namesake the movie Savage Water moves when it damn well pleases.  It’s in no rush and neither should you be.   

There are a lot of characters in this movie, but the more the merrier right?  Some have very few lines and kind of look like other people in the crew, but those crazy coincidences happen in real life, and Savage Water seems to pride itself on true grit and authenticity.  Why else would it spend so much time going over real life safety instructions for rafters?  There are many lines that are just purely conversational and irrelevant to the main thrust of the plot, but its all cream cheese because it’s scenery chewing baby, and remember we ain’t in no rush.  I ended up thinking of characters as bearded man #2, or pig tail girl, or German tourist guy.  We spend a lot of time getting cozy with these people, but it feels very natural and informal.  I don’t care about their names but their faces are etched into my heart.  Awwww. 

About an hour in you will begin to ask yourself if this is a horror movie or some breezy recollection of a fun summer trip.  Maybe it’s both, but it’s definitely more than that.  Savage Water is life.  Life flows at different speeds; there are sags and swells.  Art imitates life, and Savage Water does so beautifully.  You won’t give a shit that there isn’t a hint of terror or bloodshed forty plus minutes in because you are just taking that lazy raft down the river; living life. 

There is one black man in the movie.  You know because the black guy says “I’m the first black man on this trip.”  I’m glad he said he was black because he looked like a white guy with an afro to me, but who am I to argue?  In true horror movie fashion the poor guy is the first to go, but if all the warning signs for his early departure weren’t enough, they make him a drug nut as well, completely sealing his fate.  His death is a little confusing despite initial appearances.  It looks like he is pushed off a rock pile, then moments later he lands in water, bruised and cut up from something, but totally dead.  Were the cuts from the rocks?  Did he tumble into the water?  It doesn’t seem to make a difference, when the rest of the crew find out he was snorting coke....well it had to be a drug related death.  Good riddance.

What’s more shocking than any of the actual deaths is the way the rafters react to the news.  It’s kind of a casual response, like they were being told the pizza would be late for dinner or they need to pick up more dog food on the way home from work.  They decide it best to continue with their trip and just tell the authorities when they get back.  Can’t let one black druggie ruin your fun can we?  They decide to pack the body in cold sand and pick it up later if anybody even bothers to remember.  There are some random signs of stress later as the body-count mounts, but for the most part it is very subdued.  Perhaps the callous way they continue their trip speaks to one of the larger themes of the movie that is touched upon later; the worthlessness and devalue of a life cut short by tragedy.

The mischievous child of the group gets bit by a rattlesnake placed in his sleeping bag by an unseen suspect.  His father holds him tight and expresses all his hopes and dreams of raising his son to be a good person, of connecting with him on this trip, but it is all for naught.  It almost seems as if the movie forgets about the kid after this scene, but maybe I'm not remembering things right.  I can only assume he succumbed to the rattlesnake bite, but like so many other things in this movie as it is with life itself, the waters are muddy.  There is only one thing that’s clear…the waters can be savage.     
Later a blonde bombshell is stabbed in the neck and the crew reacts immediately.   This was obvious foul play and that chick was the hottest one on the trip; so one of the boat skippers volunteers to go for help and medicine.  After posing shirtless on the lush green countryside in short shorts he tries to scale a mountain in his path but tragically falls to his death.  At this point we are up to three movie deaths and not one is the fault of water.  Come to think of it, nobody ever dies by drowning or anything water related.

Here we begin to get to the crux of the film, right down the white foamy center of the Savage Water.  The rafters are led by a river guide named Dave Savage.  Dave Savage sees the skipper fall to his death, which triggers past memories of Dave’s beloved falling to her fate sometime in his past.  Dave goes into a crazy diatribe about how life doesn’t matter when it all boils down to falling off a mountain.   Wait a minute, the guy’s name is “Savage”, and his past is mired in tragedy?  Gongs should be going off in long time slasher fan’s ears.
Dave’s view that life is essentially a worthless and pointless exercise when it can be robbed at any point seems to be the crux of the movie and strange motivation for killing.  I thought he was killing the rafters because they were annoying assholes, but I was way off the mark.  Perhaps the amount of frivolous dialogue, the large cast, and random encounters throughout the movie has more purpose than burning running time in the film.  Maybe because so many elements of the movie never added up to anything that is precisely what the film makers were trying to highlight; life is worthless, it doesn’t add up to anything.  Perhaps I am giving the film makers too much credit here, but that’s the meaning I prefer to extrapolate from this forgotten gem.  That and “your life vest is supposed to be uncomfortable.”

The deaths continue, but nobody amongst the rafters puts together the pieces, they end up blaming the worldly doctor character because he’s “weird”.  I guess I can't blame them , the guy talks about toying with insanity and picks flowers.  KILL HIM!  The rafters pull together a lynch mob with disturbing ease for a modern society, but Dave promptly stops them.  You would think he would want them to go ahead and blame someone else for the killing absolving him of any suspicion, but it isn’t clear if he realizes he is the killer.  Like the savage waters of the Mississippi the outlook is murky.  Other people watching the movie with me were even convinced the doctor was the killer despite all the inner turmoil of Dave Savage; so you know Savage Waters casts a strange spell over its audience (i.e. boredom and confusion).  Even at the end when Dave cuts the rope of a climber, letting him fall to his death, you still can’t be sure he killed the others on the trip or if the even was isolated.  Given the amount of information the audience receives you really can’t plant your flag anywhere.  The savage water will tumble you around so much you can’t be sure of which way is up anymore.  Just go with the flow.   Don’t exhaust yourself swimming against the current; accept savage water as it is and it will accept you.

I’ve heard nasty rumors that Savage Water was a big floating piece of dog shit, but I disagree.  Savage Waters charmed the life vest off me, and it will roll you over too, but you have to watch it the right way, with zero expectations.  You can’t even expect to be entertained.  You can’t expect coherency.  It’s almost like you’ve got to pretend the police sent you this family vacation video and you have to watch it and report in some official capacity about its contents.  It might not make sense at the moment but the police chief expects results so better pay attention, and you don’t want to disappoint the chief.  For the first rough hour of the film I had hardly expected it to ever become a horror movie, or slasher yarn or anything in between.  I was just content to be taken away with these people on this white waters rafting trip, to be swept away in their cozy little crew.  Maybe if Savage Water had a fault is that it has too much charm and wears its heart on its sleeve.  Yeah…that’s it.  Even at the end I didn’t feel like Dave deserved any retribution or punishment.  The guy is just too nice for that.  Everybody has “off” days.  
There’s so much more I want to say about this movie, but it pretty much boils down to Savage Water being the turbulent and unpredictable waters of destiny, and that destiny can be a cruel bitch, like falling off a mountain.  Its people swimming, rolling in mud, girls take off their shirt; one man says “hubba, hubba”, and things carry on this way for a while and your screen looks like diarrhea slop with people swimming in it for a full minute.  That’s Savage Water.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

More Mondo Halloween...

This one is from the 35th Halloween Anniversary convention....beautiful.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Nightmare on Elm Street toaster

House of Mysterious Secrets - NOES toaster for sale
Too stinking cool.  I want some Freddy French toast for breakfast stat!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hope you cretins had a HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Happy Halloween from Cropsy's Cryptkeeper!