BLAINE’S TOP 15 OF 2015

Holy Shit!  Another year has come and gone and now its time to see which films rose above the rest.  This year’s list includes all of the blood, guts and nudity that you would expect. But don’t worry, I included a few “classier” flicks for all you college grads out there. 

15.  The Duke of Burgundy (Directed by Peter Strickland)

A cold and confounding movie about a woman obsessed with moths who tests the limits of her relationship with her lover.  An exercise in obsession and repetition, that is worth enduring.

 

 

14. Tantrum (Directed by James Bell)

There are a lot of words that can be used to describe Mr Bell’s most recent film, but there is one that I keep using: indescribable. Not narrowly fitting into any real genre of horror or scene. It blurs the line between avant garde film experiment and performance art in a masterful way.

13. Girlhood (Directed by Céline Sciamma)

On top of covering the usual coming of age drama, there is a naturalness that feels so real and universal. From the boring technical side it is nearly perfect. Camerawork  is impeccable and its pace is perfectly meandering. The film may suffer from an unfortunate title, but hopefully people will see it without the looming Boyhood comparison.

12. Death-Scort Service (Directed by Sean Donohue)

A fun throwback to blood, guts and boobs.  The sleaziest film of 2015 and should not be missed.

 

 

 

 

 

11. Circus Of The Dead (Directed by Billy Pon)

Great sense of direction and great acting by Bill Oberst Jr and company. Also, some of the most enjoyable gore gags in years. When it finally gets a release, it is worth a look.

 

 

10. R100 (Directed by Hitoshi Matsumoto)

Like a blend of Quentin Dupieux and Sion Sono, with a little Bunuel on the side. I can’t decide if anything or everything matters (in this film) but there is something so unique and appealing about this film that really sticks with you.

 

9. Headless (Directed by Arthur Cullipher)

Found was one of my favorite movies of last year and this “lost slasher” is a excellent companion piece.  Great effects, fun acting and some of the nastiest kills in the history of cinema.

 

 

 

8. Der Samurai (Directed by Till Kleinert)

A spectacularly violent and mysterious film that feels both existential and playful throughout its run time. This is the kind of movie that requires multiple viewings to truly grasp.

 

7. Flowers (Directed by Phil Stevens)

This is the kind of film that is missing from underground horror lately. A grotesque, but beautifully shot film that mutely tells the story of 6 women and their murderer.

 

 

 

6. Androgynym (Directed by Nick Iway)

 This is a brave movie that does not gloss over things like addiction, loss and self identity.  In fact, it barrels itself directly at it.  There are scenes of extreme and shocking violence, but I hope they do not overshadow the beautiful experience that is Androgynym

5. The Interior (Directed by Trevor Juras)

There is very little when it comes to plot or story and instead focuses on the existential horror of being a young man who may not live long enough to figure out what he wants in life. That is much scarier to me than monsters or masked killers and there is no place better to experience this than deep inside of nature.

 

 

4. Turbo Kid (Directed by François Simard, Anouk Whissell)

In the year 1997…

This is the movie that captures nostalgia without coming off as pandering.

 

 

3. Spring (Directed by Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson)

A beautifully shot genre bending project from the guys who brought us Resolution.

 

 

 

 

 

2. Bone Tomahawk (Directed by S. Craig Zahler)

If there was any justice in this world this film would sweep the Oscars. From best screenplay to best supporting actor, this film would win it all. This first time effort is everything that a fan of cinema could ask for.

 

 

 

 

 

1. The Tribe (Directed by Miroslav Slaboshpitsky)

“Don’t tell me, show me!” That is my battle cry when watching movies and this film couldn’t tell you if it wanted to. If you do not already know, this movie is told entirely through Ukrainian sign language with no subtitles or voiceover.  It is an unsettling, unique experience that cannot be compared to anything else.  A great example of how a film can transcend genre and language to stands on its own.

Some honorable mentions: Metalhead, The World Of Kanako, Mad Max: Fury Road and Under The Rainbow

Thanks for checking out my list!  Now let us know some of your picks in the comments below!

Blaine McLaren

Lead Writer for Mondo McLaren

Franklin: A Symphony Of Pain (2015)

My favorite thing about being a genre fan is that there is never a shortage of strange, interesting movies to check out.  Every few months I stumble on an oddity filled to the brim with bizarre, original material that reinvigorates my interest and sends me back to the web to find that next hidden gem.  This current gem that I am discussing is this year’s Franklin: A Symphony Of Pain.  It is a psychedelic freakout of faith, sex, torture and self-realization that is unlike anything that you have ever experienced.  The director (Jeremy Westrate) takes the “kitchen sink” approach to storytelling and packs more ideas into this film than a corporate think tank.  In case I am not being clear, this is an ambitious and absolutely batshit crazy flick that needs to be seen to be believed.

This won’t be easy, but I am going to attempt to explain the basic story.  The titular Franklin spends a day out in nature and is quickly abducted by masked occultists who torture and exploit our protagonists until he submits to his pain.  After waking in a new location, he is then assaulted by foul-mouthed 60’s “street toughs” who then beat the breaks off of him again.  These run-ins repeat to differing effect and are inter-cut with hellish vignettes and dialogue with a less than comforting priest.

Each scene reveals a little hint of the developing story and is accompanied by a maddening score of both classical and pop-inspired music.  Colors shift, as well as perspectives and the camera never sits in any kind of static state.  “Break neck” is how I would describe its pace.  With this kind of experimental filmmaking, not everything works.  There are some scenes that may feel a little indulgent, but with a film like this, it is expected.  Actors can be middling to cartoonish, but good writing and spot on camera work makes up for the performer’s shortcomings.  There is very little to compare this film to and that (in itself) is a great reason I recommend this movie.  If you like acid trip cinematography mixed with absurd levels of violence, then this is the flick for you.  Franklin: A Symphony Of Pain is currently available on DVD and Vimeo.

4/5 STARS

American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire (2015)

Being a Southerner, I am always excited to see a “killer hillbilly”/”psychos in the woods” film that does not take place in the American South.  Every region has its “rednecks” and I always enjoy seeing what other areas have to offer in this genre.  If this film is any indication, I would be weary to go into the woods of New Hampshire.  It appears to be full of murderers, monsters and rapists.  A terrifying combination that plays out pretty well in American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire.

Director, Flood Reed, has assembled a very sadistic and playful adventure that can be simultaneously exciting and frustrating.  The acting is incredible, the direction is imaginative, but there are a few things that really hold the American Backwoods from being one of the best low budget horror flicks of the year.  But, before going into the details lets talk about the story.

The movie takes place in 1994 New Hampshire and follows a group of close friends that are on a road trip to find a local rite of passage.  By “rite of passage”, I mean a legendary strip club.  The trip turns out to be an incredibly deadly one.  These guys are going to have to survive multiple groups of murderous humans, as well as something else that lurks in the woods

American Backwoods offers more than just blood and guts, Mr. Reed knows how to develop likeable/despicable characters that you cannot help rooting for.  The actors all nail their parts and feel like real people, rather than just filling an archetype that is ultimately just fodder for gore.  For as much praise that I have for this film, there are still a few things that did not work for me.  Most notably, the choice of a soundtrack over a score.  The music can be incredibly distracting at times and would yank me out of the movie, especially the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal.  Also, Flood Reed makes some creative flourishes that work well at times, but can also muddle the story and pace.  These moments of flashbacks and distortion sometime offer insight, but (more times than not) just distract you from what is happening in the scene.  Overall I really enjoyed this movie and will go out of my way to see more films from this director.  He is ambitious and I praise him for the chances that he is willing to take, even when they don’t work, I cannot help but admire him for trying.  American Backwoods: Slew Hampshire is currently available on DVD and VOD.

3.5/5 STARS

 

Knock Knock (2015)

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to give a 15 year old boy 6 million dollars and force them to remake a thriller from the 1970s?  If so, you should be really excited to find out that you will no longer have to imagine what the outcome would be.  This 100 minute trainwreck is Eli Roth’s Knock Knock and it is bad in (almost) every way.  

I do want to say this before continuing my rant; I like Eli Roth.  He has made some good films and I do think that he is a genuine fan and good for modern horror.  That said, this shitty flick just shouldn’t exist.  It is very hard to imagine anyone reading this script and saying “this needs to be made and people will dig it”.  Okay, I should probably tell you what this movie is about.

For some reason, Keanu Reeves is a family man and has to work while his wife and kids are on vacation.  The first night that he is home alone, two young vixens arrive at his doorstep with some bullshit reason to use his phone.  Not to anyone’s surprise, he is seduced and awakes to the girls still in his home.  They terrorize him and blah, blah, blah…

I apologize for the “blah, blah, blah”, but come on Eli Roth.  This is the best you could do?  Why did you think that Keanu Reeves could carry this movie or deliver those terrible lines?  Every line that is said is cringe worthy and sounds nothing like how anyone actually speaks.  Listening to the antagonists call everything “retarded” and “gay” was lazy and seemed to serve no purpose.  The one good thing about this film is that it is shot well.  Roth still knows how to shot a film well and give a slick presentation, too bad that is the only thing of value in this film.  Knock Knock is currently available on DVD and VOD.

1/5 STARS

DEAD BEAT (2015 Short Film)

Luke Ramer and his team at West 2nd Productions have been busy as hell this year.  They have cranked out two feature films, one anthology segment and one high concept short.  This review is for the latter and (in my humble opinion) is his most accomplished to date.  It is very apparent that these films are made on shoestring budgets, but still manages to convey a very cinematic feel.  There are only a few instances where the budget shows is only really shows when it comes to the sound in a few scenes.  These few aurel shortcomings are easily dismissed, especially when you factor in the camerawork and acting on display.  The effects are brief, but in its painful climax I guarantee you will feel every bit of pain displayed on screen.

The story is very simple, but never feels cliche.  A guitar toting scumbag meets a young lady, sleeps with her and gets her pregnant.  From this point, we find out that already has a child that he rarely sees and quickly gets treated to a dose of his own medicine.

As I said before, nothing feels cheap in this film and I am happy to be able to watch a filmmaker grow and improve.  The story is quick and never lets itself get bogged down by boring, pointless chit-chat.  The director understands that movies are a visual medium and uses what he has to its maximum effect.  What we get is a brisk, squirm inducing ride of come-uppance that any decent person can root for.  Keep an eye out for this up and coming filmmaker and check out some of his earlier work if you like what you see.  Dead Beat is currently available for free on YOUTUBE.  Please click the link below to watch it in its entirety.

4.5/5 STARS

The World Of Kanako (2015)

 

The good folks at Drafthouse Films seem to have an eye for interesting foreign and domestic films.  Last year I fell in love with multiple titles (Nothing Bad Can Happen and Why Don’t You Play In Hell) and this year is no different. The World Of Kanako is a brutal, yet stylish tale of revenge that does not follow any paint by numbers structure.  Violence is at the epicenter of the film and everyone suffers throughout its 118 minute runtime.  Blood sprays, people are terrorized and no one escapes unscathed.  As violent as it is, this film is also very playful and sprinkles in quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor that can be a relief, but (at times) can also kill the pace of the movie.

The film follows an ex-detective by the name Akikuzu who is investigating the disappearance of his daughter, the titular Kanako.  As he digs deeper and deeper into her private life he uncovers a story of brutality, drugs and sex that only feeds into the rage of our wayward hero.   From this point we embark on a tour de force of murder and mayhem.  As Akikuzu descends further into her private life, he loses more and more of his humanity until he no longer wants to save his daughter…but to kill Kanako himself.

The World of Kanako is a grim flick that relies heavily on its style.  The truth is, without the style and camerawork it would be exhausting to watch this kind of intense abuse and hate.  Every twist and turn is darker than the last and it walks the line of absurdity that could fall apart at any moment.  The greatest downfall of the film are these drastic shifts in tone.  One moment a man is beating his wife and the next he is doing a slapstick routine.  In the end, it really doesn’t matter.  The filmmaker is confident in his craft and tricks its viewer to accept the strangest of explanations and scenarios.  But lets be honest, isn’t this why we love the extreme films of Japan in the first place?  The World Of Kanako is currently available on all VOD platforms.

3.5/5 STARS

 

DEATH-SCORT SERVICE (2015)

 

I love the way that my 2015 is turning out!  Over the past few weeks I have stumbled across some great little, low budget titles.  Last week it was Androgynym (read below for the full review) and this week it is the sleaziest movie of the year, Death-Scort Service.  This is a fun, mean spirited gorefest that displays the talents of both Sleaze Box and Gatorblade films.  This unholy union works well together and the results are a lot of fun to watch.  The kills are gross and exciting, but the true star of this film is Krystal “Pixie” Adams.  Once again, she steals the show and brings a charisma to her role that very few actors can in this level of film.  I single her out, but this (mostly) female cast is all pretty spectacular. Each role is played well and these lovely ladies seem to be having fun with the parts that they are given.  The story is pretty minimal, but does keep enough focus to make sense in the end.

 

We start with a house full of “working girls”, showering and discussing their recent interactions with clients.  After this brief introduction, (director) Sean Donohue and Co. cut to the chase and go straight to the stalk-kill sequences.  The killer is first revealed from a typical POV style, revealing only the giallo-esque black gloves.  The murders pile up quickly and we find that there is a reason this killer is targeting this group of beautiful young prostitutes…revenge.

I know that I keep using the word “fun”, but I just can’t think of a more appropriate adjective.  Death-Scort Service knows what type of movie it is and revels in it throughout the film’s 79 minute runtime.  Besides the starring roles, we get great cameos from some familiar faces (Bob Glazier, Joel D Wynkoop and Evan Stone) that all add to the insanity.  There are a few small things that I feel would have helped the film reach its full potential.  I think that a little more time spent introducing the victims would have added more weight and clarity to the story.  I get that this movie is fast-paced, but a little more info on these gals would have gone a long way.  All in all, if you have enjoyed other films from Sleaze Box then you will definitely dig this nudity filled, gore soaked throwback to Slashers and Madmen.  Death-Scort Service is currently available on DVD.

3.75/5 STARS