Friday, September 24, 2010

Playing Ketch-up #1 (Get Low, Le Amiche, Tokyo Godfathers, The Other Guys)

And now kids it's time to play Ketchup... like erm, catch-up.  Ketchup... Catsup... Ketchup... Catsup.  Are you here to help me with my ketchup problem?  (Simpsons reference)

These are basically just a bunch of small reviews for movies that I saw either recently or a while back (not too far back, but just enough that it matters) that I want to cover here, mostly so I don't forget about them in time.


This dark-but-glad tale of an old, old man, Felix Bush (played by an old, old Robert Duvall) is a little too heartwarming when it should be really scathing, but such is its story about the quiet redemption wanted near the end.  Basically a hermit, Duvall's character is a guy living in a self-made cabin over forty years and something of a kind of dark legend in a small town in the South (at least I think it's the South, whereabout Tennessee I think).  He knows he's near the end, and he wants to prepare the funeral - rather, a funeral party.  Money is no object, as long as a it can be pulled off by a Chicagoan funeral director played by a usually-perfect-deadpan Bill Murray (he has lines like "I sold 26 of the ugliest cars in the middle of December with the wind blowing so far up my ass I was farting snowflakes into July"), and his assistant (a grown-up Lucas Black).  Meanwhile, Felix tries to reconcile with an old friend of his, Mattie (Sissy Spacek), and a dark secret from the past.

If you know how these movies go, you can guess when the secret is revealed... aw shucks, I'll say it, it's in the big final speech.  The film works like that, giving us some very fine actors in some fine period clothes and fine production design, though only Duvall, and to a lesser extent Murray and Spacek, have full-formed people to work with.  Felix does reveal himself to be more than craggily hermit, which is all well and good.  It's only with the final climactic speech that the film really gets redeemed.  There isn't much of a connection, er, catharsis, about Felix's relationship (or lack thereof) with the town itself, and only a little bit with a black preacher (very capable veteran character actor Bill Cobbs).  It feels like most of the characters- Black's mostly- are there to serve whatever is going on with the lead figure, who, as played in his usual emotional tact and perfect way of saying every line like it matters life-or-death by Duvall.

 It's a pleasant film, which is odd to note considering that it's about a man nearing the end of his days with a dark past unearthed and sins reopened (the opening shot, which is quite extraordinary with a house engulfed in flames and a figure running away from the house after jumping off the roof, is a key to this), but could have been more than just 'good' if it had more concern for its large ensemble.  As a showcase for Duvall and Murray and Spacek it's worth recommending.  As a really deep tale of loss and woe and death, there have been better.

2) LE AMICHE (The Girlfriends)

This is a little-seen 1955 film by Michelangelo Antonioni, shot before he really got into the sort of directorial wonderments of L'Avventura and The Eclipse in the 1960's.  In fact one has to have seen several of his films, if not an outright fan of his work, to appreciate that it's one of his films.  It's really a melodrama that is given a one-up from its soap-opera tendencies in its story by Antonioni's fluid camera style and the performances.  There are little moments- again if you know his work a little bit- where you can see the inklings of what would come in the prime of his career as an art-house theater master.  But if you're a newcomer to his work it works just as well, if not better, because of how it is told without pretense.

Clelia (Eleonora Rossi Drago) is set to run a fashion salon.  She becomes apart of a group of fairly well-off late-20, early-30-something women after one of the girls, Rosetta (Madeline Fischer) overdoses on pills.  She becomes close to them, or close as she would want to be, and sees how close-knit they are - and, as girlfriends can tend to be, occassionally vicious in verbal ways, such as a scene on a beach that is shaky at best and volatile at worst - and also their romantic relationships.  One of them is an affable architect, Cesare, who becomes closer to Momina (the older one of the group), and Clelia becomes attracted to Carlo, Cesare's assistant, which brings up some class issues as he's not, shall we say, as "well-off" as everybody else.  Meanwhile, Rosetta tries to bring back some normalcy or just stability to her situation, but she falls for Lorenzo, a painter, who is already romantically involved with Nene, another of the girlfriends.

Their confrontation about the Lorenzo situation, between Nene and Rosetta, with Nene mostly talking, is one of the more startling things about the film.  Again, a lot of this could be construed as soap-opera stuff: she sleeps with him, he sleeps with her, she's jealous of her, she's spiteful of her, so on and so on.  But that one scene, where Nene tells Rosetta off, is powerful because it's not as over the top as one might expect.  It comes at a point in the film where there has already been some drama (again, the very wonderful beach scene, with its slight, subtle nod to the scenes at the rocky coast in L'Avventura), and it's a scene that gains its power from how simply Nene speaks about the affair and how she feels about it.  It's moments like that, or when Rosetta walks with her lover on a street and they talk, that make it so worthwhile as drama.  Antonioni casts the group very well, which helps, especially for Rosetta, who is played by Fischer as a fragile person but not so weak as to always be pushed around.  And the male actors are surprising in their sensitivity to their roles.

It's is one of the director's finer films, and a good introduction to his work if not by way of the sort of existential malaise of a La Notte or Red Desert then to the underrated attention to characters and emotions Antonioni can have when he's most focused, and in classic black and white no less shot by the great Gianni Di Venanzo.  It's like Lifetime for mature people, and lovers of 1950's-set Italian cinema (or, to put it another way, like a "chick-flick" version of Fellini's I Vittelloni).


In continuing my trip into the late Satoshi Kon's all-too-small body of work (four feature films as director and one television series that is MUCH too hard to track down), I now come across this film, 2003's Tokyo Godfathers, which I unfortunately missed when it was first released and was actually the first time I had heard of the director.  I was happy to finally come across a copy and pop it in... only to find that it was not at all what I was expecting from the director of such mind-benders as Perfect Blue and Paprika.  This is both good and not-so-good.  It's certainly not a bad film, nor one that is distasteful.  It's a sentimental piece of pap that has the ambition to the Japanese anime answer to It's a Wonderful Life: a Christmas story that is not necessarily all about Christmas that has supernatural (or "miracle") overtones, and goes sometimes into dark places.

The short of it: three homeless people, one a bearded guy with a family that he left behind, a transvestite who insists on being called a woman's name and is so flamboyant as to make Harvey Fierstein jealous, and a young runaway girl whose father is a cop.  They come across a baby abandoned in a dump where they dwell at night, and decide to take it to the police... well, not unanimously anyway, the transvestite wants to hold on to it and mother it.  But they come across some hijinks and problems along the way, including the woman who comes back to find the baby again.  I could go on about the plot, but it should only be the short of it not so that I'll reveal anything so surprising, but there is TOO much to try and reveal in a plot synopsis.  Like many anime films and series I can think of (on the action-side Dragonball Z and on the more adult side Princess Mononoke), the story can get complicated, if not impossible to follow.  In this case though it's a holiday family film (yes, family film, despite its dark corridors its meant for ma and pa and the kids sitting around the fire), and in the last fifteen minutes or so complications, coincidences and/or contrivances get piled on, leading up to a big chase scene up a building.

This would all be fine if the film itself didn't become so sentimental.  It's hard to take that in Hollywood movies, but with Kon, and he has the best intentions believe me, it becomes a tale so squishy that you can feel it slipping from your fingers.  It is pap, but not the kind of enjoyable pap that the original John Ford entertainer  3 Godfathers was back in 1948 (same premise, three men and a baby, but with the Duke in one of his best performances, but I digress it's good).  Here the characters end up being more of service to Kon's 'Wonderful Life' tale, yet this does come after some time developing them.  We get back-story, and later some contradiction to the back-story, and some visual aids such as a flashback to the transvestite's story as a singer who got in to a big fight with a heckler.

Sure, the film has beautiful animation.  Kon is one of the forerunners of Miyazaki as one of the greats in his time of modern anime in Japan, changing the game and surprising at many turns.  At the least Tokyo Godfathers is pretty to look at, a kind of urban fairy tale with lots of snow and harder-edged buildings and grit, with some blasts of big humor and some deserved heart.  If only the story didn't sink into its sappy moments so much - though for some this will be just the thing that will take them in, and I can't blame them.  Perhaps it's the Grinch in me.


This one I was relatively late to see, as well as review, and it's already on its way out of theaters.  To be sure, it's a Hollywood summer blockbuster action-comedy, so the only places it was playing last week were a few scattered theaters in New York City, which is where I saw it for a friend's birthday.  I was skeptical, hence not rushing out to see the film right away, as I was turned off ultimately by Step Brothers, the last big Will Ferrell comedy shepherded by usual director Adam McKay.  It had laughs but disappointed in ways that weren't there in Anchorman and Talladega Nights.  It just fell... flat in the juvenile humor department, almost in spite of the comic timing of Ferrell and John C. Reilly, which is always there.

So pleasant a relief, if not surprise, it was that The Other Guys turned out to be funny.  How funny it is, or how funny it will be for you, will depend on how much you can take of Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as on-screen cops.  But for my money it succeeded where Kevin Smith's Cop Out slipped; it takes on the conventions and stereotypes of the buddy-cop action-comedy movie, and does it a service by having funny lines, funny sequences, and (somewhat surprising) good action.  I hesitate to discuss the plot because it is the thing that is least effective, perhaps intentionally so.  All I can really report, or would want to, is that Steve Coogan plays a sort of shady Wall Street dealer who makes a bad deal, and owes some bad dudes (Ray Stevenson for example), and there's a series of diamond heists that are linked to his office.

So who to get on the case?  Why scene-stealers Samuel L. Jackson and Dwayne Johnson of course, the hot-shot cops who basically are the guys who one would usually see paired up in these movies.  But they meet a rather unfortunate fate (I cannot describe it here, but it is one of the gut-busting moments of the year in terms of sudden, outrageous hilarity).  So, who could take over?  No one, really, except maybe Terry Hoitz (Wahlberg), a rather angry guy who got pulled off his usual detective work for accidentally shooting Derek Jeter (a fact he is painfully reminded of throughout the film), and, much less-so in terms of ambition, Allen Gamble (Ferrell), who works as an accountant for the cops.  How they get put together, or how they go about the cases, is only somewhat relevant.  The story takes some twists and turns but if you've seen one of these kinds of action-comedy cop movies you've seen them all.

The Devil's in the Details, and it's in this that Ferrell and McKay get it right.  True, some of the humor is pretty goddamn stupid, mostly with some of the physical gags like "Good Cop Bad Cop" that becomes "Bad Cop Bad Cop."  Working much better here is Ferrell, who dials it down a little from his usual man-child roles and plays an adult (!) whose running gag is that he is married to and keeps getting hit on by insanely hot women.  That is to Terry, Allen just sees his wife (Eva Mendes, very smoking hot) as "cute".  There's also a side-track to Allen's time before being a cop, when he was a don't-call-me-a-pimp-but-I'm-a-pimp days in college, nicknamed "Gator" and with a mouth full of gold teeth.

It's inspired feats and some really punchy dialog that keep things afloat, and that the film works this time- more-so than less-so- with the improvisational skills that Ferrell and surprisingly Wahlberg have on display.  They make a good team, and other supporting players like Coogan and Michael Keaton do their parts as well (Keaton especially as a lieutenant-cum-Bed/Bath/Beyond manager has a riotous running gag of saying lines from TLC songs without realizing their origins).

Lots of stupid fun to be had, and action that can be good on its own- i.e. scored to "Icky Thump" is a spectacular parody of a gun battle- or serving the comedy.  I laughed, and I know that if I saw The Other Guys again I would laugh again, and maybe just as hard in the parts I look forward to.  Sometimes, despite only a passable plot and a few cardboard characters, that's enough.

Movie Blurb: Mary Harron's American Psycho (2000)

"Inside... inside..."
"But inside doesn't matter"

That second line is spoken by Patrick Bateman's narration near the end of the film American Psycho, adapted from the novel by Brett Easton Ellis.  It brings to a fine point what much of the subject matter has been leading to: when you fully become a conformist in a close-knit (or not so close-knit) society that favors the appearance of things, the surface, who cares what's under?  Ellis' book emphasizes this further; the film makes a big point about how Bateman, and by proxy Paul Allen, the man he kills with an axe, is mistaken for other people he works with.  And why not?  Like characters on the TV show Jersey Shore you have to hear them speak- and even then it's a little difficult- to discern who is who, with the slick black hair, fine suits from big designers, trim physique and glasses.

I mention this as at the time it came out people questioned whether Patrick Bateman, a broker of some kind who works at Wall Street at Pierce & Pierce (as he so eagerly tells two hookers in his apartment), really does everything we see him do in the film.  There are clues as to suggest perhaps that he didn't do any of it, that at most he's guilty of having lots of duct-tape and chainsaws in his closets and has an affair with a pill-popper girl.  Or, that he did it all, and the world is operating on some Luis Bunuel-esque style where up is down and black is white and ATM's ask to feed them stray cats.  I think it's somewhere in the middle: by the time it gets to a big over-the-top action movie climax where Bateman gets in a police stand-off and is chased by a helicopter, it is all in his stress-laden mind.  But everything else... it's at least somewhat, frighteningly, plausible.

Of course if one reads the book it will be even more, by about a hundred times, more disturbing than the film itself.  Indeed there could only be a "tame" version of a movie based off the book, as any real close approximation of the book would be not only NC-17, the MPAA would probably torch the fucker and send the film reels into the nearest river to drown (and without going too much into it, those who have read the book will know what I mean).  But what impresses me more seeing the film again, and I have seen it several times over the years since it was released ten years ago, is how close it does get to the spirit of the book, and how Harron makes her own trip into a Yuppie Serial Killer's madness of mayhem and killing.  It actually works that it was directed by a woman; it isn't apparent on the surface, and it shouldn't be, but there is an identification that the maker (and her co-writer and actor Guinerver Turner) makes, more-so than the book even, to the female characters.

They have (contrary to what the mysoginistic men talk about at one point) personalities, reactions, fears, desires, are drugged up, confused, shy, vulnerable, and ultimately, often, victims.  They can hold their own, or be destroyed, with and by Bateman, but they aren't cardboard cut-outs of women, at least as far as I can see.  This is a strength to the film, as well as Harron's strength at a visual style that compliments the subject matter.  It's a slick-looking film, with lighting that isn't usually too complicated, and it even has a sheen in certain points.  She also loves close-ups and the way that fluorescent lights in an office strike characters.  The restaurants, the clubs, Bateman's apartment (and Paul Allen's, which overlooks the park), and the workplace at Pierce & Pierce are precisely straightforward in appearance.  There is something oddly subversive about how slick everything looks.  What is inside?  There must be something.  Blood, I figure.

The film works better on repeat viewings, but not simply because of seeing a little deeper into what is or might be there.  It's a superbly entertaining picture, led by Christian Bale in a dynamic performance.  It may be my personal favorite; I feel compelled to write on like Bateman would praise Huey Lewis & the News, but it wouldn't do it justice.  Bale is so alive here he makes his Batman/Bruce Wayne performance look tame and almost dull by comparison (although I don't think his Wayne would be as good if not for previously playing Bateman), or, more appropriate comparison Dieter Dengler.  There's never a moment where there isn't something going on with him on screen, even (maybe especially) when he appears totally placid and calm.  It's those moments, of quiet reaction or innaction, how how carefully over-the-top (or just near the top) he brings Bateman for example when he's being questioned by Donald Kimble (a normal-but-weird Willem Dafoe).  For a character who says that inside doesn't matter he gives Bateman a level of humanity that is striking - or, rather, a seeming humanity masking the monster underneath.

One last question: if the book better than the movie, or visa-versa?  This question comes up with most adaptations.  It's a fair one to ask, especially for one that is so notorious as this one.  They work on similar-but-different levels just as well.  Ellis' story is an epic satire of the New York upper class in the guise of a vicious serial killer tome, akin to The Bonfire of the Vanities in its attack on the bourgeois and its indictment of society and the "stuff" that people accumulate and value.  It's also sick as fuck.  The film has this too, but in more subtle and indirect ways.  It works as comedy-horror, or as melodrama, or all at the same time.  It can be taught in classes on Feminism (if the professor won't shy away from the violence, which is necessary for the story), or on the horror film (there's a great 'meta' moment where Bateman does super-sit-ups to the ending of Texas Chain Saw Massacre).  Inside, the film matters.  It may even edge in right at #10 as one of the top 10 of the last decade. 

This confession has meant nothing.... ;)

Monday, September 20, 2010

TV Pilot time - Martin Scorsese's BOARDWALK EMPIRE


It's a pleasure to see when a filmmaker- one of one's personal favorites in terms of consistency in directing films that stand up over the years and thrill and excite even in quiet moments - branches out just a little.  In 2010 and 2011 Martin Scorsese is branching it out a couple of big ways, and while Hugo Cabret, which is coming out December of next year, would seem to be the bigger leap (a shot-in-3D family film about a boy and his robot in France), Boardwalk Empire, which premiered last night it's 73 minute movie-pilot episode, is nothing to scoff at either.  Far from it, it's one of the superior pilots ever made, at least that I, a mostly casual TV-drama watcher, can assess as.  

This is surprising in some part because Scorsese isn't a director of television (not counting documentaries he made that aired on TV but were made for movie theaters); his one TV-episode credit (as a favor to Steven Spielberg) is for "Mirror, Mirror" on the 80's show Amazing Stories.  But that was a lark, this is the real deal - Scorsese also executive produces with Sopranos writer/creator-of-this-show Terence Winter, my how things come full circle from this moment on the show, but I digress - and he delivers again.  Aside from it being a gangster saga, which by this point Scorsese knows the way Hitchcock knew his blond women and thrillers, it's also the start of a series, and it's here that I'm impressed.  While one could watch the show and never watch it again and be satisfied (though I would wonder deep down "que?"), Scorsese does an excellent job setting up the characters, giving them immediacy and depth and knowing where they are all coming from and where (some) might be going, and the tenor of the story.

It all starts on the eve of the beginning of prohibition, and both sides, the criminals-cum-politicians and the police force (mostly the IRS at this time), have been ready and waiting for its arrival.  Nucky (Ennoch) Thompson, who is part politician who addresses an auditorium full of ladies with grace and tact and full commanding control, and is part full-on gangster who is making deals with fellow real-deal gangsters like Mr. Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), and has under his wing Jimmy (Michael Pitt, a little more grown-up), a war veteran who is looking to cut out his own piece of the pie.  He has a kind of double-sided coin position to uphold (a little akin to Ace Rothstein in Scorsese's own Casino, and the comparison could be made); he has to have the veneer of being the 'Man-in-Charge' to most in Atlantic City, and during the day that would be to a housewife like Margaret (Kelly MacDonald) who wants to get her wife-beater husband a job at the casino, and at night it's looking through the inventory of "product" coming in or dining up the likes of Rothstein and other gangsters and politicians.  Aren't they the same in the end really?

Scorsese orchestrates, from Winter's own script, this series of events over the course of three days like it's ever so important - not just for Thompson, but for newly appointed IRS officer Van Alden, and for Jimmy, who is looking to make a score with young Al Capone (you might say really, but it works, trust me) - much like how it would purport itself to be: an epic.  Scorsese isn't above by this point taking even from his own films (there's a sequence where we see a stand-up comedian giving his routine to an audience cut in with scenes of criminal shit going down that echo back to Henny Youngman in Goodfellas), or from his friends (it's hard to not think possibly of The Godfather in the climactic moments of intercutting between scenes), but it always feels fresh and involving.  Not a moment is missed for an actor to shine, and Scorsese amps up the quality of the production design and costumes and sets with a top-notch cast.  Some you may know very well, even from previous Sopranos work, and others not at all.

Buscemi, almost despite how he's been cast over the years as a kind of small presence - a character in Fargo describes him best so I won't repeat it here - is imposing as Nucky Thompson, a man who has authority by his connections, by his stature in his power position, and by those who answer to him (he only answers to a few).  So far, from just the looks of the pilot, Buscemi holds his own, and gives a couple of small moments pathos without saying a word, looking into a window at babies being incubated.

 He has to though; up against Shannon and Stuhlbarg, both figures in movies as true character actors (you'd know Shannon from Bug or Stuhlbarg from A Serious Man, but certainly not this way like before as they slip into their respective "good-bad" guys), and other solid players like MacDonald as the polite but frightened wife, give their scenes range and depth, presence and in the case of the men, some quiet menace.  Impressing as well is Pitt, who has grown somewhat out of his baby face and into a leading presence (a friend remarked he's like Leo DiCaprio's little brother, and the comparison isn't lost on me, a fan of Scorsese's most recent collaborations with DiCaprio).  Other actors like Paz de la Huerta and Shea Wigham may need a little more time to see what they can do. 

What it comes down to is this: does Boardwalk Empire make one want to watch the rest of the series?  Is the promise of the hype fulfilled?  I can only admit to being just recently aware of its hype (and it's prestige budget; the first season has the price-tag of 90 million), and its flagship status for HBO.  But for Scorsese it's another, if small, triumph where he puts his passion into nearly every frame and can tell a story with plenty of visual sense and suspense.

There's a scene, which is one of those "starts at the beginning, comes back near the end" scenes with a car turned over on a road at night, and a hold-up, that gives chills at how Scorsese doesn't need to rush the intensity of what's happening.  It comes naturally, as does the necessity of the violence, but it comes as action that matters and flows much better than most action movies out now could deliver (or, as another period-example of recent note, Michael Mann's Public Enemies).  That Scorsese and company pick just the right period jazzy songs is like icing on the cake; the story keeps moving with moments of real humor and real dramatic consequence, and for a drama show this is paramount to establish.

It's a tale of corruption and all-American pride and greed and ambition that may not be new to history majors or those who've seen their fair share of prohibition-era movies and TV shows.  If it keeps it up, it could be Scorsese's Untouchables.  Welcome to Atlantic City.


Ken Russell has made some 'crazy-ass' movies. You know the ones, not just by him but by other directors. There's no definition in the dictionary for these movies, but you know them when you see them (Terry Gilliam has made a few, Neveldine/Taylor east-sleep-breathe them, David Lynch thinks they're relatively normal, and it's Jodorowsky's religion). Russell doesn't always make movies that have flipped their lid, and indeed his best film, the much controversial The Devils has its brilliance by being a straightforward drama with its crazy-ass quality threatening to break down the hatches. The Lair of the White Worm, however, needs its crazy-ass-movie quality in order to keep afloat. It's like Russell is an addict for the visually inspired and horrifically imbalanced when it comes to showing the nightmare side of horror. And in this case, circa 1988, he's not making a horror movie for the Cineplex-masses, heavens no. He wouldn't stoop so low as that, at least in his estimation.

In this 'adapted from a novel by Bram "Dracula" Stoker', we get the story of an archaeologist who has discovered a large skull in his excavation site, and it turns out to be something that is not really dinosaur related. It's a skull of a White Worm, a monster that has been a mythological being (that is, just a "myth" for the townsfolk) for centuries. But not so for a Lady Sylvia Marsh (Amanda Donohoe) who swoops right in and takes the skull right out from under the archaeologist's nose. From here she goes on to do what any evil witchy-woman would do: gather up some virgins, bite and infect anyone that gets near her, and make sure to sacrifice one of them for the worm itself to rise up.

No relation to Mystique

So not only is there some freaky mythological stuff that brews about, but some statements on religion. How deep this all is doesn't matter too much except to say that Russell really loves getting wild with lots of Christian-Pagan imagery. When a character touches something, for example, like a crucifix that has come into contact with the Lady Marsh or her venom, many delightfully horrible of people writihing in fire and around another crucifix with the big white worm coming around and madness all abound, you get where Russell is going with it (or, as Beavis from Beavis & Butt-head might put it, it's like a music video). This is only some of the time that we get such crazy commentary - that is except when Marsh expounds upon how silly Christianity is, with its "locked away virgins (nuns)", and loves much more the more truthful, radical pagan ways... such as stabbing a virgin with a large phallic tusk as a sign of fertility to the non-Gods.

Some of what Russell pulls off, and his wise casting of a British femme fatale like Donohoe in the role, is inspired. Other times, he just decides to get silly. For example, a young Hugh Grant (and, appropriately, playing a stuffy upper-class gent who has a stake in the town), gets bad-ass at one point and actually gets medieval with a sword on one of the possessed creatures. I never believed for a moment that Grant was really a bad-ass, but Russell's fun with the scene, and how Grant plays it, makes it come as close as Grant has any right to be as one. So, in short, it becomes a cool moment. Another comes in the last half hour as the now enraged Angus Flint archaeologist goes to fight back against the worm-demon people and uses, you guessed it, bagpipes. In really one of the funniest moments (and I'm sure Russell must know it as well) only a little blood is spilled, near the end, and the rest of it is a kind of defensive fighting - with bagpipe music.

Russell is making, in a sense, a kind of Hammer Films camp version of something that could be more serious (if not the Devils something of its controversial religious side). He also has a great knack for fetishizing certain images, such as Donohoe's legs, or certain objects in her house. I don't know if it really has the power to stick with me the way The Devils or Altered States did as real mind-fuckers, but it doesn't shy away from being dark and disturbing, for not backing away from the 'sacrificing virgins' bit, and it takes a piss out of this kind of movie as it could have likewise been by a Hammer production. It's bold, stupid, dangerous and just this side of nearing cult-classic territory, though not quite.