Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead (2011)

Posted in Off-Season Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 15, 2014 by shenanitim

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Okay, I’ve only watched three and a half minutes of Noboru Iguchi’s Zombie Ass: Toilet of the Dead (the same man who brought us the fantastically awesome Machine Girl) and I’m already impressed. A puking zombie has already been showcased, as well as opening credits that wouldn’t seem out of place in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, but certainly seem out of place in a normal horror movie. The camera’s flying through a tunnel of kaleidoscopic colors while girls eating hot dogs dance in bubbles. This isn’t strict 50s T&A though, as the girls are wearing t-shirts that outline their digestive track, which glows in time to the beat which ends at the bowels. Which is where the girl bends over and shoots a beam of light out her ass.

You're welcome.

You’re welcome.

And I thought my blog’s high-point would be chronicling the vagina beam.

Four scenes in and there’s already been three pukes and one simulated bowel movement. I would mention here that the copy I’m watching doesn’t have English subtitles, but I’m pretty confident that I’ll be able to follow this story. It’s speaking my language.

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Imagine if the van full of teens in the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre took a wrong turn and ended up in (the original) Evil Dead. All filmed with Slither’s sensibility.

There’s the martial artist heroine, Megumi (Arisa Nakamura), dressed in a Sailor Moon schoolgirl outfit, the nerd guy who’s look just screams “I’m gonna die!,” the prissy/slutty girl (who eats worms, so I might be off here), another girl who’s pretty much devoid of character, and the van driver who’s sole purpose seems to be sexually assaulting everyone. And they’re just cool with it and him.

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Well you can’t blame Iguchi for being disingenuous, nor accuse him of not knowing his audience. While claiming that dining on the worm will keep her thin, we know the real reason the sexpot eats it: so she’ll be the first one to get sick. And in this movie, getting sick means diarrhea. Complete with stomach grumblings and short fart bursts. (The man knows his loose stools!) Which, when acted out, means clutching one’s stomach while bent over and crying in distress.

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All serving to make one wonder, are gratuitous cleavage shots so bad if they’re leading to an outhouse with a zombie resting beneath the waste? Or is it a clever way for Iguchi to say everything that needs to be said about his production’s past, present, and future vision in just five minutes of footage?

Oh damn, got caught up in (needless) critical theory, seven scenes in and we’ve seen four people puke, two crap, and one up the (schoolgirl) skirt shot. I can only hope Iguchi can keep this bodily fluid to screen time ratio up.

I can’t understand Japanese, but I’m guessing eating a worm you just found in the innards of the fish you were gutting isn’t a good idea…

I can’t understand Japanese, but I’m guessing eating a worm you just found in the innards of the fish you were gutting isn’t a good idea…

This might be the only zombie movie where the man whose finger is chewed off by a zombie is actually the red herring. Since it’s diarrhea girl who awakens the horde. I am positive, however, that this is the first zombie movie to have its undead throw feces.

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I’m almost positive this is the film everyone wanted Human Centipede to be. Our mad scientist here literally beats the shit out of his pet zombie so that it spits up the infecting worm. He then feeds the worm to his assistant/daughter. (I have no real way of knowing what, or who, she is or is supposed to be. In any case, she’s a badass.) Who is then injected with the antidote which causes her to eject the worm out her rear. It’s filth-based yet still amazingly amusing.

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The zombies run slow, as zombies should, but the heroes can’t run fast, because their guts are in knots. It’s a brilliant work around a (otherwise) tired convention. That is, they walk slow until the group is whittled down and Megumi and nerd boy are left the sole survivors. Then the zombies all bend over backwards, have their worm parasite burst out of their asses, and give chase double time a la Benny Hill. Just when you thought the film had hit rock bottom for scatological ingenuity, it returns with something that seems to just compound the perversity.

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The final battle taking place in the skies with Megumi flying around like Supergirl riding a cloud of her own flatulence while fighting a giant, winged, ass worm. If the previous post wasn’t proof enough, words can’t really describe this film. Hell, even the stills only give you a quick glimpse into what’s happening on-screen. Put the two together and you have 90 minutes of this insanity, rolling full steam ahead, non-stop. I don’t usually overtly recommend films, but if you’ve read this far, you pretty much owe it to yourself it sit though it now.

Gratuitous Panty Shot - Arisa Nakamura

Trans-Pacific Potty Humor

Posted in Free-Range Tampa with tags , , , , , , on December 10, 2014 by shenanitim

It all began with the most sincere, and innocent, question:

“Teacher, what is fart?”

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This, my friends, is why I got into teaching. Sure, I’ve tackled grammar before, once showed a video on anorexia which featured a girl puking into glass jars and storing them in her closet (wouldn’t that get expensive?) six-seven times in a day, been punched in the chest by an angry sixth-grader. It’s all part of a normal day’s work when you’re employed by some of the United States’ worst school systems. But not once during those experiences did I ever expect to have to teach “fart” to a classroom full of attentive Korean children.

All of which were factors in me taking a job teaching in Korea. I did the least amount of research possible before coming over, to ward off arriving with preconceived notions on how things should be. I wanted to be ready for anything. But nothing could have prepared me for this:

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Teaching a unit on pulling practical jokes on a teacher! I, of course, had to quickly point out that no one in the world would ever call a whoopee cushion a “fart cushion.” Such a word doesn’t exist in America. It should, but it just doesn’t. (I didn’t, however, contradict the book on the amazing value of whoopee cushions even if you’ll never buy one that works. They’re like those comic book x-ray glasses; only this dream never died.)

The kids have accents, obviously everyone does. And you do your best not to notice. Until you hear said accent say “fart.” Then you lose it. The kids, meanwhile, have no clue what a fart is. How do you explain it? It’s practically one of the first words you learn in English. It’s a building block from which the language is built.

So you belt out the loudest raspberry you can so that even the students in the back can hear you. This is an important lesson. The most important lesson.

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I feared my Korean experience had peaked too soon, but then a week later I was tasked with explaining to the kids how one can clean a toilet using Coca-Cola. I’m finally living the (fetid) dream!

All Hail RoboNyan, Our (Robotic Cat) Overlord!

Posted in Free-Range Tampa with tags , , , , , on December 9, 2014 by shenanitim

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Today marked the day I received my first paycheck in Korea. It’s special because unlike almost every other paycheck I’ve ever received, it’s almost all spending money. My rent is paid as per my contract, all I have to pick up are the bills and keep myself fed. So naturally I bought the first stupid thing I could think of, a model of a giant robot cat.

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Seriously, if there’s one thing that could possibly wear away at my sanity and make me miss “home” it’s having an apartment that’s not full of stupid tchotchkes. And nothing says “tchotchkes” like “giant robot cat.” It practically screams it.

This is easily the weirdest “toy” I’ve seen yet. Well, this and the series of robots who transform into foodstuff (hotdogs, hamburgers, etc.).

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Apparently he’s Robonyan, some kind of animated character. I’m tempted to bring him to class with me so I can ask my students what they know about him. Or I’ll just keep him on my desk, sitting there as an fragile little metallic kitten with blue smoke shooting out his ass. I’ll give you one guess about which situation is most likely to come to pass.

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Okay, I splurged and bought something “useful” too. A bag of beans so that I can take a crash course in chop-sticking. To be honest, I had never used a pair of chop sticks in the US. Sure, I tried to use them once or twice, but no Chinese food was worth the aggravation. So moving to a place where being skilled in chop sticks is assumed is quite a challenge. One of my co-workers suggested practicing on beans, saying that’s how he learned years ago. We’ll see how it goes.

The Vampire Effect (2003)

Posted in 2014, Halloween Endurance Tests, Vampires with tags , , , , , , on November 29, 2014 by shenanitim

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Maybe it was just the bad taste left in my mouth from Ringu 0, but the Vampire Effect came like a breath of fresh air after sitting through that series. Even before the credits roll, right up there on the screen is its “R” rating, with one declaimer, “for some violence.” So we already know what this film’s about: it’s a kung-fu film guest starring Jackie Chan with bad guys who are vampires instead of pirates or scofflaws, or whoever it is Chan usually combats. The vampire rules are laid out early, a good choice considering how unorthodox they are. There’s a new vampire family in town, buying a church to live in, but still feel the need to show off their royalty by “drinking” their blood, not “sucking” it. They also, as is shown in the opening, sometimes use flying bats as projectiles, which might be the coolest iteration of that myth ever.

The Vampire Effect takes the basic storyline of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and switch it so that it comes from the bloodsucker’s point of view. The daring, young church-buying vampire Kazaf (Edison Chen) falls in love with “his food” (as his advisor warns), and wants to start a cross-species relationship. (The only real difference between the two story lines is that Buffy’s Angel dined on rat blood, while Kazaf receives blood sent in monthly by his father.)

Naturally Kazaf’s love interest is Helen (Charlene Choi), the sister to Reeve the head of the Anti-Vampire Federation. Helen has no problem with Kazaf being a vampire (“I have a dog and a cat at home. What’s the big deal?” she rationalizes.), and has less of a problem stealing blood for him. Which is good, as Kazaf’s father has stopped sending him his monthly supply; as Kazaf’s family is killed in an attempt by Duke Dekotes (Mickey Hardt) to become vampire king.

(You’d think the vampire king story line would be the main plot, but you’d be wrong. The fight that determines Kazaf’s fate barely lasts longer than Jackie Chan’s two brief appearances.)

Given that this all is a Hong Kong action movie, it naturally moves at a speedy pace. So you won’t be surprised that while Kazaf and Helen try to find a blood source, Helen’s brother Reeve and new partner Gypsy (Gillian Chung) are trying to concoct a vampirism antidote at home. For some reason Gypsy masks the cure to vampire blood poisoning with the essence of banana, causing Helen to use it in the cake she bakes for Kazaf.

Not nearly as confusing as it might sound, the Vampire Effect plays as the Far East’s version of Once Bitten. Just with Jackie Chan ghost-riding an ambulance in the middle of a fight scene. This might be the only vampire movie where a couple of vampires are beaten by spraying them with packets of blood and then shoving antidepressants down their throats. They’re left happily standing in the streets, dancing the night away.

Vampire Effect’s one twist is killing Reeve off after he’s unable to find a cure for his vampirism. Normal movie conventions would have him suffer through the final fight, and then have Kazaf sacrifice himself so that his girlfriend’s brother could live. Instead Reeve gets staked by Gypsy, and we’re treated to a 20 vampire battle royale through a tabernacle with tons of wire work. Which is pretty much everything you could want from a HK vampire movie.

The Craft (1996)

Posted in 2014, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , , , on November 18, 2014 by shenanitim

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[Here’s one of the leftover Halloween Endurance Test reviews. I started watching film as I always do, then stopped once I realized that I had enough time to either review films, or prepare to move to Korea. I went for the safer “prep for Korea” route, so google images lost out on five or six ripped photos to spread across the internet. My apologies to the fans of Neve Campbell and Fairuza Balk.]

Today’s movie is the Craft. It’s the mid-90s film that started the whole Wiccan revolution; causing untold amounts of frumpy, unpopular, high school girls to stop trying to enter the mainstream, and instead celebrate their frumpiness/different-ness. In other words, detestable. I have a feeling that one needs to watch this while wearing black eyeliner and frowning uncontrollably, or else the film’s true meaning will be missed.

The Craft also stars four women who were slated to be Hollywood’s next big thing. Neve Campbell was trying to break from her Party of Five typecasting with the Bonnie role, Nancy (Fairuza Balk) was typecast here as the evil queen witch, and two other witches who obviously made no impression on popular culture. Naturally the witches all go to a private Christian school, , because no one would care that they’re dressing in black if it wasn’t in direct odds with a dress code. No one would bat an eye in public school, have you seen the Substitute?

Hatred of Goths aside, it is rather sad that the film that kept Girl Power alive during the down time between Bikini Kill and the Spice Girls has a plot that’s so boy-centric. Nancy is known as the school slut after sleeping with some boisterous jock, and rather than assert herself, she instead personifies the charge.

After this opening plot point, the film borrows the time-honored girl theme: jealousy. Nancy is the old head witch, and new witch Sarah (Robin Tunney) comes into town and starts stealing her thunder. So a fight is obviously in the works; leaving us with 60 minutes of build-up before it comes to a boil.

The girls start off light, playing “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board” at sleepovers which proves they have powers. So next they get some revenge on a local jock who’s telling everyone he slept with Sarah. Nothing major, he just becomes infatuated with her, and so become the laughing stock for all his friends. Marcia Brady (Christine Taylor) suffers slightly worse; she tells Rochelle (Rachel True) that they’ll never be friends because Taylor’s character “doesn’t like Negroids,” and loses all her hair for it. Neve Campbell’s character is a cutter, and thus a narcissist. (She’s all about her.) She uses her new powers to cure herself of a skin condition, rather than get revenge.

Nancy changes everything when she makes a Monkey’s Paw-esque wish for money; causing her (abusive) father to suffer a heart attack so her family inherits a life insurance windfall. This profiting from evil causes a pivotal change in the group dynamic, as the other girls eventually become scared of what she’ll do to stay in control. (Nancy’s need for upward mobility also begs the question of how she got into the swank private school to begin with. Seriously, her school was used for the original Beverly Hills 90210, yet she goes there while living in a trailer. The disparity there just doesn’t work out.)

Nancy gives Sara’s charmed boyfriend a well-deserved tirade about his and his friends’ objectification of women, but her tirade rings false, as Nancy’s grudge against Sara is weak at best; Sara wants to quit the group, and apparently must die for it. So the whole “you treat all women like whores” speech is delivered by a woman who turns on a friend due to the shallowest reasoning possible. So she denounces men while personifying every objectionable female stereotype imaginable. Objectification that goes well beyond the script, if the numerous bouncing breast shots director Andrew Fleming filmed are any indication.

Leaving the film with two interesting features. One is how one of the main protagonists transforms into the main antagonist. A switch not as deftly done as the hero-turn in Eli Roth’s Hostel, but still a commendable idea. Most times the good guys are the good guys, and the bad are bad; without any complicating factors mucking things up.

The second interesting aspect is how one of my favorite zines*, Everything I Touch Turns to Shit, took its name from a line here.

*As in a zine that I always read about in my AK Press catalogs and wanted to order, but never actually did. So who knows whether I would have enjoyed it or not, though I’m guessing I would’ve just on the strength of that title alone.

Hi, My Name is ShenaniTims, and I’m Proud to Say I Will Eat Anything

Posted in Free-Range Tampa with tags , , , , , on November 18, 2014 by shenanitim

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I promise I won’t become a food blog, I promise I won’t become a food blog, I promise I won’t become a food blog, I promise I won’t become a food blog, I promise I won’t become a food blog, I promise I won’t become a food blog, I promise I won’t become a food blog, I promise I won’t become a food blog, I promise I won’t become a food blog.

I really have no interest in becoming a food blog.

Unfortunately, one of the tough realities of moving to Korea is that food becomes a major part of your day. Given that I’m now nearly mute (I know two phrases in Korean, “hello” and “thank you;” which are really the only two I’ll need), and the native, written tongue is still indecipherable to me, means buying food is a challenge. Pictures work great if the restaurant has pictures, which is important since the Korean diet is (literally) worlds away from the one found in the US. Things that are big back home (i.e. cheese and butter) aren’t found easily over here. Green peppers and mushrooms, on the other hand, and found nearly everywhere.

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So like most foreigners, I’ve become a fan of gimbap. Gimbap is the Korean equivalent to a sub; only with rice wrapped in seaweed substituting for the bread. It’s easily made (i.e. quick), cheap, and pretty ubiquitous, making it the go to meal after work.

The one major hurdle I face with (slowly) becoming a gimbal connoisseur is that their menus can easily be confused for a math quiz (see photo above). A gimbal shops don’t have pictures, so if you don’t know the symbols for a chamchi gimbap (tuna), then you’re shit out of luck. In the restaurant each table has a pad of order forms and a pen, and you just check off what you want and hand it to the nice cook hovering in the wings.

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So my homework has been (after taking an order form home) to look up new gimbaps each night after I go home. I look up the Korean characters, type them into Google, and then stare at the images trying to figure out what is what. I usually end up confused anyway, as modeum kimbap looked like black beans, but didn’t really taste any different than chamchi. And for the sake of experimentation nudeu gimbap is pointless, as it’s “nude” gimbap – so rice, seaweed, and what I assume are sliced up vegetables.

Luckily I’m down for eating anything, so I’m pretty comfortable just ordering blindly off the sheet too. When in Rome, right?

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Tonight I hit the jackpot by also ordering kimchi dumplings, which, in actuality, are more like kimchi pierogis. So if you’ve ever wished your pierogis came stuffed with spicy and sour fermented cabbage instead of cheese, meat, or mushrooms, then kimchi mandu is for you. I’m proud to say that Jeonju is the Korean food capital, and kimchi and I have hit it off splendidly, so I’m sure this one will be in rotation for awhile now.

One Week In Korea

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 15, 2014 by shenanitim

Last week I moved to the other side of the world. I wrote a post about the experience (mainly what it felt like to be on a plane for 16 hours (12.5 of them without a break), but as that would take time to type, and I want to explore tomorrow, I figured I’d post some pictures I took of my new neighborhood.

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Just look at this sign, it's begging to be photographed. And then bought from, even if they don't carry men's shoes, just so you can carry home a bag with that logo on it.

Just look at this sign, it’s begging to be photographed. And then bought from, even if they don’t carry men’s shoes, just so you can carry home a bag with that logo on it.

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Soda Shoes quickly became a lead contender for "ShenaniTims' Favorite Korean Shoe Store" on the basis of name alone. "Soda" + "Shoes" is practically Biblically holy in my book. Factor in their selection of men's shoes, and Present of Santa's lead wasn't looking so secure anymore.

Soda Shoes quickly became a lead contender for “ShenaniTims’ Favorite Korean Shoe Store” on the basis of name alone. “Soda” + “Shoes” is practically Biblically holy in my book. Factor in their selection of men’s shoes, and Present of Santa’s lead wasn’t looking so secure anymore.

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I don't drink coffee, but if I did, it would only be from the Seven Monkeys Coffee shop. I (also) don't own a Seven Monkeys Coffee mug, but this condition is easily rectified.

I don’t drink coffee, but if I did, it would only be from the Seven Monkeys Coffee shop. I (also) don’t own a Seven Monkeys Coffee mug, but this condition is easily rectified.

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Tune in next week when I explore a Korean grocery store; hilarity (assuredly) ensues!

Disaster L.A.: the Last Zombie Apocalypse (2014)

Posted in Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , on November 9, 2014 by shenanitim

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Disaster L.A.: the Last Zombie Apocalypse might be the only zombie movie that’s improved by not showing zombies. (Even if it does have a criminally stupid subtitle. I don’t recall the zombies being defeated, and since a new zombie film premieres every 3.4 seconds, this won’t even be the last one this year.) Gripes aside, when the film starts off, the first 30 minutes has a strong set-up; centering around Los Angeles being hit by a cluster of asteroids. While anyone who looked at the box art knows that the film is about zombies, keeping the zombies hidden works surprisingly well. (Especially considering how hard I derided Resident Evil for attempting the same trick.) Maybe it’s just the current state of horror, where everything is about zombies, but I really enjoyed the respite from frenetic brain-eating when the filmmakers opted for atmosphere over undead gore.

In a nice nod to the godfather of zombie films, George Romero, Disaster L.A. opens with the Earth being bombarded by meteors; meteors which cause humans to become brainless zombies. (While the cause of the zombie apocalypse is never identified in Night of the Living Dead, it is revealed that there was a strange meteor crash earlier that day before the events take place. This has caused many viewers to believe that this is what caused the dead to rise, this or some sort of radio waves from Jupiter.

In Disaster L.A., it’s understood that the meteor has caused the zombie outbreak. Which sets the film up, tonally, as the polar opposite of Romero’s. Whereas Romero always focused on people becoming trapped in the various levels of civilization, here it’s a group of friends trapped in one of the largest cities in the world. Granted, in Land of the Dead our heroes were also confined in a city, but it was a city surrounded by water; thus providing a sense of inclosure.

Disaster has none of that. Instead it provides otherwise gorgeous sunsets (the stuff of postcards and tourism boards), freeways (all offering chances to escape), and enough housing that the protagonists could conceivably hide out for ages and never be found by the roving bands of zombies. It’s our heroes own overpowering fear that leads to their downfall. (In a sense you could say that, in this, the zombies are the superior life form, in that they don’t bring their own demise upon themselves.

This, naturally, only works if you allow your own mind to run free when watching the film. Otherwise what you’ll get is a live action version of Dying Light. Not the worst thing in the world, but certainly something you’d rather play than watch.

Diary of the Dead (2007)

Posted in Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , on October 27, 2014 by shenanitim

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Apologies for the lack of movie reviews. I’ve been prepping to move to Korea, and that’s a bit more important than talking about how much I hate witches. Which is a lot.

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But I have tried to watch some horror films this season, so here I’m going to rattle off reviews from the top of my head like I used to do back in the day. Before I felt the need to imdv every actor’s name and make sure I understood stuff. Kind of drains the fun out of a silly pastime.

I’ve watched Geogre Romero’s Diary of the Dead before; I think it was the year I reviewed the two Troll films. I don’t remember thinking too highly of it then, so maybe the seven intervening years have either a.) softened me up, or b.) improved the film. I’m not ashamed to say, I rather like the movie now.

Diary of the Dead has Romero abandoning his tired plot device of scaling the zombie action. In Night of the Living Dead it was individual families fighting the zombies. In Dawn of the Dead it was sects: the survivors versus the zombies versus the outlaws. Day of the Dead broadened the scope further: the military versus the dead. And Land of the Dead reached the zenith with a war between the upper class, the lower class, and the dead.

Let’s face it, Night… and Dawn of the Dead are stone cold classics, Day of the Dead is beloved now, but back in the day no one cared much for it, and no one ever mentions Land. The well had gone dry, and Romero’s social commentary was becoming both predictable and heavy-handed.

So Diary thankfully jettisons it, and returns us to Night’s micro- scale. Individual college students out making a movie (thus explaining the use of DV) who are trying to cope with a crazy situation. While I’m not usually a fan of movies shot in DV, Romero gets a pass because he’s a legit director who knows how to frame a shot so that he’s not just relying on the gimmick of “this was shot on direct video!” There’s few zombies, but when your cast is five or six people, you don’t really need many zombies to be threatening.

It would be interesting to now go back and watch Survival of the Dead, one where I believe Romero returned to Dawn’s level of societal preoccupation, to see if that one has grown on me also. Unfortunately I only have another week or two in FL, and searching through my storage shed isn’t on top of my to-do list.

Ringu (1998)

Posted in 2014, Halloween Endurance Tests with tags , , , on October 1, 2014 by shenanitim

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Ringu is the Japanese horror movie that birthed what many _imdb_ commentators consider one of the scariest US horror movies ever – the Ring. I watched the Ring years ago, and wasn’t too terribly impressed (the only thing that stood out was the bleak Seattle landscape), as it’s more chiller/thriller than Texas Chainsaw Massacre gore-fest. I know what works for me with horror movies: silliness with copious amounts of blood. Seriousness is, of course, anathema to that.

So Ringu starts off with one serious setback already notched against it: I disliked/wasn’t impressed by its localized variant. Watching the source material and some of the issues I had with the remake are (predictably) resolved. One issue with the Ring is why are the denizens of the greater Seattle area using VCRs in the digital age? Ringu sidesteps this concern because it was made before the big leap to digital was complete. (According to the dates provided in the movie; sometime in 1996 or ’97. [Actually 1998]) So the people you see here would conceivably still use VCRs. Hell, the news office heroine Reiko [Nanako Matsushima] works in has actual newspapers lying around! Her cameraman even uses an old school videocassette recorder!

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While I certainly don’t agree with the verdict that this film, or any of its decendants, are terrifying, I do enjoy aspects of it. First and foremost, it’s like a video scrapbook to earlier times. ’96/’97 was prime-time for buying/collecting/hoarding VHS copies of B-movies for me. Blackest Heart Media, Unknown Video, VideoSearch of Miami, all homes of videocassette weirdness for the pre-internet days. Back when you had to mail your order in, and wait for it to arrive in the mail, all sight unseen. You bought movies from word-of-mouth and the lurid descriptions kept in the catalogs.

Ringu and the Ring bring this all back for me. The VHS (obviously), I visited Seattle in ’06 (not too far off from the Rings’ production), and stayed in wayward motels where waking up chained to the bottom of a well wouldn’t be too out of place. (I once spent the night in a scary hotel where the owner appeared to have wooden, George Washington-teeth, and a bizarre obsession with knowing whether I had family in the area. I slept with a chair lodged under the doorknob; bad in case of a fire, but great for establishing a sense of security. The trip ended with a night in a Motel 6 with discolored carpet from what I assume was bloodstains leading from the bed to the sink (or vice versa).) Given my memories of Seattle circa the Ring-era, Ringu feels at home too. A simpler time even, back when Hollywood’s remake machine was restricted to overseas properties.

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Not to mention Reiko makes a much more believable heroine then Naomi Watts ever did. One third of the way through the film, and Reiko hasn’t even been cursed yet. She’s playing a real journalist, investigating an urban legend about high school kids dying of fright. At this point in the American version and Watts is running around Puget Sound trying to save herself and her son from certain doom. We’ve met Reiko’s son Yoichi [Rikiya Otaka] maybe once in the Japanese version, and he’s way in the background as far as developed characters go. This is mom’s show.

While there’s a decent amount of supernaturalism in the film (I don’t remember Naomi Watt’s ex being a psychic in the American release), and the pacing and acting is superior, Ringu’s story is still a garden-variety Scooby-Doo mystery. A exiled, tortured psychic being pimped out by her mentor/lover, who gives birth to a stronger psychic hell raising child who brings an end to the whole charade. Rather than read minds, she can kill with her mind; yet for some reason in the afterlife she crawls out of the television to murder her victims.

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Reiko and her psychic ex Ryuchi [Hiroyuki Sanada] find the tortured girls unmarked graves, give them a decent burial, and still end up being haunted. Which leads us to the original’s biggest diversion from the remake, the ending. Finding no solution in burying the accursed dead in hallowed ground, as Ryuchi dies from the curse shortly after avenging (Sadako) the girl’s death, Reiko takes the only option left to her to save her son, by passing the curse onto her father. It’s a brutal ending underlined by the utterly majestic sunset she’s driving towards as the voiceover let’s us into her plan.

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