Tag Archives: Incest

Book Review: Push by Sapphire

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Rating: A-/  There is occasionally something cathartic about reading books that are real downers, if they are well done. A truly bleak book does something that a funny or light book can’t, which is to put the shittiness of the reader’s life into perspective. If nothing else, Push by Sapphire, an excellent book that was also made into an excellent movie called Precious, will make you want to hug your mom and buy her flowers. Whatever issues you might have had with her at the moment, by the end of this book you’ll probably be buying her free passes to the spa so she can treat herself. Continue reading Book Review: Push by Sapphire

Book Review: Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley

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Rating: B-/ It’s attraction at first sight for Nathan, the sensitive new kid in town, and his somewhat older classmate Roy. Living across from Roy in a house rented out on Roy’s property, fifteen-year-old Nathan is the victim of incestuous advances from his drunken father, and discovers sexual pleasure for the first time in the arms of the quiet, intense Roy. Nathan starts hanging out with Roy and his friends every day, chubby scaredy-cat Randy and ultra-aggressive alpha male Burke. But, unknown to to them both, Nathan and Roy are headed for unthinkable tragedy, in the form of a jealous act of violence. Continue reading Book Review: Dream Boy by Jim Grimsley

Enter the Void (2009)

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Life after death as the ultimate trip, as envisioned by Gaspar Noe. Epileptics need not apply.

it is safe to say that Enter the Void is unlike any movie I’ve ever seen before, but it’s an experience I have very mixed feelings about. My emotions throughout this movie ranged from excitement and wonder to tedium and at long last, utter boredom and disgust. The first hour or so of this polarizing feature had me at the edge of my seat, it was an experience of startling uniqueness and innovation akin to watching Eraserhead or A Clockwork Orange for the first time.

The next thirty minutes my attention began to wander, but by the last half hour, as we are treated to an interminable scene of people in a sleazy Tokyo hotel getting it on while a strange light emanates from their genitals, my reaction wasn’t quite so charitable. “Please God make it stop,” my inner critic groaned. And at long last, when the constant love-making (although to call what these broken people share ‘love’ would be pushing it big-time) and psychedelic headache inducing-visuals were over, I was all too happy to retire to my bedroom to go to sleep.

To call Enter the Void, despite it’s visual verve, low on plot and lacking direction would be to make epic understatement. One thing’s for sure, I don’t think there’s ever been a motion picture where we saw less of the protagonist’s face. That’s because Oscar (Nathaniel Brown,) an addict and dealer slumming it in Tokyo, is mostly behind the camera as we see his life, and eventually his death, through his own eyes. Oscar is a ne’er-do-well who lives with his seductive younger sister (Paz de la Huerta) in a dive apartment and is in denial about his full indoctrination into the druggie lifestyle. Neither sibling seems like a particularly bright light, each talking in a bland, deadpan drone, and Oscar has less than familial feelings for his sister and late mother (Janice Béliveau-Sicotte.) The girl, Linda, a stripper, also seems eager to get in on in a less-than-sisterly way with Oscar, unless making bedroom eyes at your brother while cooking food for him in your panties is a regular way for siblings to behave.

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After his loving parents’ brutal death in an automobile crash, Oscar has promised unreservedly to look after and protect his vacuous but weirdly sensual sister. Being that he can’t be arsed to get a regular job, Oscar runs drugs for the strangely philosophical Alex (Cyril Roy.) At the beginning of this film Oscar takes a shitload of DMT and goes on an epic high, as we hear his thoughts and witness a storm of swirling shapes and colors. He goes off to a dive club to meet the sniveling Victor (Olly Alexander,) which turns out to be his last hurrah, so to speak, as Oscar is shot by the Tokyo police through the door of a shit-stained urinal and dies shortly thereafter. But, to Oscar’s shock and relief, he discovers death is not the end. For the rest of the movie, he floats around Tokyo and witnesses the people in his life converge in unexpected and disturbing ways.

This is my first Gaspar Noe film, and I think he had an amazing idea and a totally legit way of visualizing it.  But ultimately Enter the Void is too long and has too little to say, with ponderous scenes that go on… and on for seemingly hours. I love the way The Tibetan Book of the Dead is incorporated here, I think it’s really smart and clever. I would have liked to have seen it used more or to better affect. But how many hazy aerial shots of people screwing can you watch before a movie like this begins to feel like an extended music video? We get it, Gaspar Noe, you have some talent maneuvering a videocamera, but please stop showing off and give us a story, a conflict, a set of characters that behave in an interesting or believable way. Enter the Void is probably an unmitigated wonder while you’re blitzed on magic mushrooms or hungrily devouring pot-laced brownies, but in the end it’s about as profound as the average TV quiz show. Oh, it’s pretty to look at. But Ohmygod is it tedious. And it’s a tedium that goes on for 2+ hours.

I’m not a prude. Sex and violence have their place in a story. But none of the characters in this film are remotely likable or sympathetic. They’re simply bad people doing bad things. Enter the Void is like a stoned guy at a cocktail party who momentarily gains your attention. He tells crazy stories without a single ounce of credibility, and for a while you’re sucked in by his colorful, gregarious bullshit. But then after two hours you kind of just want him to come back where he came from and take his gear with him. Nihilism has never looked so gorgeous and yet so empty and shallow. At one point, the stripper sister in this film says she can’t stand another minute being amongst these horrible, horrible people. Funny. The sober viewer can weirdly relate.

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We Are What We Are (2010)

Family values takes a whole new meaning in Jorge Michel Grau’s eerie cannibalism thriller “We Are What We Are,” and the menace of the movie is both strange and psychologically intriguing. Sexual politics and bodily mutilation take the front wheel in this nightmarish horror film, and no one is safe. When the patriarch of a strange, impoverished family in Mexico dies dramatically, the bereaved are compelled to carry on as they always have. But this time ‘carrying on’ doesn’t mean washing clothes, commuting to work, and buying groceries- Father’s clan is a family of cannibalistic killers, and someone must take the job of hunting their human prey.

While Mother (Carmen Beato) locks herself in the room and falls apart, her two sons- impulsive, violent Julien (Alan Chávez) and the more methodical, repentant Alfredo (Francisco Barreiro) squabble and their beautiful sister Sabina (Paulina Gaitan) plays them against each other. Alfredo laments that his mother never liked him and tries to prove himself to the others, while Julien, a loose cannon, postures and puts his family in grave danger with his recklessness.

Meanwhile, two somewhat corrupt cops track the family, after a gory incident involving a prostitute threatens to put their strange lifestyle on display. The film builds tension with spooky cinematography and a nerve-wracking violin score akin to “The Shining.” The acting is superior from the entire cast, especially Paulina Gaitin and Francisco Barreiro (who is also a cutie- I look forward to seeing him in “Here Comes The Devil.”
The first scene is a haunting study of disenfranchisement- as Father  (Humberto Yáñez) wanders the streets and stops before a display of mannequins, he falls to the ground and begins to spit up blood. After dying in the street, he is nonchalantly cleaned up along with his blood, and steadfastly ignored by passersby, as the violins on the soundtrack shriek. This sets the tone for a grim and bloody picture that is sadly underrated by the public.

There is recurring theme of women in low-class situations asserting power as best they can- Sabina manipulates her two brothers with her gentle words and her gorgeous body, while mother attempts to maintain control of her sons. And the prostitutes… well, you’ll have to see how that turns out. More disturbing than the graphic violence is the dehumanizing way the family talks about their victims (they’re ‘whores’ and ‘faggots,’ never people.) More disturbing still is the way you start to root for the family, ever so slightly, before you can stop yourself. They suck you into their world, and things you know are wrong seem intriguing.

I wish the characters of the police had been developed more. I definitely think the climactic scene would have been more compelling if the main cop hadn’t just tried to pick up a prostitute who was like twelve, destroying any meager sympathy we may have had for him. After that, I don’t care whether he lives or he dies… I’m actually rooting for the man-eating psychos at this point.

The 5.7 rating of this movie on Imdb makes me sad. I only checked the clock once during “We Are What We Are,” and that was when my sister asked from the other room how much was left. This movie was engrossing and not boring at all, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching it. I love how foreign horror films don’t feel the need to reveal everything in the first five minutes. It is compared to “Let the Right One In” on the back of the box. Well, I wouldn’t call it better (“Let the Right One In” is my favorite movie,) but it was well-made and highly enjoyable. A creepy slow-burner of a horror film.

Jug Face (2013)

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Yet further evidence that no good can come of incest, low budget fright flick “Jug Face” tells the story of Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter,) a teenager bound by the laws of a backwoods cult who gets impregnated before she is to be wed off to a local boy- by her brother (Daniel Manche,) no less, a ruffian of a kid with no compassion for his naive sis. Tradition requires that Ada, having broken the rules of her people, must be sacrificed to a monstrous pit occupied by a supernatural entity not far from her village.

Enter Dawai (Sean Bridgers,) resident town fool and prophet. Dawai’s a little on the simple side, but the powers of the pit work through him as he sculpts ‘jug-faces’ in the likeness of the pit’s next intended victim. After her misstep with her brother, Ada’s next on the list, but she hides her jug-face with the intent of saving her own life, tipping the balance and unleashing hell on the locals.

Firstly, the bad- convoluted plot points, cheeseball dream sequences, and awkward, formally conveyed dialogue by people who look far too polished and pretty to be playing backwoods hicks. The good- decent acting all around, good character development for this kind of movie, and a genuinely original premise. Bonus points for the development of Ada and Dawai’s friendship, as she tries to smuggle him of of a town that offers nothing but dead ends and shadowy menaces.

I was not completely convinced that Dawai was developmentally disabled- it seemed to me he could score mild to moderate on the Asperger’s scale, but Sean Bridgers gave a sensitive performance. Lauren Ashley Carter portrayed Ada with a wide-eyed innocence that comes with being a perpetual victim in a strange world. Most of the other characters range from ignorant hicks out for blood to sadistic abusers with persecution on their minds.

I loved, loved. LOVED the creepy montage at the beginning. The rest of the movie is a steady mix of highs and lows, a perfect candidate for a 3/5 rating. Alternately engrossing and contrived, “Jug Face” is a movie that will most likely be really enjoyed if the viewer considers it’s low budget roots and the filmmaker’s beginning baby steps toward horror greatness.

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Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)

 

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Rougher, rawer, and realer than other horror-killer films of it’s ilk (“The Silence of the Lambs,” “Seven,”) “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer” engaged me from beginning to end. Beware- people who don’t want to see the dark, dark side of the human psyche should stay far away from this innovative low-budget classic. The titular serial killer of the title (played by Michael Rooker, who many will no as Daryl Dixon’s no good brother Merle) never stays in one place for long, and the film follows in startlingly true-to-life style as he stays for a while at the home of his worthless white-trash friend Otis (Tom Towles,) and Otis’ sister, Becky (Tracy Arnold.)

(Somewhat) innocent Becky just came out of an abusive relationship and is suckered in immediately by Henry’s sad story, but Otis has less-than-brotherly feelings for his attractive sis. So follows a plunge into darkness, as Henry initiates Otis into his homicidal lifestyle, while Becky, not fully aware of the extent of Henry’s crimes, only falls harder for the taciturn killer.

“Henry- Portrait of a Serial Killer” is extremely creepy with natural-looking actors who are convincing in their roles. There certainly aren’t a lot of sympathizable characters (Becky is ultimately the only one you’ll feel anything for,) but I ended up thinking that Otis was even worse than his murderously inclined buddy. His unscrupulous intentions toward his sister were less than savory, and although he didn’t initially kill anybody, he sure took to the pastime (with Henry’s mentorship) like gangbusters.

Obviously a low-budget movie, this movie actually uses that to it’s asset, and it provides it’s most harrowing scene on home video as something that Henry and Otis have shot on their expeditions. The weird sound effects and general eeriness reminded me of “Angst,” another discomforting movie from the 1980’s which is hard to find on DVD. The ‘bad mama’ trope is a little cliched (the serial killer genre’s take on the refrigerator mother,) but being that it’s true to the events this was based on, I didn’t sweat it too much.

I personally didn’t find this movie too disturbing and I found it captivating in it’s own freaky way, but I understand it won’t float everyone’s boat. People for loads and loads of gore (a ‘la “Dead Alive”) will be sorely disappointed, only the aftermath most of the murders is shown. Just remember the real story was a helluva lot worse (the ‘Becky’ character was Henry’s 12-year-old lover, whereas in this she was a young woman) This is now my 2nd-favorite serial killer movie (yep, “Tony”‘s still the best.) It’s a must-see for horror fans who aren’t afraid of getting their hands a little dirty film-wise.

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L.I.E. (2001)

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Despite a rocky start, L.I.E. proves to be a powerful movie in the long run, with great performances from Brian Cox and a young Paul Dano. Dano plays a Howie Blitzer, a fifteen-year-old juvenile delinquent whose dad is an inattentive swindler, and whose friends are leading him down the wrong path quick. The school guidance counselor senses that Howie is different, but Howie thinks that it is too late to be saved, and spirals deeper and deeper into disaffected adolescent crime.

One day Howie and his friends break into the house of Big John Harrigan (Brian Cox,) Irish-American Vietnam veteran and pedophile and steal two valuable guns from him. Harrigan finds Howie and tricks him into thinking he’s a friend of Howie’s late mother’s, and he grooms and attempts to seduce the boy, using threat of legal action for the missing guns to his advantage. Thus begins a icky, and very odd turn of events where the kid realizes that a monster is his only lifeline.

   L.I.E. was originally rated NC-17, and probably crosses the line with child actors as much as it can be crossed in an American movie. Even more disturbing than the pedophilic content and the sweaty, horny, hazed portrayal of out-of-control teen behavior, is the ambiguity concerning the relationship between an adult and a child. It is easy to portray a child molester as a teeth-gnashing sex fiend. It is hard to portray them as human. Don’t get me wrong, I think pedophiles are evil and will get their karma in the afterlife. But many of them were made that way, not born bad. They have human attributes and psychological reasons for doing what they do- to portray them as solely mustache-twirling villains is to deny the complexity of life.

The first ten minutes or so of this movie disappointed me- it seemed like they were trying way too hard to be shocking and edgy. It’s Harmony Korine syndrome- let’s show just how disgusting people can be! The scene where the boy is talking about screwing his sister didn’t ring true to me, nor did the scene with the boys being blown behind street signs. You have to get a little farther in to get to the good part. Brian Cox is chilling. He vacillates between being charming and repugnant. The fact that you begin to like him- just a little- shows the brilliance of the character dynamics.

L.I.E.‘s terrifying. It’s more terrifying than The Conjuring or the Human Centipede movies because it can happen, and is happening… outside our doors, in our neighborhoods, and maybe, just maybe, in our houses. Because Big John is only as scary as the society he inhabits, which neglects our children, raises a generation of ‘latchkey kid,’ and grows them up to be disaffected and attention-starved. It allows these things to happen. An abrupt ending makes you question what it all really meant. Not easy or kid-friendly, but relevant.

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