Archive for Cinema

Review: THE LOVE WITCH

Posted in Films That Haunt Me, Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2016 by smuckyproductions

(This is one film to watch post-election, because of its empowerment, brilliance and social intelligence.)

Stylistic homage in horror is nothing new in 2016. So many of the greatest genre offerings in the past few years have been throwbacks to past decades, usually the 70s or the 80s. It’s an interesting reaction to the “horror is dead” statement that keeps throwing itself around – filmmakers respond to this by returning to their roots, the eras during which so many horror classics were produced. Few of these films go beyond homage, though, to comment on the eras that they are meant to inhabit. THE LOVE WITCH is one such film.

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Anna Biller’s sophomore feature is, like her debut VIVA, created in the style of 60s and 70s sexploitation cinema.She achieves this homage with an incredible attention to detail – everything from the film grain and the harsh lighting to the vivid production design and celestial soundtrack fits the era impossibly well. Had I been told I was watching a 60s film, I wouldn’t have questioned it (aside from a few important moments that I can’t reveal here).

This world exists around the titular witch, Elaine, who joins a Wiccan cult and uses her practices for one thing: seducing men. Hence, her name. But Elaine runs into some trouble when her love spells backfire. Soon, the locals become wary and a handsome police officer begins following her trail. Will Elaine finally find love, or will she fall victim to her own desires?

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The plot, like the film’s aesthetic and atmosphere, is pure exploitation. Its occult elements and sexually ‘liberated’ characters provide plenty of excuses for trippy visuals and copious sex scenes. Biller’s script is full of cheesy one-liners and flirtations straight out of a dating how-to; but it’s aware of itself enough that the audience can laugh without mocking the film. These moments constructed to be funny, but they aren’t farcical – Biller takes her world seriously, too. That’s where the brilliance comes in.

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What begins as an exercise in homage evolves into a political exploration of themes found throughout 60s and 70s cinema – where does sex-positivity end and delusion begin? Had this film been directed by a man, perhaps these questions would not be asked. That is why Biller’s scrutinizing voice is essential to the film’s success. Early on, as Elaine explains what men want in a woman (a maternal figure who satisfies sexually, more or less), her friend shuts her down – how can she say such demeaning things? Of course, at first, Elaine seems an expert in seduction. Until people start ending up dead.

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This is where Biller’s genius shows through. She isn’t content to perpetuate the sexualization of her predecessors – she displays that, while these films are attractive, they also contain some demoralizing ideas. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that Elaine’s story is not all bright colors and sex scenes. THE LOVE WITCH earns its place in the horror genre through its dissection, and destruction, of the demeaning elements.

Apart from being a lush and charming homage, Anna Biller’s THE LOVE WITCH manages to be a rich commentary. It exists in two eras, eventually bringing them together until the lines blur – have things really changed? For cinephiles and social psychologists alike, this is a hefty, essential film. It will take you under its spell, and won’t let you leave without a little bloodletting.

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Watch Smucky’s Latest Film, BACCHUS

Posted in Updates with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 7, 2016 by smuckyproductions

Smucky Productions has released its latest short film, BACCHUS!

A goofy, grotesque homage to Eurohorror classics; three friends succumb to fear and frenzy in the woods as they fall under the spell of Bacchus.

Watch the full film here:

Don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more wacky, macabre cinema!

Films That Haunt Me: LES DIABOLIQUES

Posted in Films That Haunt Me with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2015 by smuckyproductions

It’s November now, a time for Halloween hangovers before the Christmas rush begins in full force. After the horror rush of October, some might think it’s time to calm down, watch some wholesome films, get away from the macabre. And some can never get away. For those in the latter group, I continue my discussion of the grotesque and the Gothic, starting off with the noir nightmare LES DIABOLIQUES.

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This gem of French cinema is often referred to as the alternative to “Psycho,” perhaps because Hitchcock and Henri-Georges Clouzot – the director of this film – engaged in a bidding war for the book rights. When one sees the film, this couldn’t make more sense. It’s a dark, psychological, power-play crime story about a brutal man and two women – one his wife, the other his mistress – who conspire to get him out of their lives once and for all. Which they do. But what if he’s not done with them yet?

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So, yes, it sounds like a noir-thriller… until things start to happen. I can’t say what those things are, but just thinking about them horrifies me. Something about classic horror and bathtubs, man. But this is a film that brilliantly combines two genres that often get mistaken for one another. There is the reality and logic of a crime-thriller – murder, cover-up, detective work – but then, out of the dark, comes the cloying nightmare of horror. The latter component has less screen time, to be sure, but it is certainly provides the most memorable scene. Suffice to say, this has one of the best shock endings of all time.

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Its unique atmosphere also sets it apart from most noir-thrillers, which tend to have seedy, hard-boiled tones. Even before the murder takes place, this one adopts a sodden, autumnal aura that might be more at home in a ghost story, full of rainy skies and ill-kept corridors. With the quiet Gothic-ness of the beginning, the horror does not feel out of place.

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And that aura of the uncanny only serves to support the quietly-building hints within the film that something is not right. This is a master-class of tension. The occurrences are minute, almost imperceptible, until it dawns on the viewer that they’re terrified. And that’s when things really begin to happen. The film is patient and trusts that it will achieve its effect – a confidence that is often missing from modern genre offerings, which are too hasty to grab a quick scare, rather than sustaining a mood of dread.

This film is a dream come true for lovers of classic cinema and horror fans alike – perfect for these damp November afternoons, when we need a chill to keep us warm. And perhaps a heart-stopping shock, too.

Room 237 (2012): Review

Posted in Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 31, 2013 by smuckyproductions

Director: Rodney Asher
8.5/10

I went to a midnight screening of Room 237 while at Sundance. Seeing as The Shining is my favorite film of all time, I was ecstatic to find a documentary about it. While it wasn’t exactly what I expected, Room 237 is an amazing look at one of the most cryptic films of our time.

Of all Kubrick films, The Shining is arguably the most widely viewed. It’s a great scary movie, but there are so many contexts lurking beneath that transcend the genre. It’s a bewildering experience viewing the film for the first time, and trying to pick up on all the subliminal clues seemingly placed around every corner. Room 237 does a great job of revealing some of these hidden messages, though it never forces any one speculation on the audience. For anyone who thinks that The Shining is more than just a horror film, this documentary is a must see.

Hearing people’s interpretations of movies is always entertaining. It gets taken to a new level in Room 237. Most people’s thoughts were normal enough – for example, that Jack represents a minotaur in his maze, or that the film is about the Native American genocide. Some of people’s answers to the film’s deepest secrets, though, are absolutely insane, but in the best way possible. One man went so far as to claim that Kubrick made The Shining as a confession to faking the moon landing. Asher compiles all of these theories very well, giving them visual context when possible while always remaining ambivalent. The editing and flow of the film is wonderful and engaging. The music used is moody and fun, though so relaxing that I found myself falling asleep a few times (it was 1 in the morning, after all).

Because of its complexity, this is the kind of movie you can watch again and again, just like the masterpiece it is about. Room 237 is a fun mystery, but it also reminds us of why we love cinema: it, like all art, has endless possibilities. For any movie-lover, I recommend Room 237 very highly. It’s a beautiful love letter to the silver screen.