Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Dr. AC's Rec of the Week (B)

Howdy troops,

The Doc is back for another round, tipping you off to some of the "good stuff" that isn't necessarily sitting on the Blockbuster shelves nor running in an endless loop on TNT. No, sometimes the task of a horror fan is to dig just a little deeper to find the gold...and the gold is out there, my friends.

This week, we're serving up a double dip of "B" films:

Beyond, The (1981)
Considered by many to be Italian director Lucio Fulci’s masterpiece, this is an eye-popping good time for those who like their gore dripping and their storylines incoherent. As near as can be determined, the film revolves around an old hotel in New Orleans that has in its basement “the seven doors of evil,” one of which gets opened by a troubleshooting plumber. (Wouldn’t you think it would be harder than that? Guess not.) That’s all the excuse that Fulci needs to open his arsenal and soon, corpses are rising from the dead, eyeballs are pushed, prodded, and poked out of their sockets, faces are melted with acid, and other gross-outs ensue. In one of the most audacious set pieces, a nest of tarantulas make a slow and deliberate feast of an unconscious victim (complete with grimace-inducing munching and crunching noises on the soundtrack). While the film’s narrative is nearly incomprehensible, there is plenty of imaginative camerawork and art direction amid the mayhem, creating an unsettling mood (as if those spiders weren’t unsettling enough). Filled with numerous memorable scenes, including a knockout final sequence.

Black Sheep (2006)
As surely as Peter Jackson drew inspiration from childhood idols Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen, Jonathan King’s admiration for his fellow Kiwi filmmaker’s early madcap horror/comedies is apparent in nearly every scene. Much like Bad Taste and Braindead (aka Dead-Alive), the characters are drawn large and loud, then inhabited by appealing, offbeat actors. Nathan Meister plays Henry, a New Zealand sheep baron’s younger offspring waylaid by a chronic fear of the woolly ones due to childhood trauma at the hands of his sadistic, bullying elder brother. Now grown, Angus (Peter Feeney) has moved into genetically engineering his ovine, the fallout of said experiments resulting in the most ill-tempered baa-baa’s ever to graze a hillside. Of course, the joke of turning the proverbial docile lamb of the field into a homicidal carnivorous beastie is the basis for King’s (who also scripted) black comedy, but thanks to Jackson’s Weta Workshop, audiences are also treated to several half man/half sheep monstrosities and a troughful of off-color intimations that Angus’ contributions to his work may extend beyond just his brainpower. Blessedly free of CGI, directed with verve and performed with "shear" abandon, this may not be a classic for the ages, but it’s bloody fun and one of the best horror/comedies since Shaun of the Dead.

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