Wednesday, 25 April 2012

INCOMING: Ti West's The Innkeepers

Cigarette Burns Cinema is proud to present a special preview screening of Metrodome Distribution's upcoming release THE INNKEEPERS. Originally premièring in the UK as one of the favourites of Frightfest's 2011 line up, The Innkeepers a modern classic as much as it is a homage to films before it. 
Last Tuesday Society's Vadim Kosmos, takes a look - 

Innkeepers, wherein, two directionless wage slaves at the near to closure ‘Yankee Pedlar Inn', hoping to distract themselves from the tedium of their minimum wage woes, determine to uncover evidence of the hotel’s vaunted hauntings - only to very much wish they hadn’t.

Writer/Director/Editor Ti West has cultivated a recent reputation as a film maker who cares about craft; his ‘slow burn’ aesthetic in complete contrast to the current crop of lowest common denominator, attention deficient body count blockbusters and remake rehashes.
His attention to detail and the shimmering production values which emanate from his continued insistence to shoot on film, fly in the face of the post-Blair Witch “Found Footage” film trend.

Written while still licking his wounds from the tortured experience of writing/directing medium-major studio movie ‘Cabin Fever 2’; West was inspired by the uncanny events experienced by cast and crew while staying at the real life ‘Yankee Pedlar Inn' in Torrington, Connecticut - base camp for the location shoot of his previous indie production, the 80s Satanic period piece ‘House of the Devil’.
Fascinated by the ilk of TV’s ‘Most Haunted’, with its phoney psychics and their hi-tech honchos failing to uncover evidence of phantom phenomena on a weekly basis, West pondered how they would actually cope when confronted with the incontrovertible.

Written in three days, West’s script creates a convincing portrayal of that specific workplace chemistry of colleagues thrown together by necessity, but which rarely develops into any form of extra-curricular relationship. A scenario, which could have easily generated Kevin Smith-levels of annoyance, is instead deftly handled with a degree of unforced charm by the warm and natural performances of the appealing leads.
Tween movie star Sara Paxton, acting against glamorous type, imparts her character Claire with an unexpectedly awkward, goofy charm; while Pat Healy’s dryly-humoured cynicism fails to conceal his character Luke’s transparent and literally hopeless proximity-crush on the much younger woman.
The lives of the few remaining residents of the Hotel; a single mum, an elderly widower and a faded actress-turned-new-age-spiritualist give warning to the possible fates awaiting the duo if they continue their drifting lives.  Kelly McGillis, as fallen movie star Leanne Rease-Jones (partially inspired by ‘House of the Devil’ co-star Dee ‘E.T.’, ‘The Howling’ Wallace), gives a slightly sour, but vulnerable performance one would not have predicted from her days in ‘Witness’ or ‘Top Gun’.

No ghost movie is complete without its haunted house and this “Slacker Shining” (© Mark Pilkington) is no exception.  Perhaps this movie’s greatest performance is the  ‘Yankee Pedlar Inn' itself, in the role it was born to play.
For a movie where the scares are as much heard as seen, it is fitting that much of the mood is via the mix created by sound designer Graham Resnick.
Minus the impossible architecture of Kubrick’s other famous haunted hotel, West creates an creeping anticipation of terror via slow dolly shots, pauses and clever framing - transforming the homey, rustic charm of the 19th Century hostelry into an environment where every innocent corner hides a wrongness.

Watch The Innkeepers with us at The Prince Charles Cinema on 24th May details here

Saturday, 14 April 2012


The Philippines has a cinematic history covering most of what you'd expect, but it's the truly mental excursions through the bizarre where it excels, from some of the more well know Eddie Romero classics and Roger Corman productions to the much loved midget spy For Y'ur Height Only.
But they don't stop there, oh no, the Philippines offerings only get more and more peculiar the deeper you dig.
Case in point - The Killing of Satan.

Dir. Efren C. Pinon
Written by: Joe Mari Avellana

One of the more imaginative Filipino Action/Fantasy/Exploitation films out there concerns Lando, a simple, mild-mannered guy who had served time in prison for killing a man that threatened his village. Free and now raising a family, Lando starts to receive messages in his dreams from his Uncle Miguel (the local Holy Man). When his daughter disappears, Lando is forced to join his his Uncle and his followers in their battle against Satan and his disciple, the Prince of Magic.

When three goons come into the village looking to kill Lando. While succeeding in shooting him, they also inadvertently kill his young son.
Lando is laid to rest in bed, recovering from a bullet wound in his head. While miles away on another island, Uncle Miguel is lying in bed as well, meditating... mentally absorbing Lando's mortal wounds into his own head saving Lando in the process.
Now recovered, our hero is drawn to the island by the chanting of his Uncle's devout followers. He, his wife, and his daughter Louisa set forth across the short distance of sea. Heavy, foreboding winds pick up out of nowhere, trying to impede their progress. They make it to the beach and are met by a strange, mute child who leads them across rocky terrain. The top of the cliff explodes, showering boulders upon them. The is forced to take cover, when the dust clears, the mysterious child has vanished.
Lando and family are greeted at the village and he is told by Renzo (the second most powerful Magician in the village) that his Uncle has died from a bullet wound, however, he had not been shot.
Renzo leads Lando to the shore where his Uncle was buried at sea. Lando rows out, stops, grasping his head in pain from some sort of psionic attack. Shaking it off and continues on. A piece of driftwood bumps the boat. He pushes it away. It floats back. When Lando reaches for it this time, a rotten, grey-skinned hand grabs his arm, and a decomposed corpse bursts out of the water and says in a horrifying voice, "I am your Uncle Miguel!" Only to disappear back into the water. It is some pretty jolting stuff.

While Renzo and Lando are still at the shore, the Prince of Magic and his underlings raid the village for girls. They use their hypno-wheel, magic hand blasts and psionic staring contests to take down the men and carry off the women including Lando's daughter Louisa. The power duo Lando and Renzo return to the village to find the few remaining baddies still left. Renzo instructs Lando to use his hitherto unknown powers, creating a swirling force field from his arm to deflect bullets as well as becoming invincible to the underlings' fisticuffs while his punches do supreme damage. He soon discovers he can use his newfound powers to heal the injuries his wife had sustained when the village was attacked.

Left with no option but to travel to where servent of Satan, the Prince of Magic dwells, Lando and Renzo must rescue Louisa. Who is being held captive in a cave in an electrified cage full of naked women. Lando fights off the Snake Man and lower henchmen of the cave only to face the Prince of Magic himself. But is overtaken before he can activate his powers and is thrown off a waterfall by the minions.
Lando floats unconscious down a river until he comes to a stop at a shore where the little boy from earlier, Nino is waiting. Nino leads him to a small, crumbling stone church where there is an old man (God ?) with long white hair and a beard. He gives Lando a magic staff that, along with Lando's own powers, will be able to destroy Satan.

With that, Lando treks back to the cave to fight the Prince of Magic, temptation used by Ava, the Sexy Snake Woman; and finally Satan himself, to save his daughter.

THE KILLING OF SATAN is certainly a fun film. A horror cartoon come to life with sufficient f/x, goofy costumes, and some cool/surreal images i.e. the aforementioned corpse popping out of the water, clear waterfalls turning into blood, the pulsar shields and firing of magic energy from one's hands, and most notably the sequence where a character is completely rolled over by a boulder revealing his body to be a red, pulpy mess only for his head to go right on talking.

With all this going on how could you not like this movie?



Read more of Justin's wanderings through dusty VHS racks on his OPERATION: 24fps blog.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Ice Cream Trucks and Dwarves

It's been a while, so why not return with an undisputed classic? One that is close to many people's hearts, and certainly deserves a revisit - Phantasm

Director Don Coscarelli etches something as close to a real-life nightmare as you are likely to witness on screen. A heroically-bizarre movie including metallic flying-spheres drilling blood-spattered holes in heads and a magical gateway to a sand-ridden planet populated by not just alien but dwarf slaves. 'Phantasm' is an energised cinematic jolt of low-budget horror fantasy.

The plot, if you can call it that, involves a young boy (A Michael Baldwin) and his older brother (Bill Thornbury) who find out that there are very strange goings-on - somewhat akin to body-snatching but suitably crazier - at their local funeral home. The stolen corpses are somehow transformed into the aforementioned undead dwarf slaves in order to serve some alien God...... Of course, at the centre of it all is the mysterious and by now, cult figure, the 'Tall Man' played by the omnipresent Angus Scrimm. Our good guys are completed with the inclusion of a hilarious middle-aged ice-cream vendor and wannabe rock-singer 'Reggie' (Reggie Bannister) - and yes, there is a musical number in here...... Strange enough for you yet?

Whilst certainly not for everyone (particularly if you're the kind of viewer who likes to know what is going on), and if you can forgive the production values and performances, "Phantasm" is cripplingly joyous entertainment leaving you with a genuine sense of awe for the imagination of Coscarelli and co. The movie runs at one hell of a pace and is infamous for the 'head-drilling' sequence alone, but there is more to savour than the short 88 minute running time would suggest - including a script swollen with cheese, over-acting, motorbikes and achingly unsubtle testosterone.

Australian Lobby Card

Although not as scary as the tagline -"If this one doesn't scare you, you're already dead!" - indicates, there are nevertheless some heart-pounding moments and more than a dusting of 'cheap' shocks (bodies falling out of cupboards, etc.). There's also a fantastic chase sequence between a hearse, or more like an evil-version of the bat-mobile to be honest, and a motorbike.

Coscarelli's vision is lovingly propelled throughout by an eerie score reminiscent of 'Tubular Bells' but along with the 'Carrie'-esque ending, is where the 'borrowing' ends - "Phantasm" is a uniquely fascinating movie, directed with panache and original to the point that it could never be understood, let alone forgotten - just like a nightmare.

Grant Davies covers similar B grade classics as well as Westerns at his Hot Dog Cinema blog