Friday, January 16, 2009


Sometimes Sweet Baby Jeezus gives you a present. In this case, to reward us for putting up with Michael Bay's tyrannical parade of re-treaded mediocrity (a parade that is so horrible that it rips a hole in space-time and exists in the before, the now and the will-be simultaneously), the cultural divine wind that is Tokyo Shock has released TOKYO GORE POLICE on DVD.

My friends, come close. This is a blessing that is as new and visionary as it is beyond my jaded expectations. TOKYO GORE POLICE is the bastard love monkey of TERMINATOR II, DEAD ALIVE and Carpenter's THE THING and I can't even recall the last time that a film swept my innate cynicism aside so completely. After watching it twice since it came out on DVD last Tuesday, my brain has been spinning inside my skull like a kangaroo rat on back alley street-meth but my joy, while still uncut, rings so loudly that it retards my ability to string coherent paragraphs together in a traditional review. So instead, I'm simply going to list the first thirteen things that leap out of my fingers and let you, my precious piggies, spackle in the holes when you watch this uncommon delight yourselves.


1. Director/Editor/Gore FX Artist/Creature Designer Yoshihiro Nishimura is a visual auteur/thunder god on a par with Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton, blocking nearly every shot in the film so that it's suitable for framing. Whether you can stomach what you're seeing or not is irrelevant: Nishimura's sense of color, composition and balance is objectively good. The fact that he had the foresight and control to edit TOKYO GORE POLICE as well underscores what a cinematic juggernaut he is. He's like the Asian Quentin Tarantino in the wake of PULP FICTION. (And in the wake of DEATH PROOF, there might be a vacancy for the American Quentin Tarantino as well. But I digress.)

2. Eihi Shiina plays the superheroine Ruka to leggy, stoic perfection. Compounding on her role as the mad love interest from Takashi Miike's masterpiece, AUDITION, Shiina has cemented her role as Japan's It Girl for ice-blooded, sociopathic supermodels that can carry a script. She is now firmly entrenched at #3, between Salma Hayek and Tricia Helfer, on the list of celebrities that my wife will allow me one consequence-free snogfest with if e'er I'm afforded the opportunity.

3. TOKYO GORE POLICE is destined for cult royalty. It is exactly the needle that we all look for when we wade into the haystack of MACHINE GIRL and SARS WARS: BANGKOK ZOMBIE CRISIS. It makes VERSUS look like an episode of KURE KURE TAKERU.

4. Enough firehosing fountain blood to pressure-wash Delaware.

5. Coolest genetically modified mutant cyborg archvillain EVER.

6. Hilarious Paul Verhoeven style TV commercials confuse and delight you between sequences of intense gore. I laughed out loud at "Wristcutter G" all eight times that I rewound and watched it.

7. Also like ROBOCOP, TOKYO GORE POLICE is set in the context of a believably executed dystopian society in the indeterminate future. While many of the elements of the film are improbable in any future, the backdrop of a privatized police force, commercialized self-mutilation and society's desensitization to violence as a whole are thought-provoking (assuming you can stop laughing or cringing from everything else going on).

8. Quadruple amputee Spiderwoman sex-slave gimp ninja with katana legs. (Hoe! Lee!! Shitake mushrooms!!!!)

9. Rocket powered Fist Cannon (patent pending).

10. The face-off in Bar Independent (sic).

11. Lady GatorCrotch.

12. Super-sexy lady samurai cop with a naginata appears out of nowhere to fight the prostitute in a sexy school uniform that's been transformed into a mutant killing machine with a giant box-cutter arm and acid spewing nipples in one of the film's most engaging and superfluous battle-to-the-death sequences. Ah, the Japanese...they can't pronounce "subtlety" so why worry about it? Big wet kiss!

13. And perhaps most important, I can't remember the last time I had so much damn fun watching a movie.

And to complete your viewing pleasure, it is CRITICAL that you watch the Japanese language version with subtitles. There is a richness of inflection and depth of sound - as well as numerous sound effects and background music - which are quite simply missing from the English dub. The dub actors are more flat and lifeless than a squirrel on the Interstate and they literally ruin the film. If you're one of those products of our public-school system that is adamantly against subtitles, you would be better watching the movie with the sound turned off.

Sound on or off, in a box or with a fox, make time for TOKYO GORE POLICE. Along with recent films like INSIDE, TEETH, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and REC, I would not be a bit surprised to learn that we are on the cusp of an international golden age for horror movies. Wouldn't that be something? I've either got goosebumps or a recurrence of last week's rash. Fingers crossed for the former, eh?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Lesson In Humility

I have seen HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER twice. I watched GOZU until the end (and rewound the dog part five times). I watched LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT last night just to see if it's worth the remake that's coming out later this year.* And I'm the guy at the party that pretentiously interjects CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST into the conversation about cult films among people that haven't even seen Rocky Horror all the way through.

But this made me throw up in my mouth a little.

(This is a two-spotted ribbonworm. It is real. And eeyew eeyew eeyew eeyew EEYEEEEWWWW!!!!!!)

* It's not.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


The Guy Of Average Height and Weight Of Notre Dame

The WereCareBears


That Darn Gorgon

Thogdarr, The Creature That Talks To You On The Bus

The Olive Loaf of Dorian Gray

Nibbula, Hamster of Dracula!


Milli Godzilli

The Phantom Of The Lady Foot Locker

Dr. Six Nipples, The Man With Six Nipples


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Baron's Bestiary - Chapter 1

My last post’s thumbs up for monsters set my brainbox ta’jigglin’. In my day I’ve rubbed elbows with a monster or two. Times ten to the sixth. Which monsters have made my timbers the shiveriest?

Culling this down to a mere, shopworn Top 10 would be a transgression against popular culture on par with greenlighting Flavor Of Love. My knowledge on this subject is entirely too encyclopedic for that sort of brevity. I will, however, commit to ten at a time and in no particular order. This will give those of you viewing at home the chance to chime in and play along. Fun! Here are the rules:

1) The monster may come from any medium: urban legend, movies, litter-at-chore, comicbooks, anything.
2) I will accept a “villain” or “bad guy” as a monster as long as he, she or it has an unnatural element. This element may be supernatural, paranormal, extraterrestrial, cryptozoological, downright bizarre or generally freakish.
3) The monster needs to have panache, preferably in its actions as well as its attributes. The kind of monsters that lesser monsters were spun off from.
4) The first person to say Darth Vader gets rabbit-punched in the Adam’s apple.

Ready? Ding ding! Round 1!


WHY? The Big Five. The Classics. Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolfman, the Mummy and this guy. Universal’s stable of monsters is arguably the most iconic in American culture and the Gill-Man stands out not only for being the only one that was not based on myth or classic literature, but for looking so damn good doing it. THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON came out over half a century ago and the character design (attributed to make-up artist Bud Westmore but actually created by Disney animator Millicent Patrick) is still superior to 90% of the monster work produced today.
TRIVIA: A CFTBL remake has been in the works since 2001, in the aftermath of the catastrophic and unexplainable success of Universal’s blockbuster turdapalooza, THE MUMMY, and may or may not be released in 2009. In this version, the Gill-Man is no longer an evolutionary throwback but the result of pharmaceutical companies tampering with nature – so there’s cliché strike one right there. The film is being directed by the son of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Breck Eisner, whose film credits include being the son of Michael Eisner.


WHY? Because Fred Dekker’s cult classic THE MONSTER SQUAD is one of the only monster movies out there that lives up to the oxymoron of being “fun for all ages” and the magnificent detail of the Gill-Man suit, created at Stan Winston Studios by my favorite monster maker ever, Steve Wang, achieves the unenviable task of being a worthy second act to the original Gill-Man.
TRIVIA: Since THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON is the only one of the aforementioned Big Five that is a strictly Universal Studios property, Dekker avoided being sued back into the Bronze Age by referring to the monster only as “the Gill-Man” throughout THE MONSTER SQUAD.


WHY? As the first zombie released from its military canister in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, Tar-Man’s glassy stare, melting flesh, spastic movements and warbling hiss cemented him in position as The Best Zombie In The History Of Ever. Tar-Man’s sequence in ROTLD should be required viewing for any filmmaker that sees CGI as a default.
TRIVIA: The Tar-Man was played to gangly perfection by professional mime and Jim Henson Company puppeteer, Allan Trautman. That means Tar-Man has had his hand up a Fraggle’s ass.


WHY? Dubbed “Lizzie” by her creator and director, horror fx legend and execrable actor Tom Savini, this cuddly bundle of snuggles helped wedge the first season of TALES FROM THE DARK SIDE into the aorta of horror fans everywhere. Shrunken, slimy and with a taste for co-eds, I can personally vouch for the nightmare-inducing qualities of that particular episode.
TRIVIA: For years I thought that Lizzie was one of the most original creature designs I had ever seen. Then I saw a copy of STRANGE TALES from October 1932.

Let this be a lesson to you all. Never throw away your old comic books. You never know when a 50 year old illustration will make you seem clever.


WHY? Creepiest. Made-for-TV movie. Ever. Kim Darby plays a young wife struggling with a schizophrenic disorder, so why would anyone believe her when a clan of tiny, furry demons that look like Edward Horton try to pull her into the fireplace? They wouldn’t. Too bad, so sad, buhbye Kim Darby.
TRIVIA: Tick tock goes the remake clock. Miramax is already helming a redux of DBAOTD that will be directed by Canadian comic book artist, Troy Nixey. Sounds iffy, huh? What if I told you Guillermo Del Toro was producing it? See that? See how it seems so awesome now? Hu-hoh yeah.


WHY? Millions love him while millions more have never heard of him. H.P. Lovecraft is at once the most influential and under-appreciated horror author I can think of. His most enduring work are the “Cthulhu Mythos,” an entire ecosystem of cross-dimensional monstrosities, complete with its own pantheon of bubbling, tentacled Elder Gods of which Cthulhu was boss. Octopus headed, toad bodied, enshrouded with rotting, leathern wings, Cthulhu was supposedly so malignant and antithetical to human existence that just dreaming of it would drive a man utterly bonkers. Lovecraft’s ability to describe the indescribable in his writing blazed a trail for dozens of writers including Robert Bloch, Ramsey Campbell and August Derleth – even Stephen King dipped his toe in Mythos with THE MIST – but ironically, this talent of Lovecraft’s may be exactly why so few of his works have been successfully translated to film. The cosmic terror of a Cthulhu is just too massive and indefinable to be captured by anything except the imagination. The most faithful film adaptation of a Lovecraft story is probably Dan O’Bannon’s THE RESURRECTED, a faithful retelling of Lovecraft’s short story THE CASE OF CHARLES DEXTER WARD. And if one imagines the monster from Dean Koontz’ PHANTOMS to be Shub Niggurath (translation: Cthulhu’s slutty sister), that movie instantly gets better. We just need to keep hoping that Guillermo Del Toro still wants to do THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS after he’s done cashing all his HOBBIT checks.
TRIVIA: Despite being the most powerful of all the Elder Gods who ruled the earth millennia before the Dawn of Man, Cthulhu is perhaps best known today for playing Davy Jones in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies.


WHY? Important safety tip. If one is frequenting a gentlemen’s establishment for, say, le boobies, one should expect to hear the DJ announcing succulent moisties going by names like “Cinnamon” or “Dakota.” Safe, established stripper aliases. But if a hot toddy is telling you her name is “Santanico Pandemonium” up front, that’s a clue. Grab your sack and run.

I’ll own up to my bias. Santanico as one of the coolest monsters ever? Oh sure, reptilian snake vampiresses are way up there, but for pure monstrosity I think that both Amanda Donohoe in LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM and Jacqueline Pearce in Hammer’s THE REPTILE are far more engaging. But this one goes out to the little baron. Salma Hayek could not be hotter if she was made out of wasabi and napalm. I have never had a conversation about FROM DUSK TILL DAWN with a straight man that did not revolve around Santanico’s table dance. And I have never had a conversation about FROM DUSK TILL DAWN with a gay man.
TRIVIA: Besides this legendary appearance in FDTD, Salma also appears in Robert Rodriguez’ often overlooked bodysnatcher flick, THE FACULTY, a movie that ranks high on my roster of guilty pleasures. When you consider her willingness to work with (high profile but still) counter culture directors like Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino and Kevin Smith, while still having the chops to pull off a tour de force like FRIDA, she might well be one of Hollywood’s coolest actresses in addition to being the hottest.


“HEY! You got your bondage sex in my horror! “
“HEY! You got your horror in my bondage sex!”
“HEY!!! That’s terrific!!!”

Clive Barker and his leather-clad demon daddies did as much to open up the horizon of horror as Giger’s design for the xenomorph in ALIEN did for sci-fi. As if the burning lake wasn’t bad enough, HELLRAISER opened up our minds to the notion that eternal torment could just as easily involve fishhooks and our poop chutes. Stay in school, kids.
TRIVIA: Pinhead is considered a sex symbol in Japan. Which is why you should never have sex in Japan.


WHY? Played to megalomaniacal perfection by the irreplaceable Hans Conreid, the title character from the 1953 musical fantasy, THE 5000 FINGERS OF DR. T., is an ivory key despot imprisoning 500 young children in his impossibly fantastic piano camp gulag, where every non-piano playing musician in the world is being kept in the dungeon. Think Lex Luthor meets Liberace. Among his henchmen are a pair of rollerskating Siamese twins connected by their ZZ Topp beards. I guarantee you that Tim Burton has worn out his DVD of this film about eight times.
TRIVIA: The 5000 FINGERS OF DR.T is the only full length motion picture to be written by Dr. Seuss. You can only rhyme ‘hop’ and ‘pop’ so many times before you snap like a Kit Kat and write something entirely misanthropic.


WHY? Have you ever wondered why so many “aliens” from “different” worlds all have two legs, two arms, more often than not, a face, as well as an uncanny grasp of the English language? Buh-HOR-riiiiiiing. That’s why I love the Daleks so much. Not only are they singlemindedly genocidal, but they pull it off looking like giant pepper mills. Seriously, how menacing do you have to be to compensate for having a plunger hand. Lots menacing. And yet, the Daleks have been pulling it off in the various incarnations of DOCTOR WHO for the better part of half a century. Just last year, these villainous vibrators were voted the “scariest” of the Doctor’s villains by a poll of BBC viewers. (Now, if there was a Dentist Who, then those Brits would really be crapping their knickers.)
TRIVIA: The Daleks were created by veteran BBC production designer Raymond Cusick because a 25 year old set designer by the name of Ridley Scott turned the gig down. Too bad – that Scott kid probably could have made a name for himself if he hadn't been such a slacker.


And the Daleks make ten. A fine maiden outing, says I. I’ve already got the next ten lined up but please, try and complicate my life with your own observations.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Eventually, I'm going to talk about the French horror film, INSIDE. I'm also going to tell you how it ends, partly because I want to ruin it for you. By the time you get there, you'll understand why.

I have an enormous problem with the spate of "torture horror" films these days. I'm referring to films where the horror is all too human and the violence, which tends to be prodigious, isn't borne of a voodoo curse or an alien's genetic imperative to lay eggs in your butt. It's just sadism. The HOSTEL films, THEM (2007), THE STRANGERS, VACANCY, P2, CAPTIVITY, TURISTAS, remakes of PROM NIGHT, THE HITCHER, WHEN A STRANGER CALLS...yadda yadda yadda. I find these films to be at best creatively lazy and at worst culturally damaging.

The evil that men do is not entertainment. If it was, we'd have a CSPAN for Darfur by now that would make American Idol look like a cable access hog report. Horror movies are supposed to be a break from reality. In order for us to suspend our disbelief, give us something to disbelieve in. Give us a MONSTER! And don't feel that you need to hold back, either. The ghost of a cremated pedophile? I'm intrigued. A demonic, self-mutilating leather daddy and his carpool buddies from hell? Do go on. You don't even have to work that hard. Did any of you see CREEP (2005)? It's in that same awry-experiment mutant genre as THE HILLS HAVE EYES, only the writer/director assumed that his audience had an I.Q. above room temperature. That's really all it takes. And then, to keep us on our toes, every once in a blue moon, lightly pepper in a believable sociopath. A Hannibal Lechter. A Henry. The AntiDundee from WOLF CREEK, even. But make them the exceptions, not the rule. Give our psyches some time to heal over before you squirt lemon all over them again by reminding us how scary the world is.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking.

"But Baron, isn't man truly the biggest monster of them all?"

Please know that your half-baked, freshman philosophy class nihilism is causing me actual, physical pain. You want to vilify the human condition, Moonbeam? Go watch SCHINDLER'S LIST. There's a reason that horror and sci-fi and fantasy share space in convention halls as well as in the hearts of nerds worldwide: it's all about fracking make-believe. When a movie is just about violence and sadism, that makes it too real - even if the story framed around it happens to be fiction. It takes so little effort to push that same violence into the realm of fantasy. The killers were dead but now they're only sorta dead. See? See how easy?

I'm assuming, of course, that we can all agree that movies are meant to entertain. They're meant to add to our lives in some way, even if it's just a 90 minute vacation from hearing about war and inflation and celebrity babies. In a perfect scenario, horror movies are a catharsis, allowing us to get our adrenaline pumping, scream and blow off the steam of a stressful world by rooting for the heroes and, even subconsciously, feeling just a wee bit happier that we don't live in a world where the full moon is evil and brains are delicious.

Torture horror films do not do this. They make us feel worse about the world. Their message is loud and clear: you're fucked. You don't have to go into the basement when the electricity is out. You don't have to read a passage from a book bound in human skin. You don't have to have unprotected teen sex on the grave of a drowned retard in the pet cemetery next to the nuclear power plant in order for unspeakable things to happen to you. All you have to do is be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

What? Don't tell me that. That's not what I want to leave the theater thinking. That's just mean. I paid ten bucks for you to show me this? You dick!

Which brings me to INSIDE.

Written and directed by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, INSIDE is the most relentless example of torture horror that has ever glued my eyes open in shock and awe. In a nutshell, a woman in her last weeks of pregnancy is trapped in her home and stalked by a scissor wielding madwoman that is dead set on a decidedly unscheduled C-section. Everyone that enters the house that night - and for a place out in the boonies, it's surprisingly populated - ends up savagely and spectacularly eviscerated. Nothing is left to the imagination. Gore guh-gore gore GORE! Fast forward, crazy lady is in a rocking chair, cradling a blood soaked and possibly dead newborn, as the camera pans over mommy, torn open and spilling down the stairs like a wet, meaty piñata. Roll credits.

As a lover of film, INSIDE tears me. I want so badly to hate it and yet it's brilliantly done. It truly is. The acting, the directing, the editing - brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. INSIDE's short 84 minutes is packed - there's barely room for you to blink, so peeing or making a sandwich is out of the question. Absolutely riveting, there's no point in denying it. And yet, the story that was inside Bustillo and Maury busting to get out is about a psycho scissor sister that carves up a battered and bloodied pregnant widow like an Easter ham. Ironically, you'd have to view INSIDE in its entirety (in other words, don't rent it from Blockbuster) to appreciate the depth of depravity committed to the story here. This is neither the product of nor the fodder for healthy minds.

Nine weeks after INSIDE's US video release, a 23 year old woman in Kennewick, WA, tortured a 27 year old mother-to-be and cut her full term baby from her womb.

It's true.

I was still feeling violated from watching INSIDE so this news hit me like a lead pipe. Coincidence? Cause and effect? Life imitating art? I cannot say. But I can say that when I seek out the vicarious thrills of a horror movie, this is exactly the type of world that I'm trying to escape from.