Friday, 31 July 2009


Japanese director Kinji Fukasaku is best known in the West for bringing us Battle Royale, a terrific and entertaining exercise in mindless violence, and actually his penultimate film of sixty-four. A quick trawl through his filmography succinctly demonstrates the huge learning curve he has had to go through, and while not all of them are stinkers (Battles Without Honour And Humanity is a classic), it appears he put most of his effort into the titles – Japan Organised Crime Boss, Vigilante With A Funky Hat, Blackmail Is My Business. The Green Slime goes by some pretty lengthy aliases, but its original title sums it up the best. The story is straight from the driveway triple-feature back catalogue: an asteroid is heading for Earth, and a team of clueless astronauts has been dispatched to land – LAND – on the asteroid to blow it up. Only problem is, one of the astronauts has inadvertently returned with some extraterrestrial slime on his leg, allowing alien creatures to take over the planet in a revolting fracas.

It’s all so uproariously ludicrous that it just about works. The acting is, predictably, world-class – how any of the cast picked up roles after this is a mystery. The creatures defy explanation, mixing parts from an octopus, a spider, an elephant and a pine cone. To its credit, buckets of effort (and slime) have been put into the set design, and it shows. The camerawork is pretty reasonable, too. And who could resist the funky, synthy opening theme (posted below)?

The Green Slime theme (WARNING: EXTRA FUNKY)


Two unnamed boys in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia are seen fleeing from a train on its way to a concentration camp, gunshots heard behind them. Wide-eyed and full of fear, they rush through the woods, where they set up a temporary hut from branches and straw. The boys spend the next few days living purely on rain, air and adrenalin, growing ever closer to nature, until they happen across a farmhouse. One of the boys stumbles into the place without thinking, and we experience his train of thought as he stares into the eyes of the farmhouse’s resident, a timid housewife. In a panic, he reaches forth to steal a few slices of bread, and the boys continue their escape. Their petty crime is not without consequence however, as they soon encounter the stubborn local mercenaries who plan to execute them.

At 63 minutes, it’s quite a short jaunt vis-à-vis the emotional clout of the historical backdrop, and sometimes it feels as if it ought to have been longer (rather like this review). Much of the first two-thirds is wordless, allowing the striking images to tell the story. In fact, one of the bigger selling points of the film is its raw photography. Often handheld, the camera is simply another character, sharing in the urgency of the boys’ situation. An exemplary cinematic symbol – ants crawling over the skin – is used but not justified. Overall, Diamonds Of The Night is an intriguing little slice of post-WWII cinema, hugely ambitious but not entirely successful.


Every South East Asian horror film made in the wake of Ringu and The Grudge is forever doomed to be seen as inferior mimicry to those films, partly because of the Western misconception that they invented the long-haired pale ghost. It is often unfair as some movies deserve to be seen out of context. Dead Waves is not one of them. Enigmatic TV producer Hiroshi is renowned for his cult show which purportedly performs exorcisms on request. After a flag in the ratings, Hiroshi thanks his lucky stars for a peculiar case of possession which leads him to research the phenomenon of “dead waves” – communication with the dead through the medium of television. Add to this the sudden series of teen suicides attributed to the show, and essentially every cliché has been knackered out.

The issue here is not about originality – surely one can’t be too selective about films advertising themselves as horror – but rather the clumsy handling of the elements. When a film relies heavily on scenes portraying mental illness/possession, it should be of the utmost importance that decent actors are cast in the main roles... apparently not the case here. Our protagonist lacks charisma and energy, to the point that the titular “dead waves” might as well be referring to his brain activity. The greatest disappointment comes from the lazy horror moments. Besides the crawling naked people and a sinister baby, there is no logical instigator of fear here, save for the truly awful song over the credits.

Thursday, 30 July 2009


Frequently termed as Alfred Hitchcock’s first film (he had in fact directed two films before), The Lodger: A Story Of The London Fog opens with a crowd all staring in shock at the sight of a murdered fair-haired woman, as a marquee proclaims “TO-NIGHT GOLDEN CURLS”. This woman is the latest victim of a callous, masked murderer known as The Avenger. This latest killing sends shockwaves through the streets of London, many women choosing to cover their heads for fear of resembling this latest victim. Supermodel Daisy Bunting is one of the few audacious enough to dismiss the case as rubbish, and she returns, head uncovered, to her loving family and policeman boyfriend. But when a tall, dark stranger comes to stay and catches Daisy’s eye, a series of coincidences are too much for him to be exempted from questioning.

Considering its place in Hitchcock’s epic oeuvre, The Lodger is a surprisingly impressive murder-mystery. The premise is simple enough, echoing the furore regarding the elusive Jack The Ripper (a mystery that still survives to this day). Title cards are bizarrely decorated with simple concentric triangles, almost in homage to some of the early Dada films, such as Symphonie Diagonale. Hitchcock also appears to have seen enough German Expressionist horror films to have picked up a few techniques, but the pace here is remarkable, constantly repeating elements from the surreal opening sequence throughout the film. Some shots impede the flow, but others make you wonder why this film isn’t better known.


Mory and Anta are star-crossed lovers, desperate to get away from the doldrums of their everyday lives in Dakar. Mory spends his time restlessly tearing around the city on his motorbike, adorned with the ominous skull of a cow, while university student Anta follows him almost wordlessly, her sexual ambiguity generating an aura of metropolitan mystique. Planning the right time to make an unencumbered escape, Mory begs, steals and borrows so the two can immerse themselves in the higher echelons of Senegalese society. Having nabbed the clothes and money of an effeminate businessman whom they had approached for help, the two jack his Americanised car, and plan to board a boat to France.

It’s a simple story, Mory and Anta essentially the valiant couple from every escapist movie, but there is much more to be experienced here. From a cinematic perspective, Touki Bouki is an enthralling mélange of many different filmic traditions. The jump-cuts of French New Wave and montages of early Soviet cinema show that director Djibril Diop Mambéty had certainly done his homework, but the film is no frail facsimile of these styles. Mambéty’s audio-visual idiolect engenders a sensation of impatience, the sounds of each scene overflowing into the one preceding it. A pompous exchange between Parisians demonstrates a cynicism for Western influence common to many African films, but for the most part the film is cheerfully optimistic about Mory and Anta’s goal. Hilarious, surreal and vivacious, Touki Bouki is a real gem aching to be sought out.