Kuso (2017)

KusoI LOVED this earthquake! It was the best one I’ve ever seen. All my enemies are DEAD! HAHAHAAA…!

 

And the earthquake we’re talking about is the one that took place in Los Angeles in 1994. One of the survivors from that brutal event was the eleven-year old Steve Ellison, aka Flying Lotus. 23 years later he would release his first feature film which took a lot of inspiration from the trauma of being an earthquake survivor as a child, and his overall fear of skin diseases and probably a laundry list of other phobias that followed. He also wanted to show how ugly people could be. Show their ugly asses, as he said. And ‘boy, he sure fucking did. This is the type of film that people like John Waters and Harmony Korine would gladly show on their first dates. Take that as a warning, if you will.

 

So, what’s Kuso really about? What’s the plot here? Uhm… yeah, good question. We’re in a trippy and surreal post-apocalyptic world where people have gone completely batshit insane while having their faces infested with big, nasty zits. The world of Mad Max is a walk in Disneyland in comparison. Here they don’t eat dog food straight from the cans but rather things such as a solid menu of stomach-turning “food” that includes worms and…bodily waste. Scat porn, several viewers say, and that’s not so far from it. This is juicy body horror to the extreme, disgusting and revolting, and if you have some certain boundaries when it comes to such, take also this as a warning. At the same time, it’s all done with a pitch-black sense of humor, so it’s not to be taken seriously. Still, there are moments here that even got a little too much for me, and my melted brain felt the after-effects while I slept through the following night.

 

But what is it really about? We follow a group of people who deal with their separate meaningless lives in their own post-apocalyptic environment. The film works more or less like an anthology with four vignettes which we bounce back and forth from: Royal, Mr. Quiggle, Smear and Sock. In between the segments we have some insane acid-trip scenes that even Terry Gilliam could be jealous of. It’s all dream logic and if you could livestream someone’s deepest cocaine-filled fever dream on a monitor screen, I wouldn’t be too surprised if this was the result. I don’t see much point in even trying to break down the segments. I would also lose the little I have left of my own sanity if I did. It’s just pure, perverted, unfiltered, experimental art-house madness where you can never, ever guess what’s about to happen next. Very graphic and visual, filled with details and even more unpredictable what-the-fucks you can imagine, and as far from mainstream audience-friendly as it can get. An overall unique experience for the senses that you would never watch with your mom and dad. And just to quote the director himself: This is definitely a movie for a certain kind of person.

 

Kuso was first distributed by Shudder and is also available on a DVD/Blu-ray combo on Amazon. The film is here reviewed from a very rare DVD edition from Sweden, just to point out.

 

Kuso Kuso Kuso

 

 

Director: Flying Lotus
Writers: David Firth, Flying Lotus
Country & year: US, 2017
Actors: Hannibal Buress, George Clinton, David Firth, Arden Banks, Byron Bowers, Shane Carpenter, Angel Deradoorian, Regan Farquhar, Pretty Ricki Fontaine, Zack Fox, Tim Heidecker, Bob Heslip, Anders Holm
IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6131712/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

Lung I & II (2016)

LungIt was a boring summer in 2015 with nothing to do, and one day the underground filmmaker Phil Stephens grabbed his 50mm camera, started taking some random photos around his house in Philadelphia and headed out to the local woods to film more random stuff. After hours and hours of footage, he handed the raw material to his friend and editor Ronnie Sortor, who did his very best to stitch it all together to resemble a feature film. Both films, Lung and Lung II, have the same runtime of 1 hour and 14 min.

 

Lung (also called Lung one) is in all black and white and starts off with a nameless young man with long hair, beard and glasses (played by the director himself) who dismembers body parts with a cleaver. After this warm and welcoming opening, we’re out in the woods where we follow the same person (I assume), credited as Unknown, as he wanders aimlessly through the woods. We can already guess he’s an escaped mental patient judging by his clothes and the ID wristband.

 

Mr. Unknown sees a baby carriage on a small bridge which holds a baby skeleton. Of course. He then sees some obscure person wearing a gas-mask. Okay. And he continues to stumble upon more corpses, skeletons and, if not dream logic, absurdities the further he goes from the next area to absorption. He walks through some hoods in the Philadelphia area where he enters his house, where he goes more insane and has a mental breakdown in the bathtub. He sees a collection of flyers and photos from Flowers (Stephen’s previous film) everywhere, which seems to trigger him. Not much hope for better days is to be seen on the horizon.

 

According to Phil Stevens, Lung was originally meant to be an autobio of the director who went insane after the traumatic experience of shooting his second film, Flowers.

 

Lung II is more or less the first film all over again just with the concept of an escaped killer on the loose. Much of the same footage from the first film is used while some new scenes are added. Some unused footage from Flowers is also stitched in. And if you don’t know beforehand that this is some sort of a prequel to Flowers, you’ll sit there with a big question mark while you’re scratching your balls. Lung II screws more with your head than the first one as it’s filled with more cryptic weirdness, more slimy skeletal corpses, the sweet smell of decay everywhere and all in a universe not too far from David Lynch’s Eraserhead. There’s also a gooey piece of flesh in Mr. Unknown’s fridge with a vagina and an erected penis, just so you know in case you’re hungry.

 

And if you haven’t already guessed it, we are talking about two very experimental arthouse films, the one more confusing than the other. So don’t expect any conventional story-telling here. I could tell just from looking at the DVD cover that it was far away from the ordinary, and that’s what I got. The mood and state of mindset is everything, of course. What Lung(s) provide really well are the visuals and atmosphere by Phil Stevens, who has a sharp eye for black and white photography. He filmed both films by himself, with handheld and static from different angles, and managed to create the sense of a bleak, nightmarish, dystopian world which we all are welcome to get lost in. Just remember to put your shoes on.

 

Lung is available on DVD from Unearthed Films which include both films with the director’s commentary track, plus some of his short films. You can also watch it for free on Phil Steven’s own YouTube channel.

 

Lung Lung Lung

 

Writer and director: Phil Stevens
Country & year: US, 2016
Actors: Phil Stevens, David Chopping, Bryant W. Lohr Sr., Samantha Coppola, Angela Jane, Colette Kenny Mckenna, Michael Kennedy a a lot of corpses
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt23396630/www.imdb.com/title/tt5073690/

 

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

Skinamarink (2022)

SkinamarinkThe year is 1995, and the 4 year old boy Kevin injures himself during a sleepwalking episode. We’re told he was taken to a hospital, and then brought back home. He and his 6 year old sister, Kaylee, then wakes up in the middle of the night and finds that their father has disappeared. And that’s not all…the doors, windows, and certain other objects also keeps gradually vanishing. The children, appearing to be more puzzled than scared, decide to sleep downstairs while watching cartoons. They soon realize that they’re not really alone in the house, after all.

 

Skinamarink is a Canadian experimental horror film from 2022, written and directed by Kyle Edward Ball in his feature directorial debut. Prior to this film, the director ran a YouTube channel called Bitesized Nightmares, where he would ask his viewers to write about their nightmares and he would create short videos based on them. Skinamarink was inspired by the most recurrent themes in the submitted nightmare stories, and he also recounts having had a nightmare when he was a child where he was in his parent’s house while the parents were missing, but there was a monster there. And a lot of people seemed to have shared a similar kind of dream. Before the feature film, he created a short film called Heck which was a proof of concept for Skinamarink. The film’s title might ring a bell for some, as Skinnamarink (aka “Skid-dy-mer-rink-adink-aboomp” or “Skidamarink”) is a popular preschool sing-along song from North America. He chose to alter the spelling a bit so children searching for the song would not accidentally find his film instead. The film was shot over seven days in 2021, in the director’s childhood home, using some of his old toys. It had a budget of $15.000 which was mostly crowdfunded. The film got widespread social media attention after one of the online film festival screenings caused the movie to become downloadable due to a glitch, and thus it was spread and this caused it to go viral.

 

And yeah…this is one of the times when the worn-out phrase “this movie is not for everyone” can easily be replaced with “this movie is for a select few”. It’s very experimental, and if you’ve never seen an arthouse film before you’re probably either gonna end up wondering what the hell this is, or snooze off within the first few minutes. For the right kind of audience, though, it’s prone to be a different experience. When we watched it, we pretty much knew what we were in for, and while some movies are best seen going in blind, this is definitely not one of them. If you’re aware of this being a very experimental and abstract film, hardly providing any plot, you’re in the clear. Then you’d likely to be prepared for the experience. In many ways, the film is quite demanding towards its audience and could easily have been considerably shorter. It’s like a nightmarish ASMR, but if you’ve ever suffered from night terrors and fear of abandonment during your childhood, I’m certain this film will click more into place for you. It’s a movie that through its experimental scenes and surreal vibes, draws upon the childhood fears of being left alone without a guardian. The soundtrack mostly consists of the TV screen, playing the tunes and sounds from old public domain cartoons, and this certainly gives off an eerie and surreal vibe. Some of these movies include Max Fleischer’s The Cobweb Hotel and Somewhere in Dreamland, as well as Ub Iwerks’ Balloon Land, and Merrie Melodies Prest-O Change-O.

 

Skinamarink is a movie where you really need to know what you’re in for. It’s a movie that’s more of an experience than a story (although there is some kind of story hidden there in a very subtle way). Other experimental movies like for example Begotten will feel fast-paced and easily consumed in comparison. But I can see how it can evoke the inner childhood fear in some people, irrational as though those fears may be and how aware we are of that fact.

 

And if you think Skinamarink was too abstract, experimental and slow, there is actually a 1967 movie called Wavelength where you’ll watch a long zoom of a window stretched over 45 minutes…

 

Skinamarink Skinamarink Skinamarink

 

Writer and director: Kyle Edward Ball
Country & year:
Canada, 2022
Actors:
Lucas Paul, Dali Rose Tetreault, Ross Paul, Jaime Hill
IMDb:
www.imdb.com/title/tt21307994/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

ARENA – Horror Short Film

Trapped in a vicious circle fulled by envy and jealousy, a theatre understudy transcends and finally confronts the real source of her dark emotions.

 

Arena is a strange experimental little horror short, with some haunting visuals and eerie soundtrack.

 

ARENA - Horror Short Film

 

Director: Helen Warner
Writer: Catherine Rees, Helen Warner
Country & year: UK, 2020
Actors: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Sophie Robinson
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt11918298/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Begotten (1989)

Begotten (1989)Time for a fun movie for the whole family to enjoy on a Friday night with some pizza. Or maybe not.

 

Begotten starts inside a cabin where we see a disturbed, horrifying figure sitting in a chair, filmed in a high contrast of black and white. While the soundtrack consists of crickets, bird-chirping and distant heartbeats, we see that the figure starts to cut himself to death with a straight razor. A great product placement right there (haha). Feces stream down between his legs while he’s sitting bloody and dying in his chair, gurgling his death rattles. This is God we’re talking about, by the way. Out of his fresh dead body comes Mother Earth who uses God’s semen to impregnate herself, where we get served some hairy close-ups where she rubs his juice into her vagina. She wanders into an obscure forest landscape where she gives birth to Son of Earth. She then leaves him behind to some faceless nomads who drag the poor newborn (who already has the body of a grown man) like a rag doll, through a desolate landscape until he supposedly starts spewing out some of his organs. And this is just the beginning of a horrendous, surreal odyssey of pain, suffering, torture and death, that can be described as witnessing a painful fever nightmare from the subconscious mind of a strapped schizophrenic mental patient.

 

By reading the plot synopsis you learn that Begotten is an alternative retelling of The Book of Genesis, but without knowing this beforehand, one could easily assume watching an underground snuff film taken straight out from The Dark Web. The distinct, strong visuals is truly remarkable here, filmed in grainy black and white that sets the atmosphere from the very first frame. Shot on 16 mm on reverse-exposure, which is a picture effect you get on most digital cameras today, but back in the late 80’s when this film was made with analog stone-age equipment, this was a real artistic achievement. Director E. Elias Merhige experimented like a mad scientist to get the exact, withered, aged look by using sandpaper to scratch up the reel before shooting. That wasn’t good enough, however, and he used the rest of the budget of 33. 000 dollars to construct an optical printer during a long, tedious period of eight months. And each minute of footage generated by the printer took on average between eight and ten hours to complete. Phew, that’s some real dedication and patience right there.

 

Some describe this as simple as a nightmare captured on film, and an extended version of the cursed VHS cassette from The Ring, which I can pretty much agree with. Certainly not for everyone, and as far away from mainstream you could probably get. But it’s surely a uniquely deranged avant-garde filled horrific, nihilistic atmosphere with haunting images that will probably stick with your forever. This is also Marilyn Manson’s personal favorite film, which made him so impressed that he hired director E Elias Merhige to direct the music video for Antichrist Superstar and Cryptorchid. Another guy who liked the film was Nicolas Cage, who hired him to direct Shadow of the Vampire for his newly established Saturn Films. A great, underrated movie, by the way. After his second Hollywood studio film “Suspect Zero”, Merhige went back to the underground and made the short film “Din of Celestial Birds”, which is considered an unofficial sequel to Begotten. His recent creation is a short called Polia and Blastema, a surreal love story about two alien creatures. And from the few previews I’ve seen, it looks completely mind-blowing.

 

An official, yet very limited DVD was released back in 2001 by World Artist, which included a souvenir booklet, the original theatrical trailer, rare and never-before-seen movie stills, and production photos. It’s of course out of print, but can be found on eBay at different prices. It’s also available on YouTube.

 

 

Begotten

 

Director: E. Elias Merhige
Country & year: USA, 1989
Actors: Brian Salzberg, Donna Dempsey, Stephen Charles Barry, James Gandia, Daniel Harkins, Michael Phillips, Erik Slavin, Arthur Streeter, Adolfo Vargas, Garfield White
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0101420/

 

 

Tom Ghoul