Friday, September 26, 2014


Bone was released in 1972.

The film opens with this quote:

"The Year is 1970
The most powerful nation on earth wages war against one of the poorest countries - which it finds impossible to defeat.
And in this great affluent nation exists its smallest richest city...
And it is called Beverly Hills"

I think there are few directors more exciting and varied than Larry Cohen.  His films have a very deep and intellectual view of satire, which does not get in the way of great film-making, even when it's about a killer baby.

Lawrence G. Cohen was born in Kingston, New York in 1941.  By the time he reached his twenties (easily the most formative time in adulthood), it was the 1960s.  But, he didn't become enamored with the wayward hippy movement or the Beat movement.  Instead, he quietly learned the craft of film working on television shows like The Fugitive and writing scripts for The Invaders.

In 1970, he began work on his directorial debut, Dial Rat for Terror (Aka Housewife, aka Beverly Hills Nightmare, aka BONE.)  It's a wildly daring debut film.

It begins in a swanky Beverly Hills house with Bernadette and Bill arguing about something or other.  Bill begins to clean the pool and discovers a rat.  As it just so happens, Bone (the amazing Yaphet Kotto) arrives.  Bill assumes he's from the pool company and Bone helps him remove the rat, bare-handed.  After letting that symbolism sit with you a moment, Cohen brings Bone into the house with Bill and Bernadette, forcing his way into their lives.  He demands money, but Bill has none in the house.  So, Bone sends him away to get cash and holds Bernadette hostage.

What makes this film, and all of Cohen's work, special is the satirical social underpinnings that keep the audience thinking.  Though the plot could be used simply as comedic fodder (see The Ref (1994), it instead becomes social commentary on suburban white America.  It looks at the chaos created by the Vietnam War.  It exposes the lies and secrets of middle class debt.  It does what Cohen does best, it is entertaining exploitation fare with subtext.

Cohen would go on to make Black Caesar, which carries on many of the same themes and ideas present in Bone.  He would become famous for great genre films like Q: The Winged Serpent, the brilliant killer baby movie It's Alive, (, God Told Me To ( and The Stuff.

What's striking to me now, after seeing a number of his films and then going back to his debut, is how self-aware and intellectual his approach to film-making is.  He begins the film with a quote about the weakness of American power and then proceeds to put some of its supposedly wealthiest, happiest couples on screen with an intruder that makes them realize their vulnerability.  After which, they proceed to dig in the wounds of each others' faults.

What seems so prescient right at this moment about Bone (beyond the idea that our country's power doesn't make us unstoppable)  is the extreme exhaustion that Bill and Bernadette seem to exude.  Vietnam proved that money is not power.  The States can be intimidated.  And beaten.  And, we can be exhausted easily when we believe we're in the wrong.  Bill and Bernadette put on a good show, claiming they gave up their son to the war, but he gave himself up to something else.  And, Cohen digs in the wound.  Our morale is broken, because we've been wrong for so very long.  It's just too bad we didn't learn any lessons from Dial Rat for Terror.

-J. Moret

Sunday, September 7, 2014


Directed by Michael Anderson
92 mins. Color.
Paramount VHS

Orca is marketed as a poor-man's sidekick to Jaws 4.  By extension, you'd expect the idea is that the terrifying seas produce yet another killer animal that rampages a small community.

In reality, Orca is a lot more like Death Wish, on the water, and Charles Bronson is played by an animatronic aquatic mammal.

The film opens with idyllic music and two whales goofily jumping out of the water in front of a matte painting of a sunset.

Then, we witness a diver being chased by a shark.  Said shark gets power-slammed and tossed into the air.  Captain Nolan (Richard Harris) stares in astonishment.  "What could do that to a shark?"

The diver stands next to Nolan and replies, "The only thing powerful enough to do that to a shark is a Killer Whale."

This scene is then followed by Rampling giving lectures and doing lots of talking about all the astonishing things about the Killer Whale.  They have sonar, the fetuses have fingers (like humans), they mate for life, they're crazy smart, etc...  And then she mentions that they can also seek revenge.

Then, Nolan decides it would be super sweet to go out and capture one of these whales.  It goes pretty poorly.  He kills a female, and with it her unborn child.  The father is pretty pissed.  The way that this scene is done is surprisingly moving.  The music and the sounds of the whales are very sad.

You may remember the mediocre documentary, Blackfish.  Instead of making that, they should have just re-released this movie.  It makes me fear and respect Killer Whales, and it also has really cheesy filmmaking that is pretty sweet.

They have ridiculous scenes like fast-zooms to the Orca's eye staring at Nolan.

I guess after Jaws, there is little room for a realistic ocean advenure, but the absurdity of the whole thing is a bit laughable.

Anyway, the Orca knows its limited to the sea and can't just shoot Nolan with a rocket launcher, so it starts messing with boats and blowing up power plants.  Yes.  The Orca hits some pipes or something that supposedly starts a fire that then blows up a power plant.  As the plant explodes, the Orca jumps out of the water  in triumph.  It's absolutely ridiculous.

The superb stupidity and genuinely emotional filmmaking make this one of the more enjoyable monster flicks I've seen in a while.

You can find it on DVD or on VHS with one of the sweetest covers ever.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: RESOLUTION (2012)

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Directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Scott Moorhead
93 mins. Color

Resolution is a clever, subtle, and extremely well made horror film that I can’t recommend enough. While often compared to Cabin in the Woods because of it’s similar “genre bending”, this film takes it’s time and slowly crawls under your skin.

Resolution is about two best friends, Michael and Chris. Chris is a junkie crackhead and Michael is a professional and expectant father. One day Michael receives an email from Chris with a video of him getting really fucking high on crack and shooting things in the woods. Michael decides to go up to the dilapidated house that Chris is staying in and try to get him to go to rehab. Well his attempt is unsuccessful so he does what any friend would do and handcuffs his crack smoking buddy to a pipe and tells him he’s stuck for the next week while goes cold turkey. GREAT plan. Michael and Chris sit and talk about life, jobs, babies, and crack. After a day or two Michael starts finding these stories and thats when the film starts getting really creepy. It first starts with a box of pictures that seemingly tell a story that ends with the main character dying horribly. Then he finds a record with another ill-fated ending which leads to more stories on slides, VHSs, and even reel to reel films. As time goes by and Chris slowly detoxes, Michael becomes obsessed with these stories he’s finding and wonders who is leaving these morbid tales and why does he feel like he’s being watched all the time.

Writer, producer, co-director Justin Benson masterfully juggles the sad story of the two friends and the detox with the horror story of these deadly tales. The detox story is very well put together and while it’s maybe the worst idea in the world for someone to chain another up to get them to quit smoking crack, it somehow still works. The two men actually feel like real friends and their conversations don’t feel forced. I also loved the fact that Benson didn’t give Chris a sad, forced reason as to why he smokes crack like almost every film or television show feels like it must. Usually it’s something like abuse, or financial problems, or emotional problems but here Chris smokes crack because he can. He explains that he just loves it and that’s all the reason he needs. None of the unnecessary reasonings as to why someone would want to smoke crack. He just wants to and that reason is far more believable to me.

I was amazed at how subtle the horror aspect of the film was. Little by little, the film got creepier and creepier. While Chris is locked in the ramshackle house all day, Michael goes on walks and into town and everyone he interacts with is strange and carries a sense of danger with their presence. It really just adds to the experience. I have a feeling that some people might not like the ending but without any spoilers, I thought it worked great and made the film that much more memorable.

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Independently produced, cleverly plotted, and subtly terrifying, this film knocked me off my feet. I gambled on a random Netflix film and boy did I feel like I won. Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead will be directing a segment in the upcoming VHS sequel, VHS: VIRAL and I can’t wait to see what they’ll do with that. Hopefully, they can hold on to the magic that they had while making this little, fantastic film.

-Thomas Reinert