Reviwed by Johnny Butane
Starring Brea Asher, Ivaylo Founev, Eric Pettigrew
Directed by Karim Hussain
Released by Sazuma Trading
Very few movies made in this day and age are able to attain the cult status that Subconscious Cruelty has. Made over the period of almost a decade, this semi-anthology film that faces down many common taboos to attempt to give an insight into what makes us human and what drives our obsessions is near legendary in some circles. Since it’s completion in 1999, it’s faced all manner of censorship issues in countries all over the world, being banned from some places and awarded from others.
Finally, the Austrian company Sazuma Trading has given the film a beautiful, fantastically done DVD release that not only makes the film look and sound as good as possible, but also gives so many extras and behind the scenes information you feel like you were a part of making it.
First off, let’s look at the little things that make this DVD so well done. When you first put in either disc one or disc two, after the Sazuma title graphic sequence you’re given the option for either German or English. This isn’t for just the film or the audio, it’s for the entire menu presentation, all the text interviews, everything. For anyone that watches DVDs from other countries on a regular basis you can appreciate what a great option this is. It’s really a no-brainer if you want cross appeal for your DVD release, but this is the first time I’ve seen it done.
Once you’re into the actual menu itself, you also get the option to turn off the menu transitions, which as you know can be kind of annoying when you’re jumping around the disc a lot. Again, it’s a little thing, but something I’ve never seen done before and shows how important the DVD experience is to Sazuma.
Disc One features the uncut and uncensored version of the film (with an intro by Hussain), presented in it’s original full frame 1.33:1 transfer, with the option for a “letterbox” 1.66:1 version, as well, the latter of which is encoded in Ultrabit. Both of them look great, certainly far better than the old VHS copy we had, despite the fact it was shot on 16mm. The audio is an impressive 5.1 surround mix that breathes more life into the film than I had thought possible from a simple audio enhancement. The original 2.0 stereo mix is available as well, with subtitle options in English, German, and Dutch.
Disc Two is where the DVD really shines, though. The most prominent feature is the 77-minute making-off featurette “A Subconscious Cruelty Christmas”, created for the Japanese distributors of the film. This documentary gives a look at the long and involved process that went into making the movie itself, featuring interviews with most of the principle cast, including the “sister” from the second part of the film, who is a lot more centered than I expected given what she went through in the movie. The doc is broken into chapters detailing the creation of almost every section of the movie, featuring interviews with producer Mitch Davis and director Karrim Hussain, who is more than happy to detail his incredible obsession with getting the film done and how he treated the finished version once it was completed. At one point he tells the story of a huge winter storm in Montreal when pipes were frozen all over the city. The only person he knew with a working shower was a friend on the other side of town and, rather than be parted from the many reels of film that made up the finished version of Subconscious Cruelty, he loaded them into a military bag and carried them with him over to his friends house on foot. If that’s not obsession, I don’t know what is.
Also featured is the short film producer Mitch Davis directed prior to Cruetly, “Divided Into Zero” with an introduction by the director. It’s a 33-minute film that details the surrealistic life of a child killer, showing his 70-year life span and how he ultimately becomes the evil creature that tortures children. This is not something for the weak minded, as it’s very easy to take the wrong way, so I recommend reading the text interview done with Mitch in which he explains his motivation behind making the film first. Ultimately the film was a way for him to tell a story of addiction without the usual trappings. Watch this at your own risk.
There’s also a 12-minute making of featurette for “Divided” consisting of camcorder footage shot by someone on the crew during the film’s creation. Not really all that insightful, but it makes for a complete package. A trailer and some clips from Davis’ earlier short films as well round out this sub-feature.
“La Dernire Voix” (“The City Without Windows”), a short film co-directed by Hussain, is another bonus, shot in 2002 as a sister film to his second feature, Ascension. It’s a subtle sci-fi tale about a future in which all the windows in a city disappear and it rains non-stop. Essentially a story of the importance and futility of human communication, “Windows” is a cool little film that shows how much Hussain has matured since Cruelty, both as a filmmaker and a story teller.
Finally we have an unreleased audio track, coming in at 9-minutes, a photo gallery, and the Rick Tremble comic strip review of Subconscious Cruelty, originally featured in the Montreal Mirror but more readily available in the FAB Press release Rick Trembles’ Motion Picture Purgatory (review). Inside the over-sized DVD package is a booklet called “Transgression & Redemption?”, which is a essay-like study of the works of Hussain and Davis written by Marcus Stielegger that gives even more insight into the minds behind Cruelty.
No matter what your opinion of the movie might be (personally it seemed like an over-pretentious art film to me at first, though I view it in a different light now that I’ve seen all the extras on this disc) this DVD is worth owning if you’ve got even a mild interest in it. The disc gives a very complete and well-rounded vision of the filmmaker and producer who have been at the forefront of the controversy surrounding it, and Sazuma has done a simply fantastic job of delivering the complete story from beginning to end from the mouths and actions of those who made it. This release is a great example of how DVD should be done, and because of it I can’t wait to see what Sazuma comes out with next.
For more on Hussain and Davis’ production company, Infliction Films, be sure to visit their official site here!
4 1/2 out of 5
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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
Delirium Review – Bros, Cameras And A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On
Starring Mike C. Manning, Griffin Freeman, Ryan Pinkston
Directed by Johnny Martin
When will these testosterone-overloaded frat bros with cameras ever learn that pissing off the evil souls of the departed all in the name of amusement won’t get you anywhere but wrecked? Same goes for filmmakers: when will they learn that found-footage exploits set in a house of pure sadism are something of a wrung-out affectation? Oh well, as long as people keep renting them, they’ll continue to get manufactured…which might or might not be to the benefit of the horror film-watching populous.
Delirium opens with a poor lad, strapped with a GoPro, running for his life through a labyrinth of haunted territory, praying for an escape…and it’s a foregone conclusion as to what happens to this trespassing individual. We then relocate our focus towards a collection of (ahem), “gentlemen” self-titled as The Hell Gang, and their escapades are about as profound as their grasp on the English language and its verbiage. The words “dude”, creepy”, and the term “what the fuck” are thrown about so much in this movie it’ll make your head spin to the point of regurgitation. Anyway, their interest in the home of the Brandt clan is more piqued now than ever, especially considering one of their own has gone missing, and they’ve apparently got the gonads to load up the cameras, and traverse the property after-hours, and against the warnings of the local law-enforcement, who surprisingly are just inadequate enough to ignore a dangerous situation. The cursed family and the residence has quite the illustrious and bleak history, and it’s ripe for these pseudo-snoopers to poke around in.
Usually I’m curb-stomping these first person POV movies until there’s nothing left but a mash of blood, snot and hair left on the cement, but Martin’s direction takes the “footage” a little bit outside of the box, with steadier shots (sometimes) and a bit more focus on the characters as they go about their business. Also, there are a few genuinely spooky scenes to speak of involving the possession of bodies, but there really isn’t much more to crow about, as the plot’s basically a retread of many films before it, and with this collection of borderline-douches manning the recording equipment, it’s a sad state of affairs we’re in that something such as this has crept its way towards us all again. I’m always down for jumping into a cold grave, especially when there could be a sweet prize to be dug up in all that dirt, but Delirium was one of those movies that never let you find your footing, even after you’ve clawed your way through all of the funereal sediment – take a hard pass on this one.
Got about a half-dozen bros with cameras and a wanton will to get slaughtered on camera, all the while repetitively uttering the same phrases all damn day long? Then my friends, you’ve got yourself a horror movie!
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters Review – A Timid Step Towards a Frightening Possibility
Starring Mamoru Miyano, Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Yuki Kaji, Tomokazu Sugita
Directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita
The Godzilla series is the longest-running franchise in cinema history. With over 30 films over a 60+ year career, the famous kaiju has appeared in video games, comic books, TV shows, and more, cementing its place as one of the most recognizable cultural icons in the past 100 years. With Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters, the titular beast makes its foray into the world of anime in this first film in a proposed trilogy. While there are moments that are genuinely thrilling, the film unfortunately fails to capture the imagination and wonder that is at its fingertips.
The story is quite simple: Earth is under attack by swarms of various kaiju who are wreaking havoc across the planet. Entire cities are being destroyed when Godzilla appears to vanquish humanity’s foes. Unfortunately, the King of the Monsters isn’t really there to help humans and its rampage continues until a race of alien beings arrive at Earth asking for a place to stay in exchange for defeating Godzilla. When they are unable to do that, the remaining humans board a giant spaceship to venture off into space in search of a new home only to come back some 20 years later, nearly 20,000 years later by Earth time (think Interstellar logic), to search for resources and, possibly, a planet that will welcome them once again. However, Godzilla is still around and isn’t keen on sharing.
The main character of the film is Haruo Sakaki, a young man who begins the film by nearly following through on a suicide bomber terrorist act that is meant to call attention to humanity’s loss of vision and failure to fulfill their mission of finding a suitable home for the remaining survivors. Even though he is accosted and jailed for this act, he is eventually freed when people realize that his lifelong passion of killing Godzilla is the foundation for research he’s done in finding a way to take down the creature…a plan that just might work. The other characters are so forgettable that I forgot their names during the film.
From there, the film essentially pivots into following a massive team of volunteers who land on Earth’s surface to lay a trap for Godzilla in order to destroy it. Since this is Earth 20,000 years after they left, the flora and fauna have evolved and changed so radically that the team have no idea what to expect or how to react, so caution is a must.
The problem with this is that while the characters have to be cautious, the film doesn’t nor should it. The movie has the chance to explore the wealth of imaginative opportunities at its fingertips and yet does almost everything it can to avoid doing just that. The color scheme is flat and uninteresting. The character movements lack smoothness and the action sequences fall victim to shaky cam syndrome. There are a few mentions of some of the changes that have taken place on the planet, such as razor sharp plants, but they’re so incidental or offhand that it feels like no one making the film has any interest in seeing anything other than man against beast.
Speaking of this dynamic, the action sequences are quite entertaining but also feel somewhat reserved. Godzilla barely moves and much of the destruction levied against the humans is seen from a distance, apart from an attack on a military outpost by dragon-like creatures. For nearly the entire film, I found myself thinking, “I’m okay with this but that’s about it.”
The brightest moment in the film are the last few minutes and I won’t spoil what happens. Suffice it to say that it definitely has me interested in the second and third films but I really hope that this new world will be explored further in those entries. Otherwise, we’ve got a fascinating foundation that will be squandered.
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters is a bland entry in a trilogy that has great potential. For a first course, there’s a distinct lack of flavor or complexity. The final minutes are the only saving grace and I hope that the second and third films make use of that grand wonder.
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