Ichi the Killer has a prequel. A glimpse into the beginnings of one of the strangest, yet most compelling characters borne out of subversive or extreme cinema. The first Ichi was a testament to the beauty of the weird, an epithet to the outrageous. While an interpretation of a popular manga, Ichi the Killer was kissed with the creative cunning of a man all too well known to most genre fans, Takashi Miike. His gonzo style and flair for the freakish made the film an instant classic. It has a kinetic rhythm that is hard to defeat. The film made the most of wolf in sheepish clothing Ichi, keeping him mysterious and deadly, while at the same time odd. Ichi the Killer may not be a movie for everyone, but those who do enjoy it seem to enjoy it a lot. Which is why the prequel is such a monstrous and enigmatic problem.
Had Ichi the Killer never existed, had Miike become a preschool teacher, or had Hideo Yamamoto fallen into love with a daughter of an oil tycoon and written romance novels, maybe then 1-Ichi would not have to play up to the brotherly behemoth that is its predecessor. Maybe the film then would be a bit more . . . something. I cannot tell you why, but the film WANTS to be everything its follow-up is but at the same time tries so hard not to be. It differs in a lot of ways, but with the soul of the film being Ichi himself, it cannot break free of the original concept framework. It cannot break out and be its own beast. Each time we see the cherubic face of Nao Omori (back to play Ichi once more), we recall the frenzy that will ensue and somehow yearn for it.
This internal pleading is what compels you to watch 1-Ichi, but beware; you may be left holding your head, anxiously awaiting more only to not find it.
The movie is not bad at all. It is a serious character study and social examination of a world that parallels the brother-eat-brother world of the Yakuza (Japan’s native organized crime group) very well, a world of high school brimming with gangs, bullies, and girls. The film is riddled with complex yet simple characters who neither offend nor remain memorable for too long. Almost everyone in the cast is much older than what they are supposed to be according to the script, especially Nao Omori. His once smooth face is showing lines and wear. Whether this is a lack of makeup or the different style of film or light, it gives him an appearance that is much more advanced than the two years between the filming of this film and Miike’s Ichi
Aside from the age discrepancy, the film has its strength in its cast and their performances. It is comforting to the soul that Nao reprises the role. Recasting him would have been the death of the movie on conception. Sorry to do this, but he IS Ichi. No one else will ever hold that crown. Nao’s face and demeanor have been fused with the very image of a crying, rage ridden, repressed, ejaculating killer. He sniffles and weeps with conviction. Yet within we all know what lies asleep, and when it does show its ugly head, when the killer in Ichi is awakened, it does so with the same temper tantrum of uncontrolled unwillingness. Ichi just wants to be alone; he doesn’t want to kill. He is a gentle soul, a free spirit, a lover of subtle beauty. Ichi has a childlike quality that is irresistible, and this is his downfall.
The story in 1-Ichi revolves around Mr. Dai, a bully who prides himself on being the best fighter in school. Dai is played by an actor named Teah, a veteran of Miike’s impossible worlds in Dead or Alive 2. Dai is the type of character who could be just a one-dimensional creation – all fists and fury. But in a similar twist recalling the sheriff from Blazing Saddles, he has done it all, seen it all, and has grown bored with beating up and nearly killing the same kids over and over again. Dai is down and out, at least emotionally. His fists hit like bricks, but his face is flaccid. He has no love for this anymore. He is empty, until . . .
During a fight one day he spies Ichi watching him mash and mangle. Dai is intrigued by Ichi; he feels the innate power to Ichi and wants so desperately to unleash it. Dai senses the possibility that he is no longer #1 at the school. The alpha male has a challenger; yet, Ichi, for all Dai’s taunts, just will not provide the promised pummeling. Perhaps it’s because Ichi senses that Dai is a good kid, or perhaps it’s because Ichi is sexually attracted to Dai, but Dai just cannot hit the right buttons, the sick buttons to throw Ichi into that sexual transgressive state of uber-overdrive kicking and spewing semen – killing and coming – the Ichi we all know and love.
This stalemate between Dai’s wants for Ichi and Ichi’s impotence is shattered when Onizame, a new kid, comes to school. Very well trained in Hapkido, Onizame is a force to be reckoned with. He is base and degenerate, not following any rules or codes of honor like the valiant Dai. In a school where there is no authority at all (and I mean this; there are NO teachers or adults portrayed in the film), Onizame is allowed to rule supreme. He takes what he wants and is happy to do so. Kôji Chihara chillingly plays Onizame. He has a smug wit about him; he delivers the crunching attacks on the school with zeal and flair. Onizame senses the power in Ichi. Unwittingly he is the only one present when it is finally unleashed, and he wants Ichi to fight him as well. This creates the perfect love triangle, well kinda.
The film is directed by Masato Tanno. Tanno used to be Miike’s assistant director on such films as the first Ichi and several Dead or Alive films. Tanno’s approach to the film is far more restrained than Miike’s. The sets are clean and spare. The characters are subdued. The fights are filmed with bone crunching effect, especially some of the Hapkido twisting moves done by Onizame. Where Miike kept the violence to gore and cuts, Tanno keeps it in your face and packs it in your ears with an unflinching lingering on the destruction to the internal skeletal structure. Grimace inducing grindhouse cinema at its ghastly best.
Unearthed has packaged the film with a sparse set of features. There is a wonderful interview with Tanno and Miike sitting down to discuss the film and what its merits are. Miike is one twitchy fucker. You can see his mind just not wanting to sit still; no wonder the guy makes about 20 films a year. Tanno looks happy to be there but nervous. He even comes out and tells you he’s nervous, not because of being with Miike again, but because usually their conversations devolve into 4th grade potty humor, and he was apprehensive of that occurring again for the disc!
Is 1-Ichi a good film? Yes. Is it the same kind of extreme film that warrants attention by exploitation lovers? Yes. Completeists? Yes. What it lacks is all due to comparisons to Miike’s original. Lovers of the wacky world wrought in the first will be woeful. This is not Ichi II. Nor is it a redux.. The movie works in its own right, cascading to a climax that is the ultimate build-up. We leave this movie wanting to see the next. We want to know more about this man, this demon-filled boy who seems to have something buried within him. As soon as 1-Ichi is over, one finds himself reaching for the sequel. And when that sequel is Ichi the Killer, that may not be a bad thing at all!
Directed by Masato Tanno
Starring Nao Omori, Teah, Kôji Chihara, Eiki Kitamura, Yuki Oikawa
Japanese language with removable English subtitles
Takashi Miike and Masato Tanno one-on-one interview
Discuss 1-Ichi in our forums!
Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
Starring Marc Price, Tony Fields, Lisa Orgolini, Glen Morgan, Gene Simmons, and Ozzy Osbourne
Directed by Charles Martin Smith
I have been a horror fan for more than half of my life at this point. Meaning I have seen most of the quality horror offerings under the sun. But that said, every once in awhile a classic sneaks past so we wanted to create this “Through the Cracks” review section for such films.
Case in point, I had never seen the Halloween horror flick Trick or Treat until last night. I know, right? How the hell did that happen? But these things do happen and so for everyone that has seen the flick a million times, this will be a review of the movie from a super horror fan that – at the age of 33 – is seeing Trick or Treat for the very first time.
Now let’s get to it.
First off you have to love the movie’s plot. Mixing horror and heavy metal seems like a given, yet preciously few films Frankenstein these two great tastes together.
Like many of you out there, I am a big metal fan as well as a big horror fan. The two seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter. Or Jason and horny campers.
I dig bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and even those hair metal bands (Dokken forever!) and I’m well aware of the legends surrounding playing these records backward.
Off the top of my head, the only other flick that combines the two to this degree is the (relatively) recent horror-comedy Deathgasm. I say more horror-metal flicks! Or should we call it Metal-Horror? Yeah, that’s a much more metal title.
It only makes sense that someone, somewhere would take the idea of “What if Ozzy Osbourne really was evil and came back from the dead (you know, if he had passed away during his heyday) to torment a loner fan?” Great premise for a movie!
And Trick or Treat delivers on the promise of this premise in spades. Sammi Curr is an epic hybrid of the best of the best metal frontmen and his resurrection via speaker is one of the great horror birthing scenes I have seen in all my years.
Add to that the film feels like a lost entry in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. More specifically the film feels like it would fit snugly in between two of my favorite entries in that series, Dream Warriors and The Dream Master.
This movie is 80’s as all f*ck and I loved every minute of it.
And speaking of how this film brought other minor classics to the forefront of my brain, let’s talk about the film’s central villain, Sammi Curr. This guy looks like he could share an epic horror band with the likes of Mary Lou from Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and the Drill Killer rocker from Slumber Party Massacre Part II.
Picture that band for a moment and tell me they aren’t currently playing the most epic set in Hell as we speak. I say let’s see an Avengers-style series of films based on these minor horror icons sharing the stage and touring the country’s high school proms!
In the end Trick or Treat has more than it’s fair share of issues. Sammi Curr doesn’t enter the film until much too late and is dispatched way too easily. Water? Really? That’s it?
That said, the film is still a blast as director Charles Martin Smith keeps the movie rocking like an 80’s music video with highlights being Sammi’s rock show massacre at the prom and his final assault on our hero teens in the family bathroom.
Rockstar lighting for days.
Even though the film has issues (zero blood, a rushed ending) none of that mattered much to this horror hound as the film was filled to the brim with striking horror/metal imagery and a killer soundtrack via Fastway and composer Christopher Young.
Plus you’ve got to love the cameos by Gene Simmons (boy, his character just dropped right out of the movie, huh?) and Ozzy Osbourne as a mad-as-hell Preacher that isn’t going to take any more of this devil music. P.S. Watch for the post-credits tag.
More than a few of my closest horror buddies have this film placed high on their annual Halloween must-watch lists. And after (finally) viewing the film for myself, I think I just may have to add the film to mine as well. Preferably on VHS.
Trick or Treat is an 80’s horror classic. If you dig films like Popcorn, and if you put the film off like I did, remedy that tonight and slap a copy in the old VHS/DVD player.
Just don’t play it backward… God knows what could happen.
All said and done, I enjoyed the hell out of my first viewing of Trick or Treat. But what do YOU think of the film? Make sure to hit us up and let us know below or on social media!
Now bring on Trick or Treat 2: The Prom Band from Hell, featuring Sammi Curr, Mary Lou Maloney, and Atanas Ilitch’s Driller Killer from Slumber Party Massacre Part II!
Charles Martin Smith’s Trick or Treat is a sure-fire Halloween treat for fans of 80’s horror flicks, as well as fans of heavy metal music.
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill
Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk
** NO SPOILERS **
It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.
To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.
That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.
Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.
Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.
Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.
Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.
But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.
But let’s backtrack a bit here.
Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).
And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.
Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.
With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.
Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.
I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.
Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!
Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.
Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?
On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.
That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.
In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.
While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.
Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.
Bring on season 12.
The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro
Directed by Nicholas Woods
The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).
The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.
The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.
The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.
The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.
The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.
- Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
- Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
- If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
- “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
- The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
- As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
- “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
- The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
- Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.
Buy Stuff From Eibon Press, Get More Stuff For Free
KISS Meets Army of Darkness in New Comic Miniseries!
Jason Lives Director Pitched Follow-Up: Jason Vs Cheech and Chong
Blade Runner 2049’s Lackluster Box-Office Still a Mystery to Director Denis Villeneuve
12 Spooky Video Game Farms To Celebrate Your Thanksgiving
Mindhunter Review: The Best Netflix Original Series to Date
Director Says New Suspiria Film Isn’t a Remake
What if the Best Synth Scores Are For Horror Films That Don’t Really Exist?
7 Freddy’s Nightmares Episodes That Should’ve Been Movies
Exclusive: Dark Horse Announces Three New Hellboy Collections and We Have the Covers
Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation – First Trailer and Artwork!
The Walking Dead Season 7 Limited Edition Box Set – Unboxing Video
Desolation Trailer Goes Off Trail
More Exclusive Stills from Devil’s Whisper
Talent to Attend Dread Central’s Bicoastal Screenings for The Night Watchmen Next Week in NY and LA
Join the Box of Dread Mailing List
From Around the Web
Reviews5 days ago
AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters
News4 days ago
Danielle Harris Tried to Get Jamie Lloyd into New Halloween Movie
News5 days ago
The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror
News4 days ago
Whatever Happened to Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving?
Reviews4 days ago
Through the Cracks – Trick or Treat (1986) Review
News3 days ago
Horror Movies to Be Thankful for on Thanksgiving
News3 days ago
Paul Feig On Why His Ghostbusters Reboot Failed
News5 days ago
Read Darren Aronofsky’s Screenplay for mother!