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Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (1973)

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Starring Janine Carazo, Jermoe Dempsey, Daniel Deitrich, Herve Villechaize

Directed by Christopher Speeth


Enter the gates of this carnival at your own risk! Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood is a twisted tale of terror, freaks, and cannibalism. After its run on the Southern 70’s drive-in circuit, 1973’s Malatesta’s disappeared for nearly 30 years. Thought to be lost for good, a single copy of the film was literally found in an attic recently and has been remastered to DVD by American Zoetrope Studios. It enjoyed its world-premier DVD release at the Eerie Horror Film Festival this year, where it won the coveted Grandma Gladys award (Grandma’s Attic award) for being the best vintage or unearthed film at the festival. The darkened, little playhouse theater that was home to the festival was the perfect setting for a re-release of this disturbing little film.

Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood, written by Werner Liepolt and directed by Christopher Eric Speeth, is known as a 70’s Cult Classic thanks to its followers. Many of these “loyals” are Herve de Villachaize fans, who after making this film went on to fame in his role as “Tattoo” on the television series “Fantasy Island”. Other key cast members include Jerome Dempsey, Bill Preston, Janine Carazo, Daniel Dietrich, and Lenny Baker. These individuals were cast into one of the oddest films I have ever seen, and believe me… my movie viewing habits have led me into some pretty strange on-screen realms.

With the typical game booths, rides, and attractions an outsider would never suspect that Malatesta’s run-down carnival could be hiding its dark secret. Preparing for the start of a new season Mr. Blood, who oversees the business end of the carnival, is in the process of hiring new employees. During their initial tour of the carnival Mr. Blood sells the carnival biz as a “gold mine” to the Norris family. We all know that starting a new career can be a daunting enough task when the situation is every day, but when the Norris family decides to “run off and join the carnival” they soon find themselves in a living nightmare with no means of escape.

Even before the sun sets the carnival treats us to a taste of evil things to come when Kit, who runs the Tunnel of Love, discovers that the cost of the ride may be more than a few tickets. Kit confides what he witnessed to Vena, the Norris’ daughter. The two teens are quickly swept up in a web of horrors.

We soon find out that Mr. Norris has a hidden agenda of his own where the carnival is concerned. There is a vague mention of wanting answers about a missing person, possibly family, that is never really explained any further. All the while the carnival is claiming more victims, and Bobo (Herve de Villachaize) shows up as a tiny, taunting menace. Cue the surrealistic, non-sensical dream sequences, and the audience is made aware that the carnival is actually inhabited by a large group of nocturnal, zombie-like, underground dwellers who are hungry, for what else? Human flesh of course!

As Malatesta makes his intentions and true identity known, Vena and her family are forced into a fight for their lives. I think Mr. Norris gets a good idea of what happened to his missing kin, and I don’t believe he likes the answers he receives. There are two things he should have done…1. Warn his daughter about the possible danger BEFORE she runs off on her own and 2. Take his wife’s advice early on and get the hell out of there! Her curlers weren’t too tight for her to know they were in over their heads.

By the time Vena’s boyfriend, Johnny, shows up all Hell has broken loose. Being told that they had perished in a fire, the poor boy unwittingly stumbles into the mess in hopes of finding out what really happened to Vena and her parents. To say anymore would give away the insane finale of this unbelievable film.

If you think this review jumps around too much, you should watch the movie yourself and you’ll understand why. While the continuity is pretty much intact at the end of the film, your sanity may not be so lucky. With a story that plays out like a trip through a house of mirrors, viewers may find themselves a bit dizzy and confused when the exit comes into sight.

Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood seems to try too hard during the last half of the film. It relies too much on a sometimes overwhelmingly dark atmosphere, which makes it a bit hard to make out in certain scenes, and sound effects that are disturbing, but not in the originally intended manner. These problems combined with several awkward cuts wind up being more of a distraction for the audience than anything else. The obvious lack of on-screen violence and gore is proof that ratings played a large part in the final cut of the film.

While Malatesta’s is certainly not a terrible film, it is definitely not one that I would recommend to the general horror viewing public. I would save this recommendation for those who can appreciate the cult classics, and who have a taste for the unusual or downright bizarre. This film may not even be close to my top favorites, but it does have the potential to grow on me.

I have seen Malatesta’s twice now, once at the Eerie Horror Film Festival and then I had the chance to check out the DVD at home. Though not perfect by any stretch, the film looks pretty good for being transferred from a 25-plus year old copy that had been lost in an attic for decades. The bare-bones DVD does contain a slide-show of stills from the movie and some deleted scenes that are titled as outtakes on the menu. From these deleted scenes you can see all of the gore that would have been in the film if it would have gotten passed the MPAA. I would love to see a more in-depth, special edition version DVD of Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood released with all of these scenes put back into the film, and possibly some extra features.

Unfortunately the release of a special edition DVD may be near impossible due to the length of time the film was lost as well as the lack of any additional footage. So for now the current DVD release of Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood will have to be sufficient. Even without the prospect of any additional DVD releases, the fact that Malatesta has once again seen the light of day is a miracle in itself. One that I’m sure is welcomed by fans of this obscure little film. Let’s hear it for the “pack-rats”!

Be sure to visit the film’s official site here for stills and info!


3 ½ out of 5 Mugs O’ Blood

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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor

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Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.

On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.

The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.

While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.

What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.

While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.

  • Alive in New Light
5.0

Summary

IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.

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The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell

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Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law

Directed by John Law


I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.

The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.

The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.

  • Film
3.5

Summary

The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.

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Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions

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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
4.0

Summary

Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.

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