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H. P. Lovecraft Collection, The – Volume 4 (DVD)

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Lovecraft Vol. 4 DVD (click to see it bigger!)Starring Rodrigo Sepúlveda, Luis Alarcón, Fernando Gallardo, Cristián Campos

Directed by Ricardo Harrington, Giovanni Furore and Cathy Welch

Distributed by Lurker Films


H. P. Lovecraft makes for some very intriguing reading, his stories bending the mind’s ideas of fear and introducing new terrors to the reader. But how well does that translate in other forms of media? In this review we will be looking at Lurker FiIms’ most recent Lovecraft entry, The H. P. Lovecraft Collection – Volume 4: Pickman’s Model, in which three different versions of the story are put forth. For those unfamiliar with the Pickman tale, here is a simple synopsis: Mysterious artist Richard Upton Pickman creates some of the world’s most disturbing art, but how does he do it? Where do his ideas come from? Only a few are curious enough to dive deep enough into Pickman’s lair to find out.

Ricardo Harrington’s Pickman’s Model

Harrington’s Spanish-language entry is the main feature of this 4th volume and has the budget to show for it. It follows the basic premise of the story with a few more characters thrown in, the most competent actors, and very understated set designs. The audience isn’t overwhelmed with fancy props or overly theatrical performances, but the problem with this version is that it still manages to be somewhat dull. The plot moves about at a slow pace, and even though the actors are the most believable, out of the three films in this set, it just never grabs hold of you. There’s also no payoff as far as the realization that Pickman’s ideas are inspired by real-life demons. But hey, at least there are more films than just this one on the disc.

Lovecraft Vol. 4 DVD (click to see it bigger!)Giovanni Furore’s Pickman’s Model

This Italian take on Pickman brought to us by Furore has a very theatrical feel about it. The characters are all exaggerated either by their dialogue or their posture, and Pickman himself is a bent and twisted man in this entry. The artist’s lair is packed with very over-the-top decorations that feel almost like they were left over from an amusement park’s haunted house. What Furore’s design does have going for it, however, is the demon. Though we never see it in action, it is revealed to us via a black and white picture taken by Pickman. The beast from beyond is so disgusting and frightening that the film’s flaws just vanish at the thought of that thing lurking in the dark corners of the world.

Cathy Welch’s Pickman’s Model

This one is where everything seems to come together. Welch has an interesting cast, a creepy Pickman, awesome sets, and just enough gore to satisfy the blood-lust. Here Pickman is a real nasty work of art. His studio is littered with occult and Nazi symbols that give off a vibe of pure evil. The audience never really gets to see the demons from his pit, but a kid’s head does get pulled apart, which is pretty bitching. This Pickman’s Model captures the 1960’s horror atmosphere with trippy dream sequences and very basic make-up techniques and is clearly the strongest and most entertaining of the bunch.

In the Vault

Lovecraft Vol. 4 DVD (click to see it bigger!)The last two films have nothing to do with Pickman’s Model, but their presence isn’t unwanted. First up we have In the Vault, which deals with an unkind cemetery man. Not only does he drink on the job, but he also urinates on top of coffins and buries them with the wrong headstones. The old man does get his due when he becomes locked inside a burial vault and the dead aren’t too glad to see him.

In the Vault is a CGI film of varying quality. The animation has its issues and so do the lighting effects, but the story is enjoyable and very short. It is narrated in the style of an old scary story, which gives it just enough charm to forgive the technical problems. I wouldn’t mind seeing more Lovecraft inspired stories being done in an animated form like this one.

Between the Stars

This last film was made from a small sentence from an unfinished Lovecraft story. Between the Stars is as basic as you can get for a short film. A guy leads a boring life, and his only escape is gazing at the star-filled sky outside his window each night. The minimal dialogue and quirkiness of the lead character do much with the little time this film is given. I suggest checking it out before tackling the three main films.

The extra features of this disc aren’t really worth writing home about. Lovecraft fans won’t learn much from the interviews, but the booklet included with the DVD is a good read for those interested in the individual films. This would have been better suited as commentary tracks for each short film, but what are ya gonna do?

Though each film has a weakness in one or two areas, when they are all combined in this collection, the good qualities overpower the bad and make for an enjoyable DVD. Had Lurker included some commentaries, the entire affair would have been perfect. That gripe aside, this and the three previous collections should find a home on your DVD shelf right away.

Special Features
Interviews with scholar Robert M. Price and horror author Ramsey Campbell
Eight-page booklet on Lovecraft and the films

Film:

5 out of 5

Special Features:

3 out of 5

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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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