men in a recording studio look dissatisfied
Collaborative Blogging

Berberian Sound Studio, or: The Equestrian Vortex

Another week, another disturbing exploration of the depths of human depravity.  And for once I’m not talking about the election.

The Film:

Berberian Sound Studio

The Premise (I love the Wikipedia summary for this):

British sound engineer Gilderoy (Toby Jones) arrives at the Berberian film studio in Italy to work on what he believes is a film about horses.

The Uncondensed Version:

Our somewhat surreal film begins as Gilderoy arrives in Italy to work on the sound effects for an Italian movie, The Equestrian Vortex.  After checking in at the recording studio, hejust wants reimbursement for his plane ticket, but fails to get a clear answer about which department handles that.  Worse news is that no one seems to have received a paycheck for months.  He’s even more confused as everyone speaks Italian around him in both reality and in the film he’s working on.

Contrary to what the title leads him to believe, this is not a nice movie about horses, but a horror.  (Can I just say Equestrian Vortex would be a great horror movie that could be the next Sharknado?)  Of course, the director claims it’s not a horror and is extremely offended at the mere suggestion.  But it’s horror.

The director, Santini, is rather easygoing and constantly smiling, hiding something sinister as it turns out.  The man determined to finish the film and put in the work is the producer, who is not an especially charming boss.  Perhaps the only reasonably nice character in all of this is Silvia, one of the actresses.  She does provide several ominous warnings to Gilderoy, who of course ignores them.

a man adjusts a microphone in a recording booth
“Hillary and Obama stole my microphone and took it to Kenya and now it’s broken.”

I still don’t understand what the equestrian vortex is, but the gist of the film is that witches have risen from the grave to torture and kill girls at a riding school.  At one point, the girls find the witches’ decaying bodies in the poultry tunnel, which I don’t understand outside of a slaughterhouse context.

To create the sound effects, there is so much screaming.  So.  Much.  Screaming.  We also see vegetables being dropped, melons chopped, juice blended—it’s not good to be produce in this film.  It’s actually quite fascinating to get a behind-the-scenes look at film sound effects.  I can’t think of any other movies about movies that focus so much on sound.

a man in a recording studio stands behind a table full of lettuce heads
So many heads of lettuce had to die to make this movie.

The increasingly disturbing plot of the film Gilderoy is working on parallels his frustration and mistreatment.  He very much wants to quit, especially as Santini emphatically declares he hates the exploitation of women in his film but must tell the story.  What a crock.  The highly artistic and intellectual film requires the witches to be stabbed, drowned, and stuck in the vagina with a red hot poker.

There’s also an extremely odd scene in which Santini feeds Gilderoy a grape and tells him to swallow the seed.  Er…?

a man puts his arm around another man in a dimly lit room
Trust me, there’s absolutely no subtext involved with this scene.

Gilderoy becomes very disturbed by screaming/crying sounds he hears at night.  He finds Silvia one night, who warns him about Santini, and reveals that he harassed and sexually assaulted her on set.  Finally fed up, she promises to destroy what he loves most and show him the real meaning of a curse.

It gets more surreal from here, and I don’t want to ruin the plot completely, most of which happens in the last 15 or so minutes of the film anyway.  One of the big questions of this movie is can you create exploitative art without yourself becoming exploitative?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

This is pretty light on plot, but extremely atmospheric.  There’s a mood of anxiety and confusion that becomes increasingly present as the film goes on, as well as a number of WTF scenes.  As soon as Silvia reveals the director’s harassment, the film begins to make a bit more sense–at least in one interpretation.

There is so much screaming in this film, which is so uncomfortable but which all of our characters become virtually immune to.  The “Silenzio” flashes in red repeatedly during recording, but it also serves as a reminder to the cast and crew to shut up and stop complaining.  This works when thinking about the women harassed in this movie and could more broadly speak to the film industry as a whole.

I am still scratching my head over some of the scenes in this movie (including a short film about the South Downs), and biggest complain is I hoped there was going to be an actual witch and really wanted Silvia to put an actual curse on some dudes.

Would Christa ride this one through an equestrian vortex or smash it like a melon creating a murder sound effect?  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

The Silenced, or: Ghost Super Soldiers

October in blogland at last!  You already know this month’s theme.  We’re into hauntings, unexplained disturbances, and creepiness in general, aka Paranormal Blogtivity (admittedly a title that needs work).

The Film:

The Silenced

The Premise:

Disappearances and creepy goings-on plague a Korean girls’ school conveniently in the middle of nowhere.

The Uncondensed Version:

Bit of background:  it’s Japanese-occupied Korea, just before the outbreak of WWII.  As it goes with empires, everyone wants to go to Japan since it can provide a better education and more opportunities for young people.  This is especially true for the girls in this film, who are competing for one of two coveted spots to go to Tokyo for school.

Shizuko is a transfer student to a school that is also a sanitorium(?) in the Korean countryside that seems to specialize in embroidery and vaulting.  Seriously, they are in a traditional classroom once in this entire movie.  Though Shizuko is very ill, she starts to get better with the help of the headmistress and some very experimental treatments.  She also makes a friend, Yeon-deok, and develops romantic feelings for her.

a girl in an austere school uniform embroiders a cherry blossom design
You know what they say about girls who know their way around embroidery cherry blossoms… (Actually, I have no idea what that even means)

Meanwhile, all kinds of creepy shit keeps happening.  There are events that seem to be tied to a ghost or some other supernatural presence—girls choking, seemingly victims of possession, and becoming very violent.  Petty high school things also happen as one girl in particular seems to have it in for Shizuko and does crazy shit like leave a dying bird in her locker and spreading rumors that she has TB.  In part, they’re uncomfortable because a girl named Shizuko disappeared before this new girl with the same name arrived.  Spooky, eh?  Sort of?

a teen girl in a school uniform looks in horror at her blood-covered hands
Mandatory staring at hands in horror scene.

As Shizuko recovers, she becomes inhumanely strong, which is bad news for the girls bullying her.  You’d better believe she’ll get her Carrie moment.  What kind of medical experimentation is really going on with these girls?  And what’s up with the nearby Japanese army base?  Super sketchy shit, guys.  Super.  Sketchy.

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Really brief plot summary reflects my inability to follow this very easily.  The chronology is confusing as fuck, and I never quite knew what the intent of this film is.  It begins as a ghost story, but shifts rather abruptly to a story about medical experimentation.  Make up your goddamn mind—is this a ghost story?  Forbidden schoolgirl romance?  Conspiracy?  Sociopolitical commentary?  Please pick one or two themes and develop them further.

This had a lot of promise at the beginning, and there were elements that were a bit like Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish-language films.  There’s even a really beautiful but despicable character who you are just waiting to see die violently.

a woman sits in a dimly lit office, a teapot on her desk
THE WORST.

The problem is that there’s no emotional resonance, which is a pretty terrible crime for a film that deals thematically with coming of age, first love, abuse, and the devastation of war.  I can’t say any of the characters felt especially three-dimensional or interesting.

I’m not crazy about revenge films, but this one may have been better off with that focus as the last 10 mins were so fucking badass.

Not a terrible film, but somewhat aimless and confusing.

Did Christa think this one made a miraculous discovery or would she rather it simply disappeared?  Find out by reading her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Starry Eyes, or: Those Satanists Are Ruining Hollywood

I’m not going to apologize for this review because I CANNOT stop apologizing to absolutely everyone at my new job, and I’m driving myself nuts. Still, I’m somewhat embarrassed about the quality of this post. Horror Month is kicking off not with a bang, but with a whimper. On the bright side, it could be worse.

I promise you Christa’s review is full of snark but lighter on the self-deprecation. Read her post here!

The Film:

Starry Eyes

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Premise:

A struggling actress gets an offer that seems too good to be true…because it’s an offer from Hollywood Satanists.

The Uncondensed Version:

Our story is your basic struggling actress plot but with a horror twist. Sarah is a waitress who works for what is essentially the Hooters of tater tots. She’s a fairly typical character except she isn’t very nice to herself, and does this rather painful-looking hair yanking thing whenever she messes something up.

It doesn’t help that her friends are kind of shitty, including a frenemy who rubs it in Sarah’s face when she gets a part they both auditioned for as well as that one creepy dude friend. The acting career isn’t really taking off, so Sarah jumps at the opportunity to star in the rather sketchy The Silver Scream. She’s desperate, so she doesn’t even care that the people she’s auditioning for are super judgmental and detached, telling her directly that she has to impress them or she’ll be forgotten like thousands of other girls. After presumably fucking up this audition, Sarah goes into the bathroom and does her hair-pulling routine.

a woman in a public bathroom stall holds her head in her hands
KEEP IT TOGETHER, SARAH.

Oddly, she is called back to the audition and asked to repeat the hair-pulling performance. Instead of being creeped out and getting the fuck out like a normal person, Sarah obliges. Even though she thinks the audition went horribly, she gets a call back.

The second audition is even weirder, and she has to get naked in a dark room while a camera takes her picture with a blinding flash. RUN, SARAH.

After all of this, Sarah gets a meeting with the producer who is, of course, a creepy old man. He goes on about people worshipping the god of debauchery and all of the weirdos in Hollywood before being a complete perv. Sarah hesitates to cross that line, but eventually returns as the lure of stardom is too great. During this second meeting, it becomes clear the producer is a Satanist or at least really into summoning demons and occult worship.  Maybe I’m being unfair because I’m not really sure what a Satanist looks like or what a Satanist believes.

a man sitting in a law office holds his hands out while smiling creepily
GROSS.

Shortly after, Sarah’s friends become concerned by her sudden sleazy/violent behavior. Things rapidly go from bad to worse, and we get our first truly disgusting scene of the film that involves pulling her own fingernails out, bleeding from everyfuckingwhere, and throwing up maggots. Honestly the fingernail part was the vilest bit of this film to me. If you can watch it without wincing, more power to you.

I suppose I shouldn’t give every last detail away, so let’s just say there’s a lot of bloody murder at the end. A LOT.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 3/5 Pink Panther Heads

Eh…there was nothing in particular to dislike about this film, but I also didn’t get really into it. It’s nice that this was a horror story with a purpose, but I felt it was a bit lacking in oomph.

About halfway through, I wondered where all the blood and guts were and why no one had died yet. Admittedly it got pretty disgusting, but I had to wait a damn long time (those fingernails, man. Haunting my dreams tonight).

Idk, guys, have I just lost any semblance of an attention span?

Check out the brilliance that is Christa’s review here!