This week we sandblast the grime from our Headless Eyes, get our tickets stamped for the wild ride in Carnage Park, and heap more praise on Imitation Girl.
The Cine-Files is a weekly film journal where I review and rate the movies I’m watching on a color scale, inspired by my love of Sour Patch Kids candy — green for the worst films, orange for average films, red for the great films, and blue for the absolute best of the best.
It was a mixed bag of scary cinny this week, with a loopy Video Nasty, a hyperactive slice of Tarantino cheese, and a footnote on a new Reel Review.
Headless Eyes (1971, directed by Kent Bateman)
Here I feel a mix of both cynicism and gore-geek joy. Charles Band has established a sub label of Full Moon called The Full Moon Grindhouse Collection. He’s very proud of it and makes sure to let us know with a nearly seven-minute introduction. I can’t put the blame of the whole “grindhouse” trend on any one specific movie or filmmaker, and can’t really bring myself to do so, simply because it’s a trend that has provided us with some beautiful restorations and even a few new retro-grind films.
Full Moon’s Grindhouse Collection is a fun little bunch of movies, and the thing that delights me about them more than anything is the fact that they are uncut!
I’ve gotten some wild Jess Franco fixes (Jack the Ripper, Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun) thanks to the Grindhouse Collection. Occasionally, I check out one of the fabled Video Nasties, just to educate myself and experience them firsthand. I have wanted to see Headless Eyes ever since I saw Stephen Thrower delightfully describe the “my eye” loop during his trailer introduction for Severin’s Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide. And that scene doesn’t disappoint.
In fact, it delivered everything I was expecting: first and foremost the grimy, scummy, and filthy 70s New York City cinematography. The cotton ball microphone sound. The repugnant eye gore. The awful performances. And that hilarious “my eye” loop that goes on and on and on.
One could jump on the high horse and say this is just exploitation junk, but I’m not going to be the one to do that. I revel in my muddy horror art! I roll around in it like a pig in shredded wet celluloid. Don’t wash it off!
What is it about? Well, it’s about a serial killer artist who gouges out eyes and freezes them in Perspex. It is slightly reminiscent of DRILLER KILLER. Slightly. I wanted to own it, so I spent the relatively small amount of money for the Full Moon version. I may not watch it again, but I’m proud to say it’s in my library. If the subject ever comes up, I can proudly say “Why yes, I DO own HEADLESS EYES!”
Carnage Park (2016, directed by Mickey Keating)
Apparently, this action/horror hybrid was a partial tribute to Sam Peckinpah. I’ve never seen a Peckinpah, so I can’t confirm or deny that, but I can definitely confirm that it takes many of its stylistic cues from Quentin Tarantino. I know, shame on me, how could I claim to be a movie nut when I’ve never seen a Sam Peckinpah movie? I would much prefer watching horror movies, so a lot of that other stuff has fallen off my radar. Sorry, it’s impossible to see everything.
A big part of the appeal of Carnage Park is the chaotic story, and the over-caffeinated way in which it is told, though these days it is predictable to be unpredictable, especially when it comes to doing something different.
You know from the moment the movie begins that you’re in for wild music, whiplash editing, brutal violence, and all the other bells and whistles that go with this kind of noisy, brain-throttling cinema.
I’m terribly sorry, folks, but you get few plot nuggets here. I’ll simply explain it by saying it’s a point-A-to-point-X-to-point-WTF kind of story. It’s a survival story. Specifically, the story of Vivian’s (Ashley Bell of The Last Exorcism) survival. What is she surviving? A rotten dirty day in the rotten dirty desert, being pursued by rotten dirty people. Although, like I said earlier, the breakneck editing and self-awareness are beginning to be predictable, it’s still a good way to spend time. It also stars Alan “Rooney! Pardon my French, but you’re an asshole!” Ruck.
Imitation Girl (2017, directed by Natasha Kermani)
This is not going to be a review. That was already done wonderfully by Jason McFiggins. I just want to contribute a few extra thoughts. First of all, every time I see a new Lauren Ashley Carter movie, my celebricrush on her increases. She squeezes emotion out of her eyes like a woman dying of thirst would out of two ripe oranges.
Secondly, I couldn’t help but sense the birth of yet another sub-subgenre: the enigmatic female alien made of shiny black goo who falls to Earth, enchants men, and learns about humanity through experience and tragedy. Got that? Cool.
The other movie that closely resembles this premise (thus providing the building blocks for a sub-subgenre) is Under the Skin. But I can imagine there are people who have seen both of these movies and accuse Imitation Girl of imitating Under the Skin, and that is not entirely accurate.
Under the Skin focuses on sexuality, and indeed even makes it the alien’s primary predatory tool, whereas the alien in Imitation Girl, while the doppelganger of a porn star, is growing and responding to humanity on an instinctual, intellectual, and emotional level. She doesn’t seem to respond to, or be aware of, her sexuality. Nor is she predatory.
Seeing Lauren Ashley Carter’s portrayal of the alien experiencing human life (the barbed wire, eating until she vomits, learning languages) is a wonder to see. This is a new favorite. I must own this.