Song of the Day: Naki Kyoku (by Boris)

Doing a major 180 degrees the latest Song of the Day come from the Land of the Rising Sun. This song was first introduced to me by site music writer necromoonyeti and from the first time the song began to it’s final note it became one of my favorite songs. My profile will attest to this as I’ve played it a couple hundred times since hearing it for the first time.

I speak of Naki Kyoku by the Japanese power trio, Boris.

It’s difficult to describe the band Boris. They’re definitely s rock band, but other than that simplistic description they’re not a band to be pegged into any particular genre of rock. Their albums have ranged from early hardcore punk and crust. They’ve dabbled in drone metal, sludge metal and ambient. The song Naki Kyoku comes from their 2003 full-lenght album, Akuma no Uta (means “The Devil’s Song”). This particular album and, especially, this song brings to mind an eclectic blending of stoner rock with its cousin, psychedelic and noise rock.

Just like the band which birthed the song, Naki Kyoku can’t be labeled under any particular subgenre of rock as it seems to sound differently for each listener. Don’t know exactly who and what Boris is as a band and especially this particular song of theirs, but I know what I like and this song is one I definitely fell in love with at first listen.

Review: Masters of Horror – Haeckel’s Tale (dir. by John McNaughton)

Masters of Horror has been good but very uneven in its execution during it’s two season run on Showtime. Haeckel’s Tale is the last episode for Season One (Takashi Miike’s episode never got an official airing) and it sure ends the season on a disturbingly kinky compilation of twisted grotesqueries. The story is from a Clive Barker short story that’s been adapted by Mick Garris (fellow Masters of Horror director and also its brainchild) and produced by George A. Romero to be directed by John McNaughton.

One wonders why Romero would be producing instead of directing the piece. Scheduling conflicts prohibited Romero from taking the director’s chair and he instead recommended John McNaughton (his one film which earned him Master of Horror status is one of the best horror films of the last quarter century: Henry – Portrait of a Serial Killer). The fact that Romero was originally chosen to direct Barker’s Garris adapted short story means there’s got to be zombies or some form of undead within. I, for one, was glad that Romero decided that he wouldn’t be able to direct and chose another in his stead. Barker’s short story does indeed include zombies but it also has a heavy sense of the old classic technicolor Hammer Films vibe to it. Haeckel’s Tale under the capable hands of McNaughton takes those Hammer Films conventions and ramps it up into overdrive.

Even though John McNaughton really has only one true horror film under his belt (he also directed a little-known cult scifi-horror called The Borrowers which had fledgling effects shop KNB EFX still doing things guerilla-style), but his work in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer more than earned him his horror creds. In Haeckel’s Tale, John McNaughton clearly has a bit of fun making the only true period piece in the whole Masters of Horror series. McNaughton goes for the classic Hammer Films look for this episode and it shows in the gothic, fog-shrouded atmosphere in the outdoor scenes. The look of the costumes and even the dialogue harkens back to those Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing Hammer Films.

The story is a mixture of the Frankenstein tale with a some Cemetary Man (aka Dellamorte Dellamore) mixed in. Haeckel’s Tale begins somewhere around the 1800’s and I’m assuming close to the end of it from the costume worn by Steve Bacic who played Mr. Ralston who arrives to seek the help of Miz Carnation who is purported to be a necromancer who can grant him his wish to have his dead wife brought back to life for him. Miz Carnation rebuffs Ralston, but after some begging she makes a deal with him to hear Haeckel’s Tale. If he still wants his wife brought back to life after hearing it then she would do so.

Ernst Haeckel (played by Derek Cecil)is a young medical professor whose obsession to conquer death mirrors that of a certain eccentric European scientist he so admires. Unlike his idol, Haeckel’s attempt to use electricity to put the spark of life back into a corpse fails dramatically. He’s soon investigating the rumor of a certain traveling necromancer who goes by the name of Montesquino (played by Joe Polito) who he thinks to be a fraud, but he soon finds out that Montesquino is all he says he is when Haeckel stumbles upon Wolfram (played by Stargate SG-1‘s own Maybourne, Tom McBeath) and his stunning young wife Elise (the drop-dead gorgeous Leela Savasta).

Haeckel quickly lusts after the young Elise, but as Wolfram will later tell him as the story nears it’s climax (in more ways than one), Elise cannot be satisfied by him or Haeckel. Her obsession with a dead husband she loves and cannot let go brings Haeckel to a scene that he cannot comprehend nor accept as something she truly wants. I must say that Leela Savasta’s performance as the dead-obsessed Elise is only surpassed by Anna Falchi’s own work as “She” in Dellamorte Dellamore. Leela’s pretty much spending most of her screentime fully naked and writhing around in an orgy not typical of most horror movies. It’s also in this orgy scene where we get the biggest Clive Barker feel to the story. Anyone how has read Barker earlier work knows the man can mix horror and sex like no other.

The ending of the episode brings to it a slight twist with Miz Carnation being more than she says she is. This Masters of Horror episode is not the best of the lot, but it is one of the better looking ones in terms of cinematography and it’s leads. It also doesn’t have much in terms of genuine scares. The story gradually builds up the dreads and disturbing images but never anything that will put a genuine heart-stopping scare on the viewer. Like McNaughton’s own foray into horror with Henry, Haeckel’s Tale lets the story’s own disturbing themes on obsession and the darker side of love put the horror in the story. It does have a nice gore-laden sequence courtesy of Howard Berger and Greg Nicotero and their KNB FX team.

In the end, Haeckel’s Tale is a very good episode which has its flaws like the rest of the Masters of Horror episodes. What sets it apart from the rest of the series entries is its unique Hammer Films look and the return of McNaughton back in the director’s chair as a horror filmmaker. It’s no Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, but Haeckel’s Tale will have enough disturbing images to burn itself to its audiences’ minds.

A Quickie With Lisa Marie: Twelve (directed by Joel Schumacher)

I’ve seen a lot of reviews for the just-released Twelve that have referred to this movie as just being an extended episode of Gossip Girl, largely because the movie deals with spoiled, rich teenagers and it stars Chace Crawford.  I’m going to venture a guess that the majority of these reviewers have never actually seen an episode of Gossip Girl, which is actually entertaining and self-aware in a way that the ploddingly obvious Twelve could never hope to match.

Crawford plays White Mike.  He’s a recent high school drop out who now makes his living selling drugs — mostly marijuana — to his former classmates.  However, his classmates — not to mention his cousin, Charlie — are more interested in sampling a new designer drug known as twelve.  We’re told that twelve feels like a combination of cocaine and ecstasy.  As this movie struggled to reach its apocalyptic conclusion, I found myself thinking, “That doesn’t sound too bad.  I wonder if I can get some twelve after the movie…”

Anyway, Twelve charts out four days in the life of Crawford and his former classmates.  It starts with Crawford ignoring a pathetic phone call from his junkie cousin and it ends with a shooting rampage at a party that leaves the majority — but not all — of the cast dead.  It’s supposed to be an anti-drug film but, like far too many anti-drug films, it can’t disguise the fact that the characters are a lot more fun to watch when they’re on drugs than when they aren’t.  (For instance, we’re told early on that White Mike doesn’t do drugs, smoke, or drink and just look how miserable he is.)  Director Joel Schumacher gives us a lot of really pretty images but there’s nothing below the surface and as a result, the film’s massacre doesn’t so much feel tragic as it just feels like a poorly planned fashion spread in Elle

(As opposed to Nick McDonnell’s original novel, the film Twelve is mainstream enough to only allow unlikable characters to die at the end.)

The cast is almost achingly pretty but, at the same time, largely forgettable, with two major exceptions.  Poor Rory Culkin (who I worry about because he always seems so sad every time he shows up in a movie) brings a lot of pathos to his role as the geeky kid who happens to have the perfect party house, permissive parents, and a psychotic older brother.  Emily Meade is memorable playing a character who, in many ways, is a female version of Culkin’s.  Playing a bipolar girl who discovers a love for twelve, Meade actually manages to overcome the generic plot (the type that demands that she go from being an honor’s student to selling her body to Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson in little over 24 hours) and makes her character compelling.  Plus, she has a fun scene where her teddy bears encourage her to kill people.

Still, the movie ultimately belongs to Keifer Sutherland who never appears on-screen but who gets more dialogue than anyone else in the entire film.  Sutherland plays the narrator.  That’s right, as simplistic as the movie is, Schumacher apparently felt that the movie needed a narrator to tell us what we’ve just seen onscreen.  For instance, we see Crawford selling drugs.  Suddenly, Sutherland’s voice informs us, “White Mike is a drug dealer.”  “Oh,” we say in the audience, “so that’s why he’s exchanging marijuana for money…” 

Even though the narrator is essentially just quoting large chunks of prose from McDonnell’s novel, the use here is technically a mistake.  I say “technically” because it cannot be denied that Sutherland has probably got the sexiest narrator voice around.  Regardless of whether the movie needed it, I needed it.  If nothing else, I will always remember seeing Twleve as the time I heard Keifer Sutherland say, in his purring growl of a voice, “I want to tap that ass,” and I thought, “Well, okay…”

Now Playing: The Disco Love Theme From Caligula

When the infamous epic Caligula was first released back in 1979, a disco version of Caligula’s love theme — We Are One — was also released as a promotional gimmick.  If you’ve sat through the behind-the-scenes footage on the Caligula Imperial Edition DVD, this song has probably been forever branded on your brain.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

This song is so over-the-top, so blatantly exploitive, so insidiously catchy, and so totally inappropriate for the film it was written for that it simply cannot be ignored.  To me, this song represents everything that makes the Grindhouse great. 

(As well, I hope whoever was playing bass got paid extra…)

While we’re on the subject, I’m also going to include the opening credits of Caligula because I’ve always liked the use of Profokiev’s Romeo and Juliet.

(I also love the fact that the screenplay is credited as being adapted from a script by Gore Vidal yet no one is given credit for doing the adapting, the editing is credited to “the production,” and director Tinto Brass is credited with “principal photography.”)