Cyber Monday: Project Shadowchaser Trilogy

Frank Zagarino dies hard!

Cinemasochism: Black Mangue (2008)

Braindead zombies from Brazil!

The Gweilo Dojo: Furious (1984)

Simon Rhee's bizarre kung fu epic!

Adrenaline Shot: Fire, Ice and Dynamite (1990)

Willy Bogner and Roger Moore stuntfest!

Sci-Fried Theater: Dead Mountaineer's Hotel (1979)

Surreal Russian neo-noir detective epic!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Cinemasochism: GETEVEN (1993; aka ROAD TO REVENGE)

We’ve often said that being a Video Junkie is perhaps the riskiest job in the world because you are exposing yourself to unknown dangers all the time.  90% of the time, you end up smashing your head against the TV while crying, “What am I doing with my life?”  But it is those rare 10%-ers that make it all worth living; films that are so wrongheaded that they just seem right.  I’m talking about stuff like THE TERRORISTS (197?), MIAMI CONNECTION (1987) and SAMURAI COP (1989). These are films that transcend their bad movie origins to become mini-masterpieces.  The kind of films where you immediately email your friends about them and lengthy email back-and-forth ensues as you recount all the hilarious lines/scenes.  Thanks to Marty McKee, I was able to experience this rush last night with one of the crowning jewels of cinemasochism, GETEVEN (1993; aka ROAD TO REVENGE).

GETEVEN (that is how the title reads onscreen) opens with three LAPD cops – Normad (William Smith), Rick Bodie (John De Hart) and Henry “Huck” Finney (Wings Hauser) – on the trail of some drug dealers inside a trailer.  When a shootout erupts, Finney is shot and Normad doesn’t seem to give a damn.  You see, he is more interested in the drugs as he is a crooked cop.  Rick takes offense to his lack of care for Finney and knees Normad in the gut. “You just made a big mistake,” Normad says. “Not a problem,” replies our hero.  Except it is a problem as the very next scene has the trio in an Internal Affairs hearing and Normad is weaving a web of lies that would make Fred Adelman blush.  He somehow manages to convince the judge that Rick and Huck were drug users (“Their eyes were weird, like someone using drugs.”) and both guys are kicked off the force.  Now, we’re never told this but just have to
Pant-less Wings, Indian dummy, John De Hart
Tom: "That scene just screams 'I'm on a shitload
of coke and I don't care who knows it!'"
infer it as they are both working as drivers for a limo service.  Rick doesn’t take any crap at this job, showcased by him evicting some rowdy prom clients.

Financial and job woes are the least of Rick’s problems though as he recently got dumped by Cindy (Pamela Jean Bryant, a Playboy Playmate of the Month in 1978).  Or maybe it wasn’t recently as she’s been away a year.  Again, we’re never given specifics as those are for sissies.  Anyway, Huck, who talks to an Indian mannequin in his living room, has this bright idea to head out for a night on the town.  And guess who they run into at the bar?  Cindy!  The lovebirds reconnect and Cindy remembers just why Rick sent her heart aflutter when he pops up on stage (“Hey Rick, come up and sing!” screams a voice off camera) and uncomfortably sings the non-hit “Shimee Slide.”  Now I should tell you that this is where the film took off from B-movie to insta-classic.  Seriously, watch this scene that some kind soul uploaded.

The main plot finally kicks in when a group of scummy looking dudes come in and start harassing Cindy. Rick takes no shit and he and Huck beat the crap out of these guys. Amazingly, Huck gets arrested in the melee.  Wait, why were the cops there?  Because an overly concerned girl in the bar called them to report a case of public nudity after a stripper got on stage following Rick’s mind-blowing singing.  Yes, public nudity is the problem here. That’s just how this movie rolls.  The next day Rick bails Huck out of jail and in a true howler, says to the processing officer as they are leaving, “Here’s a quarter.  Go buy yourself a personality.” Keep in mind two things.  One: this cop wasn’t hassling Rick at all. Two: Rick has zero personality; hell, he might have subzero personality.  That line is the cinematic equivalent of a bald guy flipping his head side-to-side to showcase the beauty of his comb over.

Anyway, we are just getting started here folks. Rick and Cindy head to a fancy restaurant to celebrate their reunion. After torturing the matre d with some terrible jokes, Rick gets down to rekindling their love.  How?  By buying a polaroid picture from a girl who comes up and sings, “Hello, my name is Tamara, the reason I have this camera, is if you really love her, you’ll take a picture of her.”  Rick follows the advice and offers no money in return. Following this jaw dropping scene, we finally get down to what happened to Cindy in the year since she last saw Rick. She got mixed up with a bad crowd (worse than this?) and got into drugs.  Oh yeah, they were Satan worshippers.  Then, in a flashback, we show how she raised all kinds of hell at a Satanic ceremony where she objected to the sacrifice of the baby and she is tied up (“Yeah, you were right. This bitch isn’t good enough to follow Satan!”).  Oh, one small detail I forgot to mention.  The leader of this coven is Normad.  Back in real time, Cindy admits she is getting better after seeing Rick and then asks if he is still pursuing being an actor.  WHAT!?!  Rick then launches into the famed “To be, or not to be” speech from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  I f’n kid you not.  It must be seen with ones own eyes.

Believe it or not, we are only just 30 minutes into this movie.  And now the thing goes totally off the rails as we get a ten minute segment that can only be defined as Wings Hauser’s Masterpiece Theater. The first bit has him doing a drunken rambling at the bar with Rick where he accuses him of ditching him for Cindy and with sleeping with his ex-wife.  Again, it must be seen to be believed (make sure to watch until the end).

Following Wings is in his apartment shooting holes through his bills (!), his ex-wife shows up to demand her alimony. He says he doesn’t have any money so she decides to call the cops and falsely say he was beating him.  But not before she reveals she was sleeping with – you guessed it – Normad!  She tears off her blouse to reveal her breasts and screams, “You remember these? You don’t know how to treat them either!” Wow. Naturally, he is arrested and has to face the judge.  And who is this judge? Normad, of course!  Jeez, this guy has certainly done a lot in the year since he was last a Lieutenant for the LAPD.  Wings drunken behavior and general non-compliance get him in the slammer, where he drinks bleach in order to get out and sent to the hospital.  He is visited by a nun (watch for Hauser making her break character and laugh) before Rick and Cindy show up to say they are heading to her folks to pick up her clothes.  We love Wings here and the intensity he brings to any role is always a welcome addition to any film.  Yet in this film he just goes absolutely nuts in two back-to-back sequences.  I’m not going to theorize on what was flowing through his veins during filming, but whatever it was, it made him the Super Hulk version of Wings Hauser. This is the kind of performance that would make Gary Busey say, “Whoa! That dude’s a nutcase.”

Now, if you are still with me, I thank you for your efforts.  But I’m going to make you watch another video as this is how the confrontation goes with Cindy’s parents.

You hear that loud thud?  That was my jaw dropping on the floor after that bit.  “Get thee behind me, Satan” is how I plan to greet all of my kids’ friends (if I ever have kids and I turn into a crotchety old, box chucking bastard).   The scene actually ends with her dad saying she will end up “dead in a roadside ditch” due to her sinful ways.  No worries for Cindy though as Rick knows how to calm her storm – a bubble bath!  In a true example of her dedication to the acting craft, Bryant gives her all in making you believe she is enjoying this skin-on-skin romp. Tom said it best in one of our emails: “Damn, I hope that girl’s check cleared. She earned every penny of her miniscule wage.”

Pamela Jean Bryant earning that pay:

Alternate title: JOHN ASTIN GETS LUCKY!

Okay, let’s start to wrap this up.  Rick asks her to get married and she accepts. Huck starts a new religion based on Huckleberry Finn (no, I’m not kidding). Normad’s men kill Cindy when she and Rick are out motorcycling; technically Rick kills her because he can’t handle his bike and crashes (off screen, naturally). Cindy’s dad beams at her funeral about how he was right (he’s correct, she did end up dead in a roadside ditch).  Huck gives Rick his Indian mannequin to help him get over tough times (“He fucking saved my life!”). Rick goes on the road to revenge against Normad and gets it.  And then Rick learns Cindy was alive this whole time because someone (cops?) wanted to make it look like she died.  Why? Who knows?  The only person who is hurt by pretending she is dead is Rick as the cops sure didn’t seem to be doing any investigating.  Anyway, I bet her dad is going to pissed when he finds out she survived dying in a roadside ditch.

Are you still there, dear reader?  If so, I thank you.  I must also apologize about making you work so hard (watch videos and read!?!) on a review.  To be fair, GETEVEN isn’t something that one should be first exposed to in a review.  It should be seen and not heard about.  If I had the means, I’d fly to all of your houses just so I could sit back and revel in the joy of watching you get your brain smacked by this masterpiece. Or, at the very least, I’d like to release it on DVD for the masses.  Ah, screw that, I’m coming to your house and you better have dinner ready.  And a bubble bath and champagne for later after we do the “Shimee Slide,” of course! This isn’t merely a bad movie that got made, it escaped!  But where exactly did it escape from?

GETEVEN appears to be the brainchild/vanity project of lead actor John De Hart.  Looking like the missing Mitchum brother, De Hart is not only credited as the film’s lead but he was also the writer, producer, co-director and wrote and sang several songs on the soundtrack.  Now we all have dreams of stardom, but very few have the means to make it happen. I’m stunned that no one stopped him during his song – where he sounds like a hoarse Kermit the Frog with an Elvis sneer – and said, “Are you sure you want to do this?”  Matching his lack of singing ability is his acting chops.  I don’t think I need to say anything more after you’ve viewed the HAMLET scene posted above.  Not only did De Hart have the funds, he had the cajones to blow what I can only believe was a small (yet substantial enough) amount of money on this.  Did I say balls? I meant to say mental imbalance. That this film got finished is amazing.  Snagging Wings Hauser and William Smith to be in your ensemble couldn’t have been cheap and the darn thing is shot on film.  Well, most of it.  De Hart does have some inserts (including one bit where he awkwardly kickboxes and then feeds his poodle some ice cream) that are shot-on-video.  Post-GETEVEN, De Hart went into the field of law.  He passed the California bar exam on June 4, 1993 and has been practicing ever since.  I’m seriously tempted to fly out to California and commit some minor offense, just so I can hire him and ask all about GETEVEN.  First question: “What were you thinking?”  From the opening appearance of the grammatically incorrect title to the final “surprise” moment, GETEVEN will keep your attention like – how do they say in GETEVEN speak – a poodle wanting some ice cream.  Highly recommended!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Gore Galore: ADAM CHAPLIN (2010)

When it comes to shot-on-video movies, I can seem as grouchy as an old man who just ran out of Gold Bond and Tucks, but there are some that I don't need any Cialis to get all worked up about. No matter how wearisome the zombie genre has gotten these days (oh, it so definitely has), there's always room on my plate for Perecles Lewnes' genuinely hilarious and super-splattery REDNECK ZOMBIES (1988). Olaff Ittenbach's THE BURNING MOON (1992) has a special place in my spleen for raising the gore effects bar in a SOV movie to professional heights that few, if any, have been able to match. There are a couple of others, but it looks like there is a new one to add to this very short list.

Out of the wasteland in 2011, a low-budget Italian SOV flick called ADAM CHAPLIN hit festival circuits, but even though it garnered some praise, not much was made of it on-line or in print. Flash forward a couple of years and somehow the damn thing managed to sneak on to DVD and blu-ray in Europe with a forthcoming US DVD titled "ADAM CHAPLIN: VIOLENT AVENGER" (I can't help but wonder how long it took Autonomy Pictures to come up with that title). Now, suddenly, people are sitting up and taking notice.

Written, directed and starring Emanuele De Santi, ADAM CHAPLIN is set in the near future in which a disfigured, mask-wearing mad scientist, named Denny (Christian Riva), rules the underworld with a, not so much iron, but veiny, fleshy fist. When a young woman (Valeria Sannino) can't pay back the money she borrowed, the creep sets her on fire, burning her to a crisp. Despondent due to his loss, her lover Chaplin (Emanuele De Santi) sets out on a path of ultra-violent revenge with the help of a small demon that lives behind his shoulder in a festering wound in the shape of an upside-down crucifix (Giulio De Santi). While sorting through the scum of the earth, Chaplin's eyes roll back in his head and he becomes capable of throwing flurries of punches that tear through flesh and bone like wet toilet paper making for some extremely graphic confrontations that spray, splash and dump literally gallons of blood across the sets.

After setting out on his rampage the corrupt police decide to recruit a serial killer to take out Chaplin before he can get his revenge. Of course, this really doesn't go as well as the cops' had planned and everything boils down to a massive confrontation between the crooked cops, the criminal kingpin (who has his own chemically induced powers) and a seriously pissed off Adam Chaplin.

Combining what is essentially a live-action adaptation of FIST OF THE NORTH STAR with western-style dystopian future influences of "Judge Dredd" and BLADE RUNNER (1982), ADAM CHAPLIN should be good just with that: some extreme gore and cheap but effective CGI, but  it has much more to offer. It's not just gore that ADAM CHAPLIN uses prodigiously. CGI is used to blend miniatures, modern buildings and re-purposed technology into the futuristic landscape. Granted, it's not the CG that turned Johannesburg into MegaCity1 in DREDD (2012), but remember we are talking about an amateur movie that certainly must have cost a fraction of DREDD's craft services budget. Plus, almost all of the CGI is used in ways that are not only ingenious, but dare I say groundbreaking. There is a scene in which the killer hacks up a transient's face with a meat-cleaver and they use CGI to make the head's eye blink. Most of these little details happen so fast that it takes a second viewing to pick them out, but it is shockingly effective.

So yes, there is gore, sci-fi and special effects, but I think what really raises this head and shoulders above most of the SOV pack, if not the entire DTV pack, is that it's surprisingly well written. Sure, it's not Tom Stoppard, but the plot of CHAPLIN is not handed to the viewer on a plate. Like a high-brow mystery, it unfolds piece by piece making what is the most basic of revenge plots seem fascinatingly complex by effective use of non-linear storytelling. Add to that some extremely effective atmospheric moments, such as one using nothing but flickering lighting, latex and a brick wall, and you have a low-budget, first-time effort that will knock your socks into the next room. For example, when Chaplin assaults a petty criminal in the sewer (clearly nothing more than two walls and a fluorescent light), the criminal starts freaking out that there is a ghost behind Chaplin. This moment sets up a serious "WTF" factor that totally pays off when, in a later scene in a police station, the "ghost" reveals its head in the darkness. It is quite possibly the most creepy and effective set-up and pay-off I've seen in a SOV movie this side of an Ivan Zuccon production.

Looking like the chiseled bastard child of Weird Al Yankovich and Sean Penn, Emanuele De Santi does a fine job as a stoic loner with deadly power. The other actors vary in their effectiveness with Giulio De Santi, his pattern-shaved haircut and waxed eye-brows, badly standing out as one of the police detectives, who is for no perceivable reason, blind. Combining a gamut of other creative influences without actually plagiarizing them (in itself something to be applauded), Emanuele De Santi throws so much at the viewer that some stuff sticks and some goes a bit wide. While not every element works perfectly, ADAM CHAPLIN is definitely marks the arrival of an amazing new talent. It almost feels like the cinematic equivalent of Black Flag's "Damaged" LP. Even if there are wrong notes scattered throughout the work and Gregg Ginn completely butchers the very concept of a guitar solo, that's not just something you'll over look due to the general coolness of the work as a whole, but is actually an integral part of its charm. I have to say, I'm really looking forward to seeing what Emanuele De Santi's next project is, I can't imagine what this guy would do with a budget!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Adrenaline Shot: PRIVATE WARS (1993)

Believe it or not, Video Junkie actually existed in print form before this site and we managed to get two issues out to the public (very rare now; housed behind double-plated glass in the Library of Congress and protected by top men.  Top…men.).  Even crazier, we did a lot of work on the never-to-be-published issue three.  One of the things Tom had wildly convinced me to do was a history of the films of producers Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi, founders of the video label PM Entertainment.  I started writing up note cards on their various films but somehow fate intervened.  Perhaps it was for the best as an article of that magnitude probably would have driven me insane as I tried to catalog their dozens upon dozens of productions in every genre from kids films to adventure movies to kickboxing flicks to even kickboxing kid adventure flicks (no, I’m not kidding). An endeavor like that would have resulted in me driving down the freeway and then launching my car 50 feet in the air out of a huge fireball.

At that time (circa 1995/96), Tom and I were totally suffering from PM-S (PM Entertainment Shellshock).  While cinemas were clogged with lukewarm sequels like DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE (1995) or UNDER SIEGE 2 (1995) and tired action hero stuff like TRUE LIES (1994) and ERASER (1996), we were digging the adrenaline-fueled antics of these low budget action flicks starring the likes of Gary Daniels, Jeff Fahey and C. Thomas Howell.  PM stood apart from most DTV fare by putting a heavy emphasis on their action scenes. Their brand of action was something wholly unique and a breath of fresh air.  Growing up on a steady diet of real stunt work, the Hollywood trend of using CGI enhanced feats of “danger” was giving us the green screen blues (who knew it would get so much worse?).  Thankfully, PM showed up to remind us that bigger is always better when it comes to explosions.  How was it that the makers of low budget, direct-to-video action vehicles were making better action films than most majors?  I’d like to think the production meetings went something like this.

Stunt coordinator: “So what do you want for this movie?”
Pepin: “Can you do big explosions?”
Merhi: “Can you do car flips?”
Stunt coordinator: “Fuck yeah!”

We’ve only covered a few PM flicks on the blog (ALIEN INTRUDER, RAGE, T-FORCE), but don’t mistake that for lack of enthusiasm.  We love their stuff, but only have so much time, dammit!

PRIVATE WARS is one of the films that eluded me for a while. Fact is, I’m glad I waited to see it 20 years after its release as I’ve endured enough shaky-cam-is-great movies in the interim to make me feel like a static shot where I can tell what is going on is as cherished as Andy Sidaris is to 13-year-old boys with Skinemax in the early ‘90s.  The film opens with vice cop Jack Manning (Steve Railsback) doing a little off-the-clock investigative work.  He quickly finds out that his captain Carpenter (Michael Champion, looking oddly like Steve Martin) is on the take with crooked businessman Alexander Winters (Stuart Whitman) being the one lining his pockets.  The captain notices Manning and calls his underlings to arrest him. Of course, being a PM flick, this results in an insane car chase.  How insane?  Half the time Manning drives his van around with a uniformed officer dangling precariously from the windshield.  When he finally gets the stuck cop off, Manning proceeds to run straight into a police barricade and his van launches 50 plus feet in the air.  Seriously, look at the hang time on this thing:

Tom summed it up perfectly when he saw that in the trailer and said, “That van had to check in with the air traffic controller before it took off!”  Miraculously, Manning survives this.  Also miraculously surviving is a bag of cocaine that cops planted on him and he is arrested and sent up river.

Michael Champion as Steve Martin in 

The action picks up 8 years later as the Winters-owned neighborhood is in bad shape.  How bad? Paul Kersey would think twice before signing a lease here.  The scourge is the deadliest of all cinematic types – deadly whiteboys who know kung fu!  To showcase just how brutal these guys are, there is a montage that shows them kicking the postman in the face and ripping down Neighborhood Watch signs.  Obviously, the residents are fed up living in terror with corrupt police, but community activist Mo Williams (Dan Tullis, Jr.) has a plan – we’ll pool our money together and hire someone to beat the crap out of these dudes.  His first choice is his old buddy Jack Manning, who did his time as a framed “dirty” cop and now runs a one-man private eye firm.  That’s the good news.  The bad news? Manning is a total drunk.  We’re talking the kind of drinker that Oliver Reed sees and says, “Slow down there, mate.”  Jack, however, initially declines the offer.  After holding an open call for vigilantes (interviewees include – I’m not making this up – a midget and ninja), the residents are greeted with Jack outside their church, firing his pistol into the engine of his broken down car.  Yes, nothing says “I trust this guy to do the job” like a drunk blasting caps into a Chevy.  Naturally, Jack sobers up and starts teaching the locals to stand up for themselves.  This gig is doubly beneficial for him as he also gets to exact a little revenge on his old enemies Carpenter, who is now the police chief, and Winters.

Playing like a cross between DEATH WISH (1974) and FIGHTING BACK (1982), PRIVATE WARS is a film where you would fully expect Don “The Dragon” Wilson to be the lead. But he isn’t as the lead is Steve Railsback.  And this isn’t just Railsback dropping in front of the camera to just get a paycheck.  He actually gives a damn about the performance he is giving on screen. That, to me, is the sign of a true professional. Also of this group is Stuart Whitman. Yes, Stuart F’N Whitman was doing PM Entertainment flicks before it was cool (does Paul Smith stink-eye at William Shatner). Not only is he great as the villain, but he has the guts to strap a PM blood squib to his chest.  Now if you know anything about this company, you know their explosions are sometimes like Old Faithful.  Dude definitely earned his paycheck here. And the supporting cast isn't that bad either.

Railsback employs strict method acting:

You also have to admire the film’s sense of the absurd. Whether intentional or not (I assume it is), the screenplay by director John Weidner and Ken Lamplugh delves a bit into ridiculous.  For example, when the thugs steal a garbage truck, they strap the garbage man to the hood and drive around with him on it (allowing for another crazy stunt). Later, Winters isn’t pleased with Carpenter’s efforts in trying to get the residents out of the neighborhood so he says he decided to employ some professionals.  Enter two guys who proceed to whip out their weapons and do a martial arts display in the middle of his mansion while he cackles.  There is also the scene where Manning is sent to jail and kickboxes the hell out of two thugs (including fight coordinator John Salvitti) who are half his age.  Salvitti has gone on to do some incredible work, most notably in Donnie Yen’s recent films. The screenwriters take things just past reality, often coming off like a comic book.  I assume this was all intentional as you can’t write a line like the one James Lew says (“Fuck! Let’s kill everyone!”) and be 100% serious. That tongue-in-cheek style coupled with some crazy ass stunt work makes for one hell of an enjoyable b-movie.  

Rambo, Jr. had a long way to go to live up to his father:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Aus Deutschland mit Scheisse: KARL THE BUTCHER VS. AXE: VIOLENT SHIT 4.0 (2010)

In the 1970s Hollywood studios realized there were a whole host of independent film production companies that were making huge profits from releasing movies that compensated for their low budgets by providing a popular theme or specific content that patrons wanted to see. It took them a few years of importing (and heavily editing) these "exploitation" films from other parts of the world, before they decided they could do that themselves! Thus the great indy studios were run out of business and almost driven to extinction.

In the 1980s censorship of mainstream exploitation cinema was so biased and heavy handed that genre films would frequently be completely bloodless affairs with jumpy edits and a loss of continuity where even the most mild of on-screen violence was removed. Just like any forbidden fruit, the more the public was denied, the more demand there was for the hard stuff. This caused a wide ripple of effects, one being the advent of the "unrated" video release, another being a booming grey market for bootlegs of foreign films (back in 1990 if you didn't have a crappy dupe of John Woo's THE KILLER, you were living under a rock). The most important effect came with the coincidental drop in price of the home video camera which allowed burgeoning "filmmakers" to be wild west outlaws and make incredibly gory movies that could not be censored due to the fact that, technically, censorship is unconstitutional under American law. If you didn't care whether your movie played theaters and you just wanted to release it directly to video, you could display any sort of gruesome mayhem that your twisted brain could think up, or your your refinanced mortgage could afford. Suddenly the floodgates opened and "gornography" was born. Movies like BLOOD CULT (1985), CANNIBAL CAMPOUT (1988), and 555 (1988) were making serious bucks in spite of having less talent and lower production values than a sixth-grade staging of "Saint George and the Dragon". Hell, 555 was so low-rent it didn't even have a distributor! It was marketed in the back pages of cult movie magazines luring in unsuspecting losers (like me) with its claims of "blood, gore, sex, nudity and other things we can't mention." After seeing it I realized that the things they couldn't mention were the complete lack of talent and production values.

In Germany where censorship was perfectly legal, they decided to take things, as the Germans would be inclined to do, to the extreme. The most infamous, most widely publicized and first movie of the German SOV gore movement would be Andreas Schnaas and Steve Aquilina's VIOLENT SHIT (1989). Surprisingly out-living Jorg Buttgereitt's much more technically competent and infinitely more disturbing NEKROMANTIK (1987), VIOLENT SHIT is little more than a few friends making the most laughably amateurish Jason Voorhees knock-off (named Karl Shitter) in the middle of the woods with about 1200 gal - sorry, litres of cherry Kool-Aid. It made its Stateside debut in 1990 at a Fangoria show in Los Angeles where it was screened for a room full of people who expressed their utter contempt for the movie and then promptly ran into the dealer room trying to find copies for sale. Quipped one viewer "well, at least it lives up to its title." Indeed. So successful was VIOLENT SHIT that it spawned a sequel in 1991 titled VIOLENT SHIT II: MOTHER HOLD MY HAND. Opinions vary on this entry, sure it's slightly technically more accomplished than the first, but instead of just a masked killer on a rampage, Schnaas throws in martial arts, ninjas, firearms and more comedy that is just as high-brow as you'd expect (that is to say, not at all). On the other hand the gore is even more extreme with scenes that were downright shocking and controversial among devout genre buffs, such as a scene where a girl has her jeans ripped off and her vagina stapled shut. If Freud were alive to speculate on the psychology behind that bit of sleaze, I'm sure his head would have exploded like a watermelon under Gallagher's hammer.

One of the more introspective
moments in the original VIOLENT SHIT
VIOLENT SHIT III: INFANTRY OF DOOM was released in 1999 after eight years of random press statements claiming it to be a work in progress that will take the series to an entirely new level, combining hard-core gore with hard-core porn. As it turned out VIOLENT SHIT III did little more than show that Schnaas and Aquilina were less interested in being hard-core and slightly more interested in developing one of those... what do you call it? Uhhh... plot! Yes, that's it, one of those "plot" things. An allegedly remote island compound is home to a cult of Karl worshipers who run into ninjas while hunting down a group of shipwrecked twenty-somethings. While the production values and effects had gone up considerably, this is still a SOV movie in which metal props are made by wrapping tin-foil around a cardboard cut-out. Oh and the promised "hard-core porn"? Not even close. That was a gauntlet that the prolific protege Andreas Bethmann decided to pick up, but that is another article entirely. VIOLENT SHIT III actually managed to get a rather wide Stateside release on video dubbed in English under the title ZOMBIE DOOM, proving that Schnaas and Aquilina were not only headed in the right direction financially, but bringing the amatuer German gore "film" to a whole new level.

In 2004, a day that will live in infamy, the highly political chairman of the MPAA, Jack Valenti, retired at the age of 82 years old. After decades of industry manipulation, favoritism and absurdly outdated views of controlling what the American people should have the right to see, genre movie fans found that change was in the wind. At first it seemed as if no-one really knew what to do or even if change had actually come. Then, in 2008, Stallone decided he would bring the most gore-soaked film to American screens that had ever been shown with an R-rating. RAMBO may not have been the theatrical blockbuster that the distributors were hoping for, but it was no less a milestone in American cinema and since then we have been able to witness on-screen carnage that would have been completely unthinkable previously. Even the British Board of Film Censors, who at one point were responsible for imprisoning videostore owners and film viewers for possessing a video box with the word "chainsaw" written on it, had taken a strong dose of reality and relaxed their psychotically stringent standards to allow classic films like THE BEYOND (1980) to be released in their uncut form.
After finding limited success with his attempts at making bigger movies that sacrificed crass for a modicum of class, Schnaas announced that he would retire from filmmaking. Apparently he was talked back into it by notorious SOV hack Timo Rose, whose imagination is only limited by his birth. For reasons unknown, Schnaas decided to split from long-time collaborateur (and wearer of very small shorts) Steve Aquilina, and teamed up with Rose for the virtually unwatchable UNRATED: THE MOVIE (2009).

So now that we have all of this artistic freedom to dismantle the human body in whatever demented way we see fit, what can Andreas Schnaas and Timo Rose offer us with the much delayed, highly-anticipated VIOLENT SHIT 4? Oh, where to start? VIOLENT SHIT III was a substantial step forward, resulting in world-wide distribution and a much broader fanbase. A year before its release, a teaser trailer hit the web offering a tantalizing taste of VIOLENT SHIT 4.0. Why "4.0"? Because it is set in the future! Decimals are the future. In the teaser we get what appears to be a worthy successor to part 3, it's fast-paced, exciting, gory, and... is that a tank? Holy shit, indeed! Sadly the movie itself doesn't even come close to fulfilling those expectations.

Inexplicably starting out with an attempt to spoof the opening credits of John Carpenter's HALLOWEEN (1978), we find Karl (Schnaas, again) in Hell, which is essentially a black void with superimposed fire. Satan, who has an affinity for black t-shirts, decides that Karl should be released from his ethereal prison and sent back to Earth in the year 2023 to kill another metal mask clad serial killer named Axe (Rose). Axe, so named because he carries a giant cartoon axe, has apparently pissed off Satan by, I guess, killing people in a German forest. Why this would upset Beelzebub and why, if he has the power to incarcerate him, the Lord of Darkness would want Karl to not run around killing people on Earth are questions that if you are asking means you need another beer. To show his heart is in the right place, Satan has a naked girl give Karl his mask back. In thanks for this noble gesture, Karl rips the girl's head off in what will quickly become the most tiresome gore-gag you will ever see.

Using a few badly photoshopped images to represent a post-holocaust Earth, Karl once again finds himself in a familiar stretch of woods which has been divided up into gangs. Each gang has a theme of course, and every single gang member is given a name via on-screen titles, even if that character's only part in the film is to show up and have his name displayed. The gangs all hang out in their respective headquarters which consist of a 10x10 room draped with vinyl banners with the gang name printed on it, or in the case of the Amazonian gang, bed sheets. Led by Queen Scara (aging porn/softcore vet Eileen Daly who really shouldn't be taking her clothes off anymore), there only seem to be three other members of her gang, one of which is promptly killed off while guarding a path, completely naked, by Karl when she won't let him walk past her. I was starting to think this was an homage to MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, but Monty Python's bit was much bloodier.

Queen Scara, who only speaks in long, drawn out hisses (sounding much like the old Adolphus from the 1988 ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN), is mainly obsessed with drinking male ejaculate ("only the female sperm is gooooood") obtained from rival gang members via a plastic "machine" that has "sperminator" scrawled on it in black sharpie. Assisting her in this is Mathra and Shema, played by Marysia Kay and Eleanor James, both ultra-low-rent trash regulars well known less for their acting skills and more for willing to work topless. Both of whom, incidentally, were in Ivan Zuccon's 2008 Lovecraft adaptation COLOUR FROM THE DARK, in which they (or at least Kay) provided substantially better performances.

That is one crazy gang alright.
After being introduced to all of the gangs (played mostly by small German bands) and Axe's sister, Vendetta (Timo's real-life girlfriend Magdalena Kalley), who is introduced with a flashy, whooshy freeze-frame title job, Axe and Vendetta kind of just hang out around the forest. Vendetta asks Axe about their parents, Axe says he doesn't know anything... Anyone still with me? C'mon, snap out of it. We're almost there. Eventually Karl and Axe meet in a woodland clearing and square off. So, now the scheisse is going to hit the l├╝fter, right? Hey, not so fast there buckaroo! Hold your horses, we still have more gang meetings to get through or this sucker isn't going to hit a feature-length running time! Occasionally we have a few gang members getting killed via impalement or yet another decapitation, but mostly, like you'd expect from a Timo Rose outing, it's just a lot of horrible performances from talking heads. Sure there are lots of attempts at humor (one gang member is called "Ninja Foo"), and there's a bit of unintentional humor such as when Karl's path is yet again obstructed:
Karl: "Go out of my way!"
Gang Member: "You're Karl the Butcher, right? I thought you were in Hell."
Wait. How does some random dude who hangs out in the post-apocalypse woodland area know who exactly is in hell?

Finally everything boils down to a donnybrook in a quarry lined with shipping containers and Karl taking a potion that causes him to look like he is in one of those inflatable sumo wrestler outfits. This is easily the best part of the movie, since it is Karl and Axe (who have teamed up after discovering they both have the same birthmarks) killing off all of the remaining gangs, except the chicks who have decided the best plan of action is to wait it out. Once again Timo Rose's complete and total lack of imagination is raised into sharp relief as the only way Karl and Axe can be bothered to kill anyone is with a slash, a stab or a decapitation. Matter of fact there are so many close-ups of decapitated stumps that the whole thing starts feeling like a bad GWAR video. Not to completely flog the point, but what is the reason you'd even be bothered to watch a VIOLENT SHIT movie in the first place? Yes, it's the whole smorgasbord of crazy gore effects. Part III actually offered up some surprisingly professional and creative demises, including smashed heads, ripped out spines, and disembowelments galore. It's like TITUS ANDRONICUS without all the deep thought. Instead we simply get a lot of very sloppy filmmaking, even by German SOV standards.

Scenes simply feel episodic and jumbled together, easily interchangable, as if they were shot over series of weekends without a script... actually, that's probably true, but some of it is so pointless that you can't help but wonder why even bother in the first place. For example, a character is introduced as "Sgt Riedel the Last German Soldier on Earth" early on in the movie. He has a few scenes where he's walking around spliced into the movie, but has nothing to do with anything! No interaction with other characters, just this dude, running across a field, or crossing a road. Right at the end, as sort of a non-sequitur epilogue, a badly CG'd stealth bomber flies low and the camera gets gobbed with a blob of CG blood (implying that the Sgt was hit by the plane). I can only think that this footage was shot, forgotten about, discovered and then thrown in simply as a way to pad out the running time. Essentially this is a 30 minute movie padded out to about 75 very long minutes.

In the end you have to wonder; is VIOLENT SHIT even relevant in today's marketplace? Could that be the problem here? If you can see highly skilled effects technicians doing all sorts of messy violence on screen in a TV show, why bother with sitting through horribly acted, back yard videos shot by a couple of Germans over a couple years worth of weekends? To be honest, I think there is still a market for it. Granted it's a smaller one. One that caters to those who retch at the thought of sparkly vampires and feel that Brad Pitt has no place in the land of the dead. There was something gleefully unpretentious about those movies and while I feel that the enthusiasm can be recaptured, the demand for bland makes it financially un-viable. That and the fact that Timo Rose takes the heart out of this half-hearted mess.