Archive for May 25th, 2009


Kaun? (1999)

kaun_nehaflixI bought a bunch of Bollywood movies from Eros a couple of holidays back, during one of their unbelievably awesome sales, and I picked up this early Ram Gopal Varma horror/thriller for 99 cents (plus shipping). This movie is definitely worth a dollar, even before seeing it.

Kaun? (1999) is one of RGV’s first attempts at subverting the Bollywood mold. It is a 99 minute film set in one location with absolutely no song or dance routines. While kind of slow in a couple of stretches (you have to sit through almost 10 minutes or Hollywood horror cliche moments before the plot starts), even within these stretches, or perhaps in spite of, you can see a fillmmaker deeply literate in a film grammar outside the norm of his own culture (which if not impressive, is a rarer thing than one would imagine).

Bollywood films are well known for blantantly ripping off plotlines from popular Western films and recycling them into a Bollywood mush (see here and here; more on this when I watch some more of my blind buys). And while this film is not immune from this plagirism/inspiration entirely, it does not seem like a rip-off. It is merely derivative in spirit (I mean that as a compliment, though).

I am predisposed to liking stagey whodunits. Simultaneously asking you to think about what’s happening throughout and beating you over the head with it at the same time, I hesitate to reductively say that am I  merely ‘enjoying it for what it is’. That implies that the effort put forth in this film is somehow comparatively sub-standard to its Hollywood predecessors. I would argue, especially with the recent spate of ridiculous recycling going on in Hollywood horror these days, that Kaun? is a better-than-average attempt at the horror/thriller, avoiding the post-Scream influence altogether (maybe more on that after I watch Raaz; a ‘remake’ of What Lies Beneath; my personal marker for ignoring the said Scream zeitgeist).
All in all, not a bad way to spend a holiday evening!



OneChanbara (2008)


OneChanbara (2008) is another in a slew of J-Vid exploitation movies that I’ve been watching lately (Tokyo Gore Police, though overly long, is a much higher quality example, benefiting from being produced by Nikkatsu). This one, however, is a lower rent movie adapatation of a series of video games in Japan (soon to be coming to the Wii in the U.S.). Which, I guess, is supposed to give it some sort of pre-existing fan base.

From what I can tell, this game must either be repeatively boring, or the game-to-cinema adaptation just doesn’t do it justice (I’m thinking the latter). The premise sounds awesome: Zombies roam the streets (and countryside) of Tokyo after botched science experiments (a pre-requisite for ANY good Japanese sci-horror, right?) and they eat anything in sight. Some kick-ass idol-type looking girls roam as well; one strapped with a double-barreled handgun that amazingly never has to be reloaded, and the other with a samurai sword that shoots magical beams of light (illustrated like a video-game power-move). The latter of the two girls travels with an overweight comic relief/exposition functioning guy who carries a puny knife and hides in the corner most of the time. The girl (see poster) often sheds her long flowing coat ala Sergio Leone to fight in her leather bikini getup (more like Russ Meyer), which one would assume makes for better flexibility in jumping around and slashing stuff, if not for the weighty feather-boa that hardly ever leaves her neck.
The girls are hunting an evil doctor and an evil sister, respectively.

The problem with this slightly enticing set-up is that it takes nearly an hour of the 85 minute running time to get out of the first night’s abandoned industrial complex (read: cheap set) zombie attack. There is very little plot beyond explaining what motivates these three characters, with fragmented flashbacks straight out of multiple samurai flicks I’ve already seen. It’s basically non-stop cheap CGI fights (complete with computer-generated blood splattering the lens of the digital camera) and some seen-one-seem-them-all zombies in makeup creeping around with a slight J-horror crink in their step.

A few intentional laughs succeed (oh yes, these types of movies are all intentionally campy in case you didn’t “get it”; i.e. the girl’s bicep tattoo is shown rather prominently to be an iron-on that is peeling off in one or two scenes). Most notable is that the fight choreography is definitely above-averagely awesome. Other than that, there’s really no reason to watch this above plenty of other choices out there.
It should be noted, for fans of the genre, that there is only one (like 20 second) pre-zombie sex scene with disposable characters that hardly matters (there’s a spin-off I can point you to, if that’s what you’re after); Half a boob is shown. Since I don’t have a rating system set up (yet), that’s what I’ll give this movie: half a boob.

I don’t know what this will be called when/if it hits the U.S. (the German title is lame, non-descript “Zombie Killer”). I watched the Japanese DVD, so it’s called OneChambara, or Chambara Beauty, or Bikini Samurai Slayers (all after the  video game series). As the paranthetical link reveals, the actual title is a clever mash of the words ‘big sister’ and ‘sword fighting’). Chanbara/Chambara is also the genre-film designation given to samurai sword movies, in case you care.
I guess this is one that you file under “so bad, it’s good, but bad on purpose, so it’s not really that good”.


If you’re still interested, the trailer is here.
And oh, lordy, there’s a sequel already. Do I watch or not?

featured Short film (9 min)

Blue Shining (Richard Vezina, 2015)

great scene from a great film

Sullivan's Travels (Preston Sturges, 1941)

May 2009