Sunday, February 4, 2024

Al Filo del Terror: On the Edge of Terror (1990) [The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense's The Shortening]

Armando Sanchez, alias El Griego, is a ventriloquist whose act has gotten stale. Instead of accepting the criticism, he gets mad and punishes his dolls. Despite his daughter Karlita's protests, he destroys one. Things don't improve, until he comes up with a sneaky idea-Griego dresses his daughter up as a new doll. It's a smash hit, but people soon become suspicious, and Griego becomes homicidal to protect his secret. But he's not the only one who's about to get violent, as his abused dolls are planning their revenge...

Al Filo del Terror (On the Edge of Terror) promises to be a horror centreing on ventriloquist dummies. A pretty ripe concept for the genre! And this film has a bit of a difference. It's the human master who's the bad guy, and the very much alive dolls are subject to his brutality. It's an interesting spin on things, and I was curious to watch, even if I was going in with Mexican VHS expectations.

The film starts off very quickly, with no real introduction to these living dolls, where they came from, or what their owner knows. Just BAM, they're alive, no questions asked. The ball gets rolling, showing an effective character portrait.

El Griego thinks of himself as famous, enough to the point where he insists assistants hold up mirrors for him at exactly the right angle. Because he's a star, don'tcha know. And yet his audience consists of about 20 chairs in a high school auditorium, half of them empty. And the audience he does have look about as interested as a paint-drying convention. except for one guy who's a little too entertained!

It's no wonder Griego's act isn't doing as well as it used to, because it is truly awful! It's embarrassing to watch him do these squeaky voices, lame jokes, coupled with the sour look he gives when a show doesn't land. Naturally he takes no blame, thinking it's everyone else's fault and lashing out. It's his ungrateful audience, the critics, etc. Obviously he didn't decline. Everyone must just have it out for him. And then there are the dolls themselves. Clearly they are the uncooperative ones! In fact, if the dolls are actually real living beings, that does beg the question of if Griego is even a ventriloquist at all!

This attitude is close to getting him fired if he can't breathe new life into his act. Eventually he hits upon the solution to all his troubles-Dress up his daughter and make her a new doll. Perfect! No-one will know the difference. The crazy thing is this actually works! Despite still only being a guy making silly voices, just with a new doll and a couple extra jokes, somehow this works well enough to even break into America! Yeah, I can imagine this Spanish speaking ventriloquist with his clown doll really setting the States alight.

Despite being an aging ventriloquist with severe anger issues, Griego is a surprise hit with the ladies! He's got one lover on the side, then tries his luck with others. There's also a would-be blackmailer, who digs his employer a body pit that comes in handy more than once, and Griego figures since there's room, BANG, so much for his blackmailer.

The other characters include Griego's brother-in-law (who I thought was his dad for most of the movie), who's aware of the guy's negatives, but is forced into his scheme (going so far as to call it a demonic fraud, and looking on sadly during the make-up process like the girl's being killed! Overstating it just a little), and ultimately meets a sticky end. Daughter Karlita is a sweet girl, who has a special bond with the dolls, yet is a little dopey and trusting. There's also an old maid(?), Karlita's friend, and a few women, including a plucky journalist. I was a little confused who was who at times, which may be because I don't speak Spanish, and because some look the same. Maybe it's the film itself, who knows.

And the dolls are a friendly bunch, and slow to anger, but when they cut loose they'll roast and slime you!

You're probably wondering after all this how this is a 'killer doll' movie, when I've barely mentioned them. That's because they barely appear! Despite an early introduction, they vanish for large swathes of movie, and it's only in the final minutes when they enact their revenge. It's a shame, because that's the movie at its most bonkers, with dolls spitting fire and slime at their tormentor. They're so powerful it makes you wonder why they didn't do this 80 minutes sooner!

Besides this, Al Filo's biggest problem is that it would've been fine at 70-75 minutes, but the 92 minute runtime leaves the movie full of fluff and dead air. You could cut out so many scenes that accomplish nothing, and be left with a much tighter film. Instead it takes forever before anything horrific or crazy happens. It's the middle act which suffers the most. By the end, Edge of Terror feels like a perfectly adequate, if overlong drama about a crazed artist and his daughter, that the makers decided to turn into a killer doll film, but didn't change enough to compensate.

The film borders on black comedy, like one part where Karlita is trying to calm her friend's suspicions. See, her father is a good guy, not as bad as he seems...before immediately cutting to him punching his brother-in-law! For the heinous crime of removing his daughter's make-up. Because it's only logical to wear clownface 24/7!

Interestingly, Al Filo has a somewhat del Toro style flourish. With the 'ugly monsters' being friendly and persecuted, little girls as the heroes(ish), and a brutish human who proves to be the real villain. This is the kind of story I could totally see him remaking! While we're on the subject, that does make for an interesting topic, seeing these VHS-based Mexican horror flicks from the 90s, and comparing them to Del Toro's feature debut Cronos! In terms of quality these obviously don't compare, but they share a nice co-existence. It's little films like this that led the way.

While Al Filo may not be the best at showing scale, it's the dolls that are the most important thing to nail. So does the movie succeed? In a way. They're clearly people, but the make-up is good, and the pyrotechnics at the end are pretty neat.

The acting is ok, with Fernando Almada giving a strong lead performance. Karla Talavera is a cutiepie, and everyone else does fine. Dwarf actors must be so grateful for weird horror movies. Because while they may yearn for audiences to accept them in normal roles, they know horror has always had room for 'em! Are you making a film with aliens, trolls, mutant elves, or killer dolls? You know who's on hand to help! As with Herencia Diabolica (and Munecos Infernales if we go further back) it is a little weird when the dolls are portrayed by real people, but they do fine jobs, despite the goofy voices.

Al Filo del Terror is an interesting little horror, but doesn't quite get there in the end, and is a bit of a bore in places. Worth watching if you're really into Mexican horror, or killer doll films! Besides that it can be skipped...

This post is for The Shortening, a blogathon set up by Emily of  The Deadly Dolls House of Horror Nonsense.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Herencia Diabolica: Diabolical inheritance (1993) [The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense's The Shortening]

Mexican horror has had its highs and lows. The monster and luchador pictures of the 50s and 60s are definitely a high! The 90s on the other hand? Well, you can guess their cinema had declined a fair bit! This was the VHS phase, where budgets had been stripped to an absolute minimum. In this environment comes Herencia Diabolica, or Diabolical Inheritance.

A businessman and his pregnant wife move into a new home, where they find a clown doll, belonging to the now-deceased old owner. Strange things soon begin happening, and the doll shows a life of its own, and when the wife discovers the secret, she is killed. Years later Tony and his son still live in the house, and he soon remarries. But the cycle begins again when she too realises what's happening and tries to stop it. Making her the doll's new target...

Herencia Diabolica has been called the Mexican Child's Play, and really it's pretty different, but the general vibe is there. A kids' doll is wreaking havoc, and the only ones who suspect are next on the chopping block. It gets off to an alright start. A bit slow, but we soon get a big setpiece where the apparent heroine is terrorised by the nefarious doll, and...killed!

It definitely feels like the movie peaks early. So where can it go from here? Behind of course. We sit through a semi-montage of the guy being a morose widower, raising their kid, meeting a new woman and falling in love again, and getting married.

It's here when the film begins to repeat itself. The new wife notices something's amiss with the doll. These scenes are broken up with things like a riveting visit to a petting zoo, where the towering sight of a King Kong sculpture is the closest thing to scary. It's 46 minutes in before we finally get something new, when the wife attempts getting rid of the doll.

It was at the hour mark when I was just about ready to yell at the screen "Is anything actually gonna damn happen in this movie?!". Just think of what we could've got! Investigation into the doll's history, escalation of the doll's antics, more than one murder in the first hour. Instead we just get repetition,, and people talking. Nothing interesting either. Even if you understand Spanish their dialogue amounts to mundane comments about taxes or the day's weather.

At one point Herencia becomes pretty hallucinatory, and almost verges on a Mexican version of Black Devil Doll from Hell, right down to the shot-on-video look (although this looks more like a 'real film' than that at least).

The final act does get fun again (with a lynching murder being a highlight), but it's basically just the first setpiece, but a little bigger, and ends in pretty much the same way. Nothing stops the doll, and the girl dies, again! How many wives is this guy gonna lose before he realises it's the doll! The movie ends on a bit of a downer, and one that isn't really any different to what's been seen before, so it's not even fresh.

The end credits are pretty amusing, keeping up the doll's evil laughing till the screen goes black. It must have given the pint-sized actor a sore throat!

The cast here is pretty amateurish in some ways, but they get the job done. Some line deliveries and reactions are pretty cheesy. The best performance is Margarito Esparza as the evil doll Payasito. He gets some great evil grins and cackles! He has a pretty fun presence too, running around energetically. It's he who really carries the movie, and without him it'd be dead in the water.

Herencia Diabolica is directed by Alfredo Salazar of all people. He wrote a few Santo entries, the Wrestling Women series, Mexican Batwoman, and was also the occasional director, helming weird western El Charro de las Calaveras! Most of his work was in the 70s, with a quiet period of over 10 years before Herencia, his final film.

The score is one of the film's best qualities! It's a bit cheesy, but effective and varied. We've got quieter ominous tunes, bombastic ones, tender character bits, and more. As well as a focus on ambient noises in places. It gets the job done in building a good atmosphere.

The effects here are cheap, but decent. The make-up/costume for the doll is colourful and a little hard to take seriously, but that only makes it more fun to watch! One thing I really loved was the studio logo sequence that begins the film! It's endearingly cheap, but also visually neat! Who doesn't love an Aztec pyramid, some lush greenery, and tribal fluting to open a movie. It's especially nice seeing reminders of Mexico's indigenous past in their media.

Herencia Diabolica is a movie that was alllmost good! In a cheesy z-grade trash sorta way, but good all the same! But it squanders its potential, and is a pretty boring watch.

This post is for The Shortening, a blogathon set up by Emily of  The Deadly Dolls House of Horror Nonsense.

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency (1984) [The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense's The Shortening]

The New Jersey city of Hoboken is in the midst of a crisis. Thanks to a trucking dispute, there may be no turkeys for Thanksgiving! Young lad Arthur is sent out by his dad to find a turkey before the shortage really kicks in. Instead a slight detour takes Arthur to the residence of a mad scientist, who's more than willing to give the boy a live chicken for the money...with a difference. No. 73, aka Henrietta, is a 10 foot chicken. Despite his surprise Arthur takes his new pet home, and they bond quickly. But will his parents accept her? And how will the rest of the community react?...

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency is an amazingly titled TV movie, based on a book. This is chintzy 80s TV in the best way, from the Scott Joplin soundalike music, to the almost-pantomime effects, and the kooky characters, right down to the VHS/channel bumpers. The story is basic and silly. It doesn't require you to turn your brain on, although this sense of childlike logic does make you wonder a few things!

When protagonist Arthur is out looking for a turkey, he notices a feathery commotion up a few stories, involving a strange man hanging out the window. So he decides it'd be a smart idea to go up and investigate! Thankfully he's not in a horror movie, and meets up with a mad scientist. Because of course they frequent New Jersey, and if you haven't seen 'em you're just not going to the right places. There he manages to walk away with a 266 pound superchicken for only $20 bucks! Might not've been what he wanted, but that's a great bargain!

Despite initial skepticism Arthur and Henrietta quickly become friends, and he even teaches her how to use a slide, and calms her down during a few local panics. But it's when he's forced by his father to take her back, and she escapes that the chaos really begins.

No-one in the film questions the existence of a giant chicken, and react as if a monster is on the loose, even coming up with an unflattering nickname. Henrietta feels very distressed by this, and begins vandalising the town in response. Kicking cars, knocking over bins, smashing windows, etc. So what's a town to do when tormented by mutant fowl? Well they try the Jaws route, hiring an out-of-town fixer, leading to a zany failed scheme. But it's Arthur who comes up with the winning idea, with the scientist's help. All Hoboken must do is remind Henrietta that she's a loved and valued part of the community! Naturally. They do this with emblazoned shirts, and billboards saying things like 'Have you hugged your chicken today?'.

This is enough to bring the community closer and warm them to Henrietta, ending her rampage. And there's a heartfelt reunion between a boy and his chicken, complete with multiple slow-motion replay. It's a schmaltzy conclusion, and one that may leave you groaning or clapping.

Peter Billingsley is a mixed lead. Some of his line deliveries are pretty bad, with awkward pauses. But others are decent, and he overall has a decent screen presence. You can totally see this as like an extended dress rehearsal for A Christmas Story! So fans of that movie, you owe much to Hoboken Chicken Emergency! The parents do fine, as does Clive Revill as the mad scientist. One of his disguises might be a little...questionable, but at least he's not actually in yellowface! Dick van Patten is fine as the shifty mayor, and Gabe Kaplan shows up for a short role. Alice Ghostley narrates the film, acting as though she's intimately acquainted with events, despite only having a couple of short scenes. And Henrietta plays her part well. Chickens are talented actors after all!

The effects here are...exactly what you'd expect on a TV budget! The opening credits look like they were drawn in crayon and put through a cheap slideshow. While other effects are fake, deliberately so. Giant chicken Henrietta is the main attraction, and she is suitably goofy. I don't think convincing is exactly the right word to describe her, but you can't deny it is a giant chicken! And it's well-designed, and just cheesy enough, but not too much of a joke.

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency is a cute little time waster, running at an easy 55 minutes. Nothing amazing, and very silly, but if you're after a zero-budget kids movie about giant chickens rampaging across New Jersey, this is perhaps your only chance. So enjoy!...

This post is for The Shortening, a blogathon set up by Emily of  The Deadly Dolls House of Horror Nonsense.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Suspiria (2018)

It feels like just about every classic horror film has been remade, usually for the worse. For every Fly, Thing, or Blob, you have absolute dreck, existing solely as cash grabs. The same was almost true for Suspiria, with talk of an American remake going on for years. Mercifully this all fell through, but a remake would soon be in the cards anyway, courtesy of recent talent Luca Guadagnino. Does it live up to the original, or is it just another bad copy?...

Young American Suzy Bannion has just arrived in Berlin, 1977, to join the prestigious Markos dance academy. She's allured by the city, and enigmatic instructor Madame Blanc. But strange things are afoot. The spectre of domestic unrest looms over all, one girl has gone missing, and a psychiatrist's investigations prove dangerous. It becomes apparent this school is led by a coven of witches, who have sinister plans for their students...

Suspiria 2018 is a film with a lot to admire and criticise, with my feelings skewing towards the latter. Firstly, this is a 2-and-a-half hour arthouse horror film. That alone should serve as a warning sign, but also show that Luca at least had the merit to try something new and unique, instead of just a safe lazy retread. It also helps that this technically isn't an American film.

As a remake this is...mixed. It makes a conscious effort to be different, which I applaud! It's not just a play-by-play of the original with updated effects. Instead it takes the base of the original to create something new. However, I felt it went a bit far in the opposite direction at times, having so little to do with the source material at times you wonder why they bothered. I also wish there were some recreations of familiar scenes, just to see Luca's version of the opening double murder!

Luca himself has distanced himself from calling his Suspiria a remake, preferring to call it a homage instead...A homage using the exact same name, plot, and characters as the original. Riiight. I get annoyed when people try and argue their film isn't a remake but a reimagining (same thing, assholes!), but this is really pushing it. Of course Suspiria is a remake of Suspiria. Luca should just own that (very obvious) fact, rather than hide it.

As its own film, I found Suspiria 2018 to be crushingly slow! It's far too long, and very little happens. It takes forever for anything of note to occur. For example, there's no opening murder, and the first death scene is 40 minutes in! That's almost half the original film! It doesn't even take advantage of this time and introduce us to anyone, or explore/expand the characters. We may not know a lot about the girls in the '77 version, but at least we know they are SSNNAKESSSS. Half an hour into this film I knew one girl (as to yet unseen) was named Olga, and another Sara, and I couldn't have told you a thing about them, even what they looked like.

The story here isn't particularly epic. Instead each scene feels like it goes on far too long, and many are unnecessary. There are also particularly unwelcome bits like seeing our heroine take a piss (without even taking off the leotard, ewww!). Like, I get why, they're witches, and collect stuff like that, but dialogue can do plenty! The dialogue also feels a little...gratuitous at times? I don't mind swearing period, but it feels like instead of saying something like a normal person, characters here say stuff like 'They're going to eat my cunt!'. It also feels like very modern swearing too, although that might be nothing.

The film is divided into chapters (as well as a prologue and epilogue), which can be obnoxious when done wrong. Nothing about Suspiria feels segmented, and the titles waver between pretentious and dull. Boring like 1977, or Borrowing, neat like The Palace of Tears, then the frankly obnoxious Inside the Mutterhaus (All the Floors are Darkness). None of these titles make much sense either.

Suspiria 2018 is rich in themes...allegedly. There's been a lot from the director and others about themes of motherhood, fascism, communism, terrorism, national guilt, and more. That all sounds a bit of a hodgepodge to me, and much of it is barely touched upon. It almost feels like it's just throwing ideas at the screen and inviting us to figure out. Which can work, but other times it just feels lazy, like an artist who couldn't be bothered finishing the job, and wants us to do all the hard work.

This leads into one of the film's biggest elements, bafflingly-Politics! Luca felt it was a missed opportunity that the original Suspiria took place in a turbulent period of Germany's history, and his film rectifies that by giving us constant history lessons about local politics before anything scary has even happened. Much of it amounts to basically namedropping. We hear chatter on the TV/radio, graffiti, characters talking about it. This never amounts to much but background window dressing, yet it dominates so much of the film, to the detriment of other things, like the story itself.

Luca should've realised this wasn't The Little Drummer Girl, and known what to leave out. This makes me admire the restraint of the original, which wasn't just set during a turbulent part of Germany's history, it was made during it, yet doesn't focus on any of this stuff. Because it simply has nothing to do with the story. And it goes to show how life goes on during such times, as well as how the troubles of the outside world doesn't penetrate the boundaries of the magical Black Forest.

I'm not saying having a political connection to the witchery is a bad idea, and it could've been interesting thematically. There's a single line from a skeptic about magic meaning to perpetuate chaos that could've been expanded on. Instead we just get constant reminders that German terrorists exist, Berlin has a wall, and that's it.

The characters here are pretty dull and one-note, and there are so many people here with so little to do. Suzy is a little passive. She has a decent Mennonite backstory, which plays well into her character. The film verges on overexplaining her desires. In the original she just wanted to study at a German academy because. Not everything needs a reason (although admittedly the one given here is a good one). She also didn't choose Berlin next to the Wall during terrorism season!

She quickly develops a connection with Madame Blanc, even having a confusing telepathic convo, with no real precedence before or after. Susie also seems to know things we haven't seen her learn.

As in the original film, it's Sara who investigates the academy's weirdness, reluctantly at first. She does ok, before her death. The other girls barely get any dialogue, even the few important ones.

Dr. Josef Klemperer is the other lead, and a good presence. And old man, and survivor of WWII, he tries to help, not believing in witches at first. But they believe in him, and he's smart enough not to keep doubting when they're rocking up on his doorstep. Given his age and frailty he's not much of an action protagonist, but more of a thematic one, carrying guilt for being unable to save or find his wife, or stop the nazis.

The instructors are ok. Madame Blanc gets the most depth, neither good or evil. Tanner is as unnecessary as she was in the old film, and I keep getting their names mixed up. The others are just there, with the odd crazy moment every now and then (like the police...encounter). We see too much of the coven, and it loses mystique. It also doesn't help that they rarely do any magic. Helena Markos only appears in the last act, and does next to nothing. Consistent with the old film, but we felt her presence more there, and there was a connection to the titular character this version lacks.

One area the film really lacks in is having anything to do with the Three Mothers! Beyond some brief lip service, hours apart, there's nothing to go on. I feel that separating Markos and Mater Suspiriorum was a mistake, as it means she wasn't orchestrating the whole film's events, and only has a presence in the last few minutes. Not enough is explained about the Three Mothers or why Suspiriorum was locked away. Was she even locked away? There's being mysterious and then there's genuinely having no idea what's going on. I do find it interesting though how benevolent she's presented! Makes me wonder how sequels would go.

An area the old Suspiria may have lacked in is dance. This update seeks to change that with a much bigger focus. I'd say a little too much, but I appreciate the thought. I wasn't much of a fan of the style. In the original they were just a normal dance academy, but here they're avant-garde weirdos! But then again this is Europe in the 70s. I can totally buy that. The dances themselves are surprisingly good. The big performance is a great setpiece, even if the make-up and nude red ribbon costumes are laughable.

I have to say, by the hour and 50 minute mark things finally start picking up a bit. I'm still not loving it, and this obviously doesn't make up for everything before, but it was nice to actually be entertained. This leads to the last act, which is where the movie goes all out in witchcraft and violence, and the plot finally become clear.

The final reveal, where there's more to Susie than meets the eye, comes a little out of nowhere. There's no explanation, but I think it's an interesting idea. The climax is a little basic. Mater Suspiriorum shows up, then kills everybody. Not the most dramatically satisfying on paper, but it's handled well onscreen though.

The ending is a grueling 10 minutes long. Klemperer and Susie have a nice exchange, as they discuss the final moments of his wife. It's sweet, despite the tragedy of the story. Although the scene is nullified when Susie immediately wipes his memory of everything. The film ends on a quiet note, then we get a post credits scene that doesn't add much, even as a sequel hook.

The acting here is a highlight! In a way. I wish everyone would speak up, but they otherwise deliver very good performances! Dakota Johnson is a strong lead, with a lowkey but effective performance, which really shines in the last act. Mia Goth is a nice presence. Elena Fokina doesn't have a huge part, but is a real trooper in the parts she does get! Chloe Grace Moretz is ok in a disappointingly small role.

While Tilda Swinton is her typical self, weird and ethereal, with a commanding tone. However in Suspiria she pulls triple duty, also playing Helena Markos, and Dr. Klemperer. Her turn as Markos is fun though nigh impossible to understand, and doesn't get enough time. And she also plays the male role of the Dr. under the pseudonym of Lutz Ebersdorf. She does well, and the illusion is mostly seamless, though there are times when you can tell. Not sure what prompted this idea beyond a general fancy, and it never plays into the story, but it's a good addition. Swinton's German has gotta be complimented too, although it's not surprising someone as artistic as she would fluent in continental tongues.

This is a very bilingual film, switching between English to German (and even a smattering of French) at random. Films like this can work, but here it just felt distracting. Nothing is accomplished beyond ultra realism, but there is a reason characters only ever speak one language in movies, despite the unreality. At several moments I was thinking "English, motherfucker! Pick a language and stick with it!". The subtitles are decent, and come with snazzy colours, as well as captions at times.

[The audio is a weak area in the film. I was having such a hard time hearing a lot of the dialogue! It got to the point where I heard what I thought was 'patrician', and I strained my ear to hear what I thought was a conversation about the ills of patriarchy...before realising they only said Patricia.

The direction in Suspiria is another high point. Luca has a great eye for visuals, with some abstract imagery too. The dances are captured well. The editing gets a bit too frenetic for my tastes at times, but the worst of it is in dream sequences that are meant to be chaotic.

Less stellar for me was the colour. While the original is renowned for its garish appearance, Luca wanted to distinguish his own version. A good call! He gives his Suspiria a more muted colour palette, intended to evoke a wintery feel. It's not bad, but my issue with it is the same issue I have with most films nowadays. There's no colour! It's like watching gray sludge. I wish he had've found a better middle ground than making the film look drab. The finale gets to stand out with some good red light, though it does make seeing who dies and how a little difficult once things kick off.

I really liked the end credits. I dig the colour of the background, which is cooler than just a routine black screen. The title font is neat, as are the skewed credits (even if it does make them a little hard to read). And I like what it credits too! Things like the artists for the portraits. Stuff that usually doesn't get specific credits.

The effects are a mix of practical and CGI. The big death scenes all look good. One gets pretty gnarly, though at a certain point it stops resembling something even human, and just an effect. But that could be a positive for some, so I won't nitpick. Some bits in the climax look a little fake, but there's some ok gore, and the 'chest opening' is a neat image! The prosthetics for old man Tilda are pretty convincing, and Markos is suitably grotesque.

The music here is...different! Composed by Thom Yorke of Radiohead, it's pretty lowkey and muted throughout the film, not going out of its way to be scary. Instead it builds more of a moody atmosphere, and includes actual songs performed by Yorke and his odd falsetto voice (he didn't used to sound like that, did he?). While your mileage may vary on his voice, and the style, I mooostly liked them. I wish he'd taken more pages out of, say, Goblin or Keith Emerson's book, but I admire the experimental touch.

While Suspiria acts as a standalone film, Luca did intend on crafting a sequel, and presumably a third entry to follow. This makes sense on paper, since he is adapting a pre-existing trilogy. But given his handling of Mater Suspiriorum I'm not sure how he'd even go about the other two Mothers. I'd be interested to see, and even if his version of Lachrymarum was on par with this effort, I can still say it'd be better than Mother of Tears! The film didn't do well enough at the box office for this to happen though. I totally get this, since a near-3 hour arthouse horror was never going to do gangbusters. I kinda wish Luca could've done this for a smaller budget, to make the possibility of a sequel easier. Although I'm kinda glad this exists on its own.

Suspiria 2018 is liked or loved by some, but not me, and I don't understand those who say it's better than the original. It did too much wrong for me to feel that. I admire it for a lot of things it is, or tries to do, but the execution and runtime just killed it for me. I barely enjoyed a second, and would've much rather watched the original or its sequel...

God of Cookery (1996)

Stephen Chow is a celebrity chef, known as the God of Cookery. He passes judgment on many other cooks, always negatively. He's not what he seems though, and the truth is exposed by a scheming assistant-The so-called God of Cookery is actually a fraud! Chow is sent tumbling from grace, and finds himself in a poor neighbourhood, where he gets to know the food sellers. At first things seem bleak, but their humble skills and a brainwave of his own lead to the means to make a comeback. Can Stephen reclaim his title of the God of Cookery? And will he truly deserve it this time?...

God of Cookery is another film by HK comedy madman Stephen Chow, and a fan favourite. It speaks volumes about his filmography that something this fun and beloved isn't considered his best only because of how greater his later works are.

This is basically a kung fu film where the fighting is replaced by cooking (for the most part), and it really manages to work. It's an absurd comedy where anything goes. There's an unmistakeable style, and at times it almost feels like a live action anime.

The humour is very Chinese, as expected, with Chow having a particular love of lowbrow jokes. Full of absurdity, slapstick, and toilet humour. Although 'pissing shrimp' really is called that in real life! This kind of comedy might not appeal to everyone, and I'm a bit hit or miss on it, but generally it works here. There was the odd moment I scrunched my nose at, but nothing serious. And when it hits it's really funny! The funniest moment for me was the 18 Bronze Men of Shaolin! I love how it builds each time, with the actors, directing, and music all going hand in hand to hilarious effect.

The dialogue is also wonderfully kooky, with the things coming out of these characters' mouths perfectly matching their over-the-top world. A highlight is the judge during the climax, who spouts wisdom such as: "Good flying skills! The secret of flying skills is that it can make a man who's as heavy as steel fly up high in the sky and make ghosts cry!"

Then there's the film's presentation of cooking. It's exaggerated to the nth degree, but also rooted in reality, and there's a lot on display. Many ridiculously extravagant dishes, from fish sewn together and steamed on one side, deep fried on the other, to exquisitely carved bean curd in the shape of Buddha. And of course there's the film's signature 'pissing meatballs', which look messy and sound disgusting by name, but I'd love to try! The film satirises crazy reality cooking shows, as well as superstar chefs. There's a clear message of 'Keep it simple, stupid', but it's never mean or scathing, only gently mocking. After all, nevermind the creativity, without some of these crazy dishes there'd be nothing to give us a good laugh!

The characters here are a great bunch! The creatively named Stephen Chow starts out as a real asshole. He's rude, brash, arrogant, and treats others around him like dirt. He's harbouring a secret though, and when it's exposed he can't cook worth a damn, he's sent packing. But it's not long before he's got a new idea to get back to the top.

What's interesting though is that Stephen isn't automatically redeemed just because he's an underdog. He's been improved by his new circumstances, but his old instincts are still there, like they've only been dialed back instead of switched off altogether. It takes a greater tragedy (or so he thinks) before he truly begins to change, and attains inner purity, signified by his hair changing colour. The film does a really good job of showing the protagonist's bad side without either sanitising it, or going too far, and we really feel it when he changes for the better.

Bull Tong starts out as a lowly dogsbody, but soon proves himself to be a nasty piece of work. He turns on his master, exposing Chow and taking his title. He fancies himself a good person, but he's far worse than his predecessor.While Stephen was a ratbag, he really only cared about himself. Whereas Bull is full-on abusive, and malevolent. His lowest moment comes when he hires an assassin to finish Stephen once and for all, unknowingly spurring on his enemy's final redemption.

Street cook Turkey is a rough tough girl, with crooked teeth and a big scar. She has an unexpected soft side though, and turns out to be a real fangirl for the God of Cookery! This adds a nice depth to her character, and she really goes the extra mile to help Stephen out, almost to the ultimate degree.

I liked the ending to their romance, but not the plastic surgery bit. It's probably only meant as a laugh I'm sure, but it makes the outcome a little superficial. Although the actress doesn't actually look that different. She still has her unique face, just cleaned up a little, and sans the scar and teeth.

The supporting cast includes a few other street cooks, who are decent though blend together a bit. Then there's the...interestingly named Shaolin master, and the 18 Bronze Men of Shaolin, who are a riot!

The final act is the film at its best. Everything has built up to this moment, where everything the film has done is at its best, from the comedy, to the action, the heart, etc, all making for a great climax. The heavenly intervention comes as a perfect treat, as a homage to Chinese cinema and culture, as a testament to the bizarre, and a satisfying way to conclude things.

The cast in God of Cookery is over-the-top in a mostly fun way! Their performances don't just chew the scenery, they demolish it! At times it can get a bit much, but it's all part of the style, and it mostly works. Chow is a great lead, while Vincent Kok is perfect as the villain, along with Ng Man-tat. Karen Mok makes for an unconventionally looking romantic co-star, helped with some 'ugly' make-up.

Chow not only acts well but pulls off the direction, along with frequent colleague Lee Lik-Chi. Together they make a very good looking film, with great framing, stylish angles, and scenes shot in an energetic and chaotic way. All in an off-the-wall reality TV way, without ever being too jumbled.

God of Cookery has plenty of effects, but without ever letting them dominate the picture. We have people flying about, doing wild cooking moves, blowing up, etc. These moments are accomplished with wirework, some computer effects, and plenty of practical too.

The music is fitting and enjoyable. I particularly liked the track accompanying the 18 Bronze Men, which perfectly captures the film's goofiness. Less fun was when Turkey sings, which I just found grating. And last is a fun Christmas track, which is nice to end on.

The movie ends with a blooper reel, and it's pretty good. There's not a lot, and the last one is a bit weird, but they're nice enough. And seeing Karen Mok cracking up while trying to do the annoying song made it more endearing than in the movie itself.

God of Cookery isn't for everyone, but I found it to be a great time, and it's a perfect introduction to Stephen Chow! You'll either love him or...