Sunday, 25 January 2009

Don't Torture a Duckling (1972)

"Which way to the Sonny Bono lookalike contest?"

So, now that I've reviewed New York Ripper, it's time to review the other Lucio Fulci giallo in which a toy duck is a vital clue to the identity of the killer. Aside from that detail, however, the two films couldn't be more different. They were made almost ten years apart, and as such they represent rather different periods in his career. Those expecting the gory excess of his post-Zombie films may be bitterly disappointed, but everyone else will find this a solid, suspenseful giallo.

Like any good film, it begins with two fat, old hookers heading to a remote abandoned house to meet their customers. Three boys are loitering nearby and they couldn't be more excited, one of them enthusiastically describing their "tits like watermelons and huge rears". They like 'em big up that way I guess. Unfortunately, our budding chubby chasers are beaten to the prime peepin' spot by Giuseppe, the village idiot. After Giuseppe is discovered by an irate john, the boys tease him until he chases them off and threatens to kill them.

His death-threats proved to be rather ill-timed, because the next day one of the boys turns up dead and now Giuseppe is the prime suspect. Adding to suspicion is Giuseppe's claim that when he found the boy he was already dead, he just buried the body and tried to extort some kidnapping money from the boys parents. As you do. Through some bizarre logic, the psychologist suspects that Giuseppe is innocent and he is proven right when another body shows up. The police have their work cut out for them, since the village's major export appears to be red herrings.

There's Patrizia (Barbara Bouchet), a rich girl who has come to the village to wait until some drug charges in Milan blow over. Her hobbies include driving around in her car for hours and hours, for no other reason than to make her look suspicious. She's got a thing for young boys, and I mean young. She teases one with her nude indoor sunbathing, and calls him up for an underage booty call. Suspect behaviour at the best of times, but made moreso when the boys she teases turn up dead.

Could it be Maciara (Florina Balkan) the crazy-eyed woman who is always playing with voodoo dolls and carting around a baby skeleton (long story)? When the police finally track her down she confesses to the murders, but it's thrown out when she claims to have killed them with black magic. After she goes into a bout of over-acting so severe that she has an epileptic seizure, they decide it's best to let her go. She doesn't enjoy her freedom for long though. The next morning a foursome of superstitious local yokels subject her to a brutal chain-whipping that manages to top the chain-whipping scene in The Beyond, especially since it's set to funk music.

There's the local witch doctor who hands out lotions and potions to superstitious locals (choice quote: "Only St. Benedict or St. Mark know that. Excuse me, I gotta take a crap.") There's the kindly young priest (maybe too kindly) who looks after the young boys and enforces a village-wide ban on dirty magazines, forcing young boys to spy on fat hookers. Plus the priest's mother looks pretty suspicious. Every character in this film has a few skeletons in their closet (in Mariaca's case, a baby skeleton), no wonder they have such a hard time discovering the identity of the killer.

In the end the rather abstract title makes slightly more sense, as the final clue comes in the form of a decapitated Donald Duck doll. The doll belongs to a small mute girl who is, according to the priest, "not a moron, if that's what you're thinking. She's retarded." They conclude that the little girl witnessed the killings and is therefore imitating them with her dolls. A pretty dubious logical leap if you ask me (one of many in this film), but it turns out they are right.

The hero of the piece is a nosy reporter (there's always got to be one in a giallo) named Andrea Martelli (Tomas Milian) who has come to the village to investigate the killings. He disappears from the film for long stretches, so it can be easy to forget he's even around, but we know he's the hero because he teams up with Patrizia in the end and engages in a climatic, cliff-side fistfight with the killer. When the killer makes his fatal plunge down the side of cliff, his (paper mache) face scrapes down the side of the cliff in slow motion. It's pretty cool.

Don't Torture a Duckling is far more coherent and thickly plotted Fulci's later films. It's also genuinely creepy, he paints the small village as a place of suspicion and superstition and it seems like every character in the film could be capable of the crimes. Like most Italian films from that era, a lot of acting is ruined by dodgy dubbing, but special mention must be made of Florinda Balkan, who puts in a pretty amazing performance as the bugnuts crazy Maciara (she also played the titular character in the classic nunsploitation flick Flavia the Heretic).

This film wasn't well received when it first opened. It's negative portrayal of small village mentality and the church didn't sit well with some Italian film-goers. Consequently, the film has been a little hard to find outside of Italy until recently. That's a shame. Although the incomprehensible, blood-soaked excess of his later films is fun to watch, it's given Fulci a reputation as a B (or even C) movie hack. Watching this film reminded me that when he shows a little restraint, Fulci knows how to direct the shit out of a film.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The New York Ripper (1982)

My bedroom during high school.

I don't know what Fulci has against ducks. If it were geese I can understand, they are evil waterfowl straight from Satan's lake of fire, but what could you possibly have against ducks? So far Fulci has made two duck-themed giallos, which is probably two more than any other director. The first is Don't Torture a Duckling (1972), where a Donald Duck doll figures into the identity of the killer (the film is also known under the totally awesome title Don't Torture Donald Duck). The New York Ripper was made ten years later, and here the killer likes to ring up his victims and taunt them using quacking noises.

The film starts as pretty much every murder-mystery starts. Some overly-enthusiastic guy throws a stick for his dog, but the stupid pooch returns with a severed appendage instead. We know it's a Fulci film, though, because the credits sequence is shown over a freeze-framed close-up of the grody rotten hand, complete with happy music.

Put in charge of the investigation is Lt. Fred Williams (Jack Hedley), an old guy in a Columbo trenchcoat. When he's not on the clock he spends his time (and money) with a prostitute named Kitty (Daniela Dora from City of the Living Dead). He's a big spender too... from the looks of things he's paying for the full night. Meanwhile the body count starts to rack up. A clumsy cyclist in tiny red shorts in takes a trip on a ferry, but the killer catches her defacing some asshole's windshield with her lipstick (she got as far as "SHIT") and graphically guts her while making quacking noises.

Williams hooks up with an arrogant psychology professor named Dr. Paul Davis (Paolo Malco from House by the Cemetery) who seems to spend all his time playing with a computerized chess board, which was probably totally boss back in 1982. He's not particularly helpful, he just spouts the standard psychobabble that we all knew anyway, but one point he picks up a male nudie mag from a newsstand (Blueboy, if you're interested, though he did consider Honcho, both for research purposes, no doubt), which in a giallo is a surefire sign that he's a crazed deviant, but nothing ever comes of it.

Meanwhile we are introduced to a few characters, one of whom may or may not be the killer. There's a Greek gigolo named Mickey with three fingers on one hand, who decides to take in a live sex show. You'd think he'd have seen enough of that kind of thing with his day job, but the marquee lists the show as "SEXtacular", "SEXsational" and "SEXciting", which is pretty impressive. Also in the audience is a hot woman in a hat and trenchcoat, who whips out a tape recorder and starts fondling it while masturbating, just like I do when I watch Steven Seagal films. She is Jane Forrester Lodge (Alexandra Delli Colli, last seen naked and painted with pretty flowers in Zombie Holocaust) a rich married woman with a penchant for freaky sex. Anyway, when the sex performer goes backstage after the show, she gets a broken bottle to the genitals by our quacking killer.

Later a young woman named Fay Majors has an encounter with the Greek dude on the subway, but when she escapes onto the street she is attacked by the duck-obsessed killer. Luckily she escapes with only a leg injury, but while unconscious she had a dream that it was her boyfriend Peter that attacked her, so maybe he is the killer. Or maybe he isn't. Or maybe he is. Apparently she an Olympic hopeful, but they don't say what event. Hopefully it's not track and field, because she put in a pretty poor effort running from the killer.

Typical of the genre, all of these different characters manage to interact with each other in various extremely coincidental and convenient ways considering they are in a city of 7 million people. Mrs. Lodge has a sexual encounter with Mickey which ends with her getting knifed in the hallway. Mickey breaks into Fay's house while she's recuperating from her injury but she's rescued by Peter before he can finish the job. Eventually the cast is whittled down to a small enough size that Lt. Williams can make a pretty good (but wrong) guess. They bust into the supposed killer's abandoned apartment, which is filled with nudie mags (and large framed photos of himself naked), so I guess the professor was onto something.

Although all the murders are graphic and bloody, the most graphic one is when the killer fools the cops with a walkie-talkie and a pay phone and slices up Kitty the prostitute with a razor blade. There's a closeup of him slicing up her nipple and eyeball. It's a Fulci film, they've got to put some ocular trauma in there somewhere. I think it's in his contract.

You might have noticed that there's a lot of nudity and sleazy sex in this film. Hell, at one point Mrs Lodge goes to a dive bar frequented by hoods in frighteningly tight pants and gets masturbated under the table by some dude's smelly feet (gross!). Weirdly, all this sex doesn't tie into the plot or the killer's motive at all. The motive is pretty boring actually, and yeah, it involves a toy duck this time as well. Typically in giallos there's some sort of psycho-sexual aspect to the killings, but here there's no thematic elements to tie it to. Why, you might even say Fulci was being a little gratuitous (heavens, no!).

This movie was banned in quite a few places upon it's release. It's not any more gory than his horror films (probably less actually), but it's not dreamy and fantastic, it's got a gritty, realistic edge to it. I guess you could compare it to Maniac. Like that film, there's some pretty sweet shots of 42nd street and I had fun spotting all the films on the cinema marquees. Other than that it's bad acting, bad dubbing, bad dialog, but's it a pretty good showcase for gory setpieces. If you only have to see one Donald Duck related slasher this year, see Don't Torture a Duckling, but if you want to see two then this one should fit the bill. Get it, duck, bill? Ah, forget it.

Monday, 12 January 2009

The Beyond (1981)

No! Bad dog! No biscuit!

The renovation of an old property is always full of surprises. Who knows what you'll discover? Rising damp, termite damage, even the occasional gateway to Hell. Our hapless renovator in this case is Liza Merril (Catriona MacColl), a big city gal who has come to Louisana with the hopes of reopening the crappy old hotel she has inherited from her rich uncle.

The story of the creepy hotel dates back to 1927, when everything was sepia toned and men wore hats and suits even when administering mob justice. Some painter in room 36 named Shweik has been giving everyone the heebie-jeebies with his creepy paintings, so a lynch mob pulls out some chains and goes Passion of the Christ on his ass. As if that wasn't enough, they drag him down to the basement, crucify him, douse him in quicklime and wall him up. The title music starts playing as the quicklime slowly melts his head, an effect which Fulci must have really loved because he uses it again later.

Unfortunately, the hotel was built on one of the seven gates to Hell, and their act of vigilantism opened it right up, ready for any curious zombie to go wandering in. I don't know why there are seven gates or where the other six are, but I'm sure it's all documented in the Book of Eibon, a musty old tome that some weird blind girl named Emily (Cinzia Monreale from Beyond the Darkness) reads from during the opening scene.

Liza's renovation plans get off to a poor start when a contractor gets spooked and takes a nose-dive off the scaffolding. After the hunky Dr MacCabe (David Warbeck) carts away the injured contractor, Joe the Plumber (no, not that Joe the Plumber, this guy is much more hairy) shows up to take care of the flooded basement. In his search for the mysterious leak he uncovers a hidden underground chamber and gets his eyes gouged out by Shweik, now a crusty old zombie. Also, a guy who goes to find the floor plans for the hotel falls of a ladder and gets his face eaten off by tarantulas. He finds something pretty shocking in the plans, but I don't know what because they're never referred to again.

If all this weren't enough to derail the renovation plans, the house also comes with two useless weirdos, Arthur and Martha. Much like Ann the babysitter in House by the Cemetery, they don't serve much purpose except to act weird and then die gruesomely. Martha dies while cleaning a bathtub that is full of muddy water. When she drains it she discovers that a zombie is hiding in it and I guess he's pretty serious about his bathtime privacy because he impales her head on a big nail.

Eventually Liza runs into blind weirdo Emily and her seeing-eye dog, and Emily gives her the usual cryptic warnings that blind people give in this kinds of films. Leave the hotel, it's evil etc. It's revealed that Emily may or may not be a ghost, but I guess her dog isn't because when Emily is accosted by zombies she gets her dog to attack them until they go away. I was ready to indict him into the hall of heroic horror film dogs like Nanook from Lost Boys or Beast from The Hills Have Eyes, but then he ruins it by turning on his owner and tearing out her throat and ear.

Back at the hospital morgue, Dr. MacCabe examines the bodies of both Joe the Plumber and Schweik. Dr. Harris (holy crap, it's Al Cliver, from 2020: Texas Gladiators and Endgame) decides to hook Shweik up to what appears to be a heart monitor (although they claim it's some sort of brainwave scanner). Who knows why, but he looks pretty dejected when nothing happens and leaves the room. If only he'd stayed a few minutes longer he could have seen the oscilloscope spring to life.

It's about now that Joe's wife and daughter wander into the morgue to dress up his corpse in his Sunday best. I guess they were too cheap to pay a funeral director. Joe's wife leaves her daughter outside, but when she enters the surgery she gets knocked over somehow and, in what is surely the result of poor OH&S practices, a huge bottle of acid tips over and pours all over her face. When her daughter comes wandering in she sits staring at her mother's melting face for a few minutes before rushing to escape the pool of bloody foam that threatens to ruin her new shoes. Unfortunately she wanders right into the freezer room which is full of zombies. She survives somehow, although she goes blind and later turns into a zombie and Dr. MacCabe shoots her in the head. Long story.

Liza ends up teaming up with Dr. MacCabe. They form a partnership where she has visions and freaks out while he shows up just in time to belittle her and be condescending. Dr. MacCabe finds the book of Eibon, and while it doesn't tell us anything we didn't already know, it does cause a big storm (in the basement) that sends them rushing to Dr MacCabe's hospital. By this stage it seems the gate to hell has let loose a whole bunch of zombies and the last ten minutes of the film is spent with these two idiots trying to escape all the zombies that are wandering around. Unfortunately neither of them have seen a zombie film because even after expending dozens of rounds and killing maybe half a dozen zombies with headshots he still doesn't get it. All of a sudden they find themselves in a weird endless ocean with bodies stacked up everywhere like stinky legos, just like in Shweik's creepy paintings. A voice drones on about an "ocean of darkness" like we are supposed to know what the hell that is supposed to mean, and the film ends.

It's typical Fulci, in that the pacing is off and nothing makes any sense. The script doesn't help either, but it's written by Dardano Sacchetti and he had three other films to write that year so cut him a break. However, this film is probably the most successful in creating a weird dreamlike atmosphere. I could kind of see it before in House by the Cemetery and City of the Living Dead, but now that I've seen The Beyond (considered his masterpiece), I think I finally get it. Out of his classic trilogy of supernatural horror films, this one is by far the best.

Friday, 9 January 2009

The Marine (2006)

This is a great film for aficionados of large men
leaping away from explosions in slow motion

The Marine is the second film made by WWE Films, this time starring some guy named John Cena. He is an uncomfortably large fellow with a high-and-tight haircut and very little personality. This is more of the kind of thing I was expecting when I think of WWE Films, a dumb PG-13 action film. Normally I hate PG-13 action films, they're like porn films with all the nudity and sex cut out, but I thought I'd give this one a chance. If it was half as stupid as See No Evil I thought it would be a GTatM (Good Time at the Movies).

The film opens with him in his dress uniform, saluting in front of an American flag, so straight away, you can be assured of this film's patriotism. This is further emphasised in the following scene, where Triton infiltrates an Al Qaida terrorist base just outside of Tikrit. His superiors warn him not to go in and rescue his fellow Marines ("Wait for backup!"), but he goes in regardless because he is a True American Hero. That's lucky for the three hostages, because the terrorists were just about to decapitate them on camera to cries of "Allahu Akbar". Uh, yeah, I'm not kidding. Over the next few minutes, Triton shoots and punches his way through the terrorists and rescues the hostages. It ends with the four of them in a slow motion charge into enemy forces, and it's here that the director's (first-timer John Bonito) obsession with fiery explosions becomes a little embarrassing.

After an act of heroism like that they'd probably throwing parades in his honour and fighting over the movie rights, but in the world of The Marine it means being discharged for "disobeying a direct order". This leaves Triton pretty glum, after all it means leaving a dangerous war zone and returning home to his beautiful wife. Luckily his fat, comic-relief buddy gets him a job as a security guard to pass the time. He has a little bit of trouble adjusting to civilian life, though. The first day on the job he punches out a yuppie asshole (who has two beefy bodyguards for some reason) and tosses him through a window.

There's the beginnings of a serious story here, about a Marine who has lost his only purpose in life and starts to break down, but don't get excited because this subplot it is immediately dropped. Instead it becomes a heist/chase movie, where a team of thieves rob a jewelery store in what must be the most inefficient robbery ever. In fact, one of them blows up a cop car with a bazooka in what may be the largest car explosion ever committed to film. The leader of this group is played by Robert Patrick (why yes, they do make a Terminator joke).

Triton gets drawn into their criminal rampage when they kidnap his wife (and steal his car, a huge SUV natch) while they're at a petrol station. She's probably the most pain-in-the-ass hostage in human history. In almost every scene she's screaming, struggling or attempting to escape. No hostage is worth this much trouble, but we need a MacGuffin for Triton to chase so unfortunately we're all stuck with her.

Then there's a pretty great car chase where Triton chases after the thieves in some weird souped-up cop car. His car gets impossibly riddled with bullets and as he crashes into various obstacles the car loses it's bumper, hood, and whole top section of the chassis. As he finally catches up to the bad guys he stupidly drives his car right off a cliff. Then the bad guys shoot at the flipping car while it's still in the air until it bursts into flames (Triton having jumped out of the car by this point). The car does not explode though, which was bitterly disappointing. If the whole film was as gloriously stupid as this or the opening scene it would be great, but unfortunately the rest of the film is filled with bad guys bickering and alleged comic relief.

You see, instead of sticking with the straight-faced stupidity of the opening sequence they decided to make this one of those "self-aware" action movies, where comic relief music kicks in every time the bad guys are on-screen and they've all got these weird tics and eccentricities. One of the bad guys is afraid of rock candy, which is assumed to be automatically hilarious. This fear stems from an incident of child abuse at summer camp, which is played for laughs.

After the car chase the film becomes a slow trudge as Triton uses his expert desert combat skills to track down his wife in backwater swamplands. The bad guys continue to bicker amongst themselves and kill more of each other than Triton does. There are a number of fist fights that might have been interesting if they weren't shot in herky-jerky closeup. When will people realise that the Bourne movies are the only ones that have got this technique right?

By the time it got the final scene it kind of reminded me of Hard Target only not as stupid/good. There's the swamps, the black-clad villain, the fiery showdown etc. I really like the tasteless exploitation of the opening scene, but after that it seems content to wink at the audience and acknowledge it's own stupidity. If it had included a moment of straight-faced snake-punching or given Triton a mullet I might have given it a pass.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

My Experience with Playstation Home (beta)

The first thing you are asked to do in Home, assuming there are no connection errors, is to create an avatar. You can opt for one of the many pre-generated freaks, or wrestle with an overwhelming number of sliders to try and create your perfect doppelganger. I chose the second option. Sliders are the quick-time event of character creation: a massively overused device that creates the illusion of depth. At least with a cartoony, caricature-based system (like Miis) you can choose from a finite number of options and say "yep, that's close enough". I'd say you even grow more of an attachment to something like that. Slider bars give you the impression that your perfect simulacrum is only a few nudges of the analog stick away, a mindset that will only leave you with a twisted mockery of the human form and crying bitter tears of failure.

I fiddled with the sliders as best I could, and unable to duplicate my own haircut I chose the least-offensive faux-hawk (there are many). As my twin stared at me with his glassy, vacant eyes, his mouth a grim line, I felt profoundly uncomfortable. "Why... make... me?" my avatar seemed to ask, a tear forming in the corner of his lifeless eye. You see, the modelers for Home have decided to pitch their tent right in the middle of the uncanny valley. The avatars are completely silent too, which is understandable in a cartoon but downright creepy here. I also tried to re-create my wife, but after my third monstrous freak I realised that if my wife found this funhouse-mirror version of herself I'd find my next day's lunch wrapped in divorce papers, so I gave up.

After creating your avatar you are immediately plonked down in your own personal space, an ultra-modern, sea-side apartment that is indeed very pretty and nicely rendered, but utterly sterile and devoid of life. This is a common theme running through Home. When you leave you apartment (it won't be long, there's not much to see) you will discover that the world of Home is divided into tiny, discrete areas, each requiring an initial download and a few seconds of loading time. I opt to go to Home Square, which is a central hub that connects to the rest of the areas.

When I first enter it appears that Home is being haunted: All of the other avatars appear as translucent ghosts until their appearance has been downloaded. Once finished it reveals the typical behaviour of any social network. Groups of male avatars (teenage boys) cluster around a scattered few female avatars (middle aged men) and perform typical mating rituals ("r u horny?", sexy dances, finger guns). Oh yes, Sony have provided a number of animations with which to impart life to your mannequin. There are many, many dances and everywhere you look there are groups of people doing the running man in unison. Posters and animated billboards abound, each advertising a different Sony product. The trailer for LocoRoco2 is oppressively cheerful, like a stern edict from Sony HQ ordering me to have fun.

The Shopping Center is Sony's hilariously misguided attempt to make a little money out of this abomination. Here you can wander around a bland, sterile mall and buy items of bland, sterile clothing and real estate. Fancy a new summer house? It can be yours for only $7.95! Why yes, you are expected to pay real world money for virtual clothes, furniture and real estate. This is nothing new, but it's usually done in the context of a larger game, where the items confer special abilities or attributes, or are worth something in real-world dollars (like in Second Life). Sure, some games let you pay money for alternate costumes, but at least there's a game to play them in. The kind of hubris that allows Sony to do this is unfathomable.

The Cinema is basically an interface for watching trailers for Sony products. Are we detecting a theme here? I feel like I'm in some sort marketing experiment (although I guess I am). There's also the trailer for Watchmen that everyone has seen anyway, which you can watch in poor quality in a huge, deserted theater. I feel like Charlton Heston in Omega Man, but at least he got to watch a cool documentary about Woodstock. I'm sure Sony will implement virtual popcorn at some point (you will be micro-transactioned accordingly).

Now we enter the Bowling Alley. I hope you find the sound of bowling balls clattering into pins soothing. Here you can play several games like bowling and pool, there's even a few arcade machines. Here's the funny part: if one of these games is occupied, you can't use it. You have to wait your turn. What the hell? I can kind of see the point, you're supposed to chat and mingle while waiting for your turn, but it's still stupid and it gives the mistaken impression that these games are actually worth waiting for. Instinctively I wander over to the arcade machines (it does not occur to me that if I wanted to play a game I could quit this awful thing and play Fallout 3). The arcade games are Carriage Return and Icebreaker, a Tetris-like puzzle game and Breakout-clone respectively. There's also Echochrome, which is a good game but if I wanted to play it I'd just quit Home and load it from the menu. Each of these games is on a time-limit, by the way, so can't hog the machine. A few people are using voice-chat in German and they must be having a scintillating conversation because within the staticky garbled mess I make out the words "arschloch" and "sheisse". No wonder voice chat was disabled within a few days.

Home is a perfect example of something created by a corporation. There isn't one drop that hasn't been scrutinised by a gaggle of marketing experts and filtered through the PR department. What results is a crystal clear product, distilled of all life and personality. They aimed for somewhere between The Sims and Second Life, but misfired spectacularly. I feel like I've sullied my hard drive just by installing it. Sony's claims that it will become a "system-seller" seem beyond laughable at this point. I hope they've got some serious tricks up their sleeve, because at it stands, Home just seems like the most elaborate, frustrating user interface on Earth.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

See No Evil (2006)

Here is the killer enacting Dave fantasy #173:
Cramming some noisy bimbo's cell phone down her throat.

I've never been a big fan of the wrasslin'. I mean, growing up the 80s I remember Hulkamania and Jake the Snake and all that, but I never paid it all that much attention. Well, somewhere along the line they changed their name from the WWF to the WWE, to avoid confusion with the World Wildlife Fund. Maybe Hogan got confused and performed an Atomic Leg Drop on an endangered panda or something, I don't know. Anyway, since then Vince McMahon has turned sweaty men grappling and pretending into punch each other into a merchandising juggernaut. They have produced landfills' worth of books, action-figures, t-shirts and all the other crap that clutters up the shelves of those novelty goods stores where morons buy presents for other morons. One of these tentacles of merchandising is their film production group WWE Films. Of course I had to check out their films to see if they are as tasteless and stupid as their pedigree suggests.

See No Evil is a slasher film, and the killer is played by some guy name Kane who is, according to the box, a "wrestling superstar". I've never heard of this guy, but he's pretty much exactly what you'd expect when you think of a professional wrestler. A humongous bald dude with zero charisma or acting ability. One thing that his wrestling career has equipped him with, though, is a huge variety of ridiculous angry faces. He stomps around and frowns, puffs out his cheeks. It's hilarious. I don't think it's ever mentioned in the film, but his character has the awesome name of Jacob Goodnight. If it were up to me, I'd be putting that shit in the title of film.

Anyway a cop with an artificial hand, along with another woman, are heading up a correctional program where a group of a male and female at-risk youths clean up an old hotel. And this is a pretty filthy hotel: There are cockroaches fucking in the foyer. Regardless of how dirty the hotel is or how amorous the insects are, it doesn't take long for the kids to demonstrate exactly why such a co-educational program is such a bad idea. Most of them head off to have sex in the lounge, while a couple of guys head off to find some hidden treasure that one of the them found out about on the internet (he's in jail for computer fraud, you see).

Unfortunately, this hotel is also home to Jacob Goodnight. He has rigged the hotel with all sorts of tripwires and two-way mirrors, so that if anyone is fucking in one of his hotel rooms he's going to know about it. The two incompetent supervisors are among the first to die. This is pretty clever as the cop is set up to be the hero in an opening flashback (he loses his hand to Jacob and even manages to shoot Jacob the head before he escapes). In fact, for a while the film seems like it's pulling the trick where all the nice people die first and all the assholes survive, which would be clever if it hadn't already been done by about a thousand other horror films.

Like in Gymkata, this film has to work pretty hard to find use for Mr. Kane's wrestling talents. He doesn't do an elbow drop or a figure-4 leg lock, but does tend to throw his victims around more than the average killer. Sometimes he smacks them into the side of a door when he's carrying them around, like he's really clumsy or something. At one point he chokes two girls simultaneously, lifting both off the ground with each arm, a real showstopper. Other times he'll pull them around with a big hook on the end of a chain. His signature move is that he pulls the eyeballs out of his victims with his grody fingernails. I don't know why, but the big guy just loves them. He's got jars full of eyeballs in his lair, and when one of the teens smashes one of them to create a diversion you can tell he's pretty pissed.

Although they are pretty optimistic for thinking anyone's cares about Jacob's origin, it is explained in some herky-jerky flashbacks as the result of a crazy fundamentalist Christian upbringing, with his psychotic mother drowning him in the shower and locking him in cages for looking at porno magazines. The standard stunted sexuality stuff, which is why gets obsessed by ladies with religious tattoos and locks them in cages and masturbates.

Also, Jacob is usually surrounded by a swarm of flies. At first I thought it was just a hygiene things, I mean the guy plays with eyeballs all day and probably never showers (except when his mother punishes him), but late in the film it's revealed that the bullet hole in the back of his head is infected and filled with maggots. That's a nice touch, and one of the few over-the-top touches that found me liking this film in spite of it's faults. For instance, in one scene a vegetarian is savagely mauled to death by the stray dogs she saved from a bully earlier. You have to respect a film so singularly committed to misanthropic vulgarity.

Usually the killer in these kinds of films suffers a fairly ambiguous death, but here he has one of the most sadistic and overly elaborate death of all. Spoilers, yo. After the various battering and stabbings the killer usually suffers in the finale, he is finally dispatched by ramming a metal pole through his eyeball. Then he falls out of the window, smacking into the walls on the way down, and tumbles through the glass ceiling of an atrium where the pole is hooked onto a metal beam and ripped out of his eye socket. He plummets down and lands on a metal spike where an x-ray shot shows his heart being pierced and spewing blood into his chest cavity. Oh, and for the post-credits coup de grace, a stray dog pisses in his eye socket. Now that's how you do a death scene.

The film is directed by Gregory Dark. If his name sounds familiar to you, you probably shouldn't admit it in front of your girlfriend because his filmography consists mostly of softcore porn. Which is weird because this film contains very little nudity, although it does explain the very workman-like approach to camera placement and lighting. There are a lot of loud noises, vibrating cameras and all the other stuff that has infected horror films over the past few years, especially when the movie shifts to Jacob-vision and the camera gets all shaky and blurry. I guess a bullet in the back of the head will do that to you.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I thought this film was okay. You probably shouldn't risk it unless you are thoroughly inoculated against stupidity.