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    “THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2″ (Arrow Blu-ray Review)

    The usual rap on Tobe Hooper is that he made a masterpiece with his first feature and then never made another decent film. Wrong. Sure, nothing else in Hooper’s filmography can compete with the unrelenting intensity of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, but then very few horror movies can. For those willing to dig (and accept the shared responsibility on POLTERGEIST, just like how Spielberg and Lucas shared authorship on RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK), the truth is that Hooper has made many wacko twisted genre flicks since his iconic debut (SALEM’S LOT, FUNHOUSE, LIFEFORCE). In fact, he’s even got another classic with TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE in the title. Released unrated in 1986, most critics didn’t know what to make of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2. After all, here was a sequel that replaced the subtlety and suspense of the original with bawdy humor and the most disgusting gore of Tom Savini’s career. It was a movie that turned intensely real killers into cartoons, gave Dennis Hopper a chance to go farther over the top than he managed in BLUE VELVET, and for some reason the poster was a parody of THE BREAKFAST CLUB. It was, at face value, a sequel that inverted everything that was successful about the original and therefore was far from a worthy successor. But the reasons viewers hated CHAINSAW 2 then are what make it such a clear cult classic now.

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    Brian De Palma’s “THE FURY” (Arrow Blu-ray Review)

    THE FURY just may represent Brian De Palma at the peak of his insane 70s powers. Coming out of the New York underground filmmaking scene, it’s easy to forget that in his early days, De Palma’s work were as influenced by the likes of Jean-Luc Godard as Alfred Hitchcock. By the time De Palma got to THE FURY, he’d already made his first Hitchcock riffs SISTERS and OBSESSION, as well as his first major mainstream hit CARRIE, but the self-conscious humor and go-for-broke lunacy of PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE was very much still central to his powers.

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    “R100″ (TIFF Movie Review)

    A superstar in Japan barely known outside of his native country, Hitoshi Matsumoto has found an unexpected second home in Toronto’s Midnight Madness program. If his films can be classified as anything, they are comedies. However, that label doesn’t quite feel like it fully captures the strange, disturbed, and subversive tone the filmmaker whips up every time he steps behind a camera. They are very much midnight movies in the purest form and it’s a shame that red-eyed viewing experience rarely exists outside of the film festival circuit anymore, because he’d probably be a major cult figure if the market still existed. Instead, Matsumoto is one of TIFF’s best kept secrets and R100 certainly stands comfortably next two his previous late night film fest gems, the giant monster mockumentary BIG MAN JAPAN and the indescribable SYMBOL.

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    Kim Ki-duk’s “MOEBIUS” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Kim Ki-duk might be the most outrageous and provocative filmmaker working in South Korea, something not easily accomplished given the competition. Yet, despite all of the shock tactics that Ki-duk has pulled in the past, nothing comes close to the nightmarish glee with which he unleashes MOEBIUS. It’s a movie that walks the line between “like” and “respect.” You can’t really do the former without a certain level of self-deception, but the latter comes easily enough. It takes an equal balance of guts and insanity simply to launch a movie like this, so kudos to Ki-duk for doing so. As for the audiences who will be sucking it up through their eyeholes…well, you’ll never forget what you see here.

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    “THE DOUBLE” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Despite serving up plum roles for a pair of contemporary stars and coming from one of the most promising filmmakers of the moment, there’s something delightfully old fashioned about Richard Ayoade’s THE DOUBLE. It’s one of those identity crisis existential horror movies that were all the rage in the heady art cinema days of the 60s. The film comes from a novella by Dostoevsky, features style and technique pulled from Roman Polanski and Orson Welles’ THE TRIAL. Yet it somehow also feels very much like a film of the moment. It’s a nightmare movie that crawls under your skin, while also proving to be one of the funniest features of the Toronto International Film Festival. Thematically, the flick is not an easy sit and yet Ayoade somehow makes it play as pure pleasure through his sardonic humor and cynical worldview. I guess you could call it a movie comprised of contradictions, and a wonderful one at that.

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    “GRAVITY” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Based on the broadest definition of genre, Alfonso Cuarón’s astounding new film GRAVITY doesn’t cleanly qualify as horror. It is however guaranteed to be one of the most terrifying viewing experiences of the year, so it seems silly not to acknowledge it. After disappearing from filmmaking for seven years following the technically ambitious and thematically complex CHILDREN OF MEN, Cuarón has returned with a movie quite simply unlike anything else. As a depiction of space travel, the realism and immersion of GRAVITY is unparalleled; the story then uses that realism to make the space environment feel more unforgiving and chilling than ever before.

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    “A FIELD IN ENGLAND” (TIFF Movie Review)

    With only a handful of movies, writer/director Ben Wheatley has already established himself as one of the finest filmmakers of his generation. Always toeing genre lines, his greatest achievement thus far was probably KILL LIST, a viscous hit man movie transformed into occult horror with one of the most disturbing finale twists since his obvious influence THE WICKER MAN. The genre journalists all immediately demanded that he dabble in horror again and now he kind of has with the twisted art house hallucinogen he calls A FIELD IN ENGLAND. Like KILL LIST, the movie is not pure horror, but it does boast some of the most disturbing images destined to flicker across screens this year.

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    “AFFLICTED” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Each year, TIFF’s Midnight Madness program provides a home for hungry genre buffs where blood is spilled for adoring crowds to squeal in delight. Pretty well all of the iconic horror directors of the last 20 years have premiered at least one of their features as part of the program, but the finest treat is probably the discovery of new filmmakers bursting onto the scene. This year, the big breakout just might be for first-time Vancouver filmmakers Cliff Prowse and Derek Lee. The duo made the leap from shorts to features with AFFLICTED, their impressive new schlocker that manages to wring a little extra life out of the tiresome found footage genre and even a classic creature as well.

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    Eli Roth’s “THE GREEN INFERNO” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Six years after HOSTEL PART II and a host of acting and producing gigs later, Eli Roth has finally returned to directing. To celebrate, he came back to TIFF’s Midnight Madness program where he enthusiastically debuted his fourth feature for the first audience outside of the post production crew. As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, it’s a cannibal movie, just like those lovable Italian rapscallions Ruggero Deodato and Umberto Lenzi used to make. Though Roth’s fingerprints are all over his addition to the indigestion-favoring genre, he plays true to the form both in terms of the graphic gourmet content and the themes of civility vs. civilization. It’s both throwback and something disturbingly new that is sure to be controversial for some, beloved by others, and impossible for anyone with a weak stomach or bleeding heart to forget. 

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    “ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE” (TIFF Movie Review)

    Long before they made contemporary controversial horror favorites like MAY, THE WOMAN and THE LOST Lucky McKee and Chris Sivertson were a pair of fresh faced film grads who decided to shoot their first feature together. The result was ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE and though it never got much of a release, it did kick off their solo directing careers. Now over ten years later, the two filmmakers teamed up again to remake that film with, you know, production values. The result is as fun as the title suggests and as giddily violent as their subsequent directorial careers guaranteed. It’s also a bit of an artistic regression as well as a nostalgia piece, though. The movie is as messy and tonally jumbled as most first feature films, with the directors unable to tame their old concept with their acquired skills as professional filmmakers. That quality is part of the wacko charm that earned the flick a spot at TIFF’s Midnight Madness program, it’s just sadly a bit of a step back for McKee in particular.

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    “THE CAR” (Blu-ray Review, Arrow Films)

    Released amidst a slew of JAWS knock offs, THE CAR was completely dismissed in 1977, and not without reason. It is a pretty dumb movie. However, it’s also a gloriously dumb movie and that’s the sort of thing that cults are built on. The movie may not have achieved the revival status of Steven Spielberg’s similar motor-monster-movie DUEL or even 70s car chase relic VANISHING POINT, but it’s certainly developed a base of followers. Guillermo del Toro even had a perfect replica of the titular evil vehicle built to drive around Los Angeles as a one man movie homage and he’s far from the only one with fond memories of discovering the flick in drive ins, on worn down VHS tapes, or late night cable screenings. There’s an undeniable charm to Elliot Silverstein’s ridiculous exploitation movie. While it’s not the most obvious choice for a pristine new Arrow Blu-ray, THE CAR is a fun addition to their ever-growing line up of oddball genre releases and one in need of a wider audience of those special folks with a sweet tooth for cheese.

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