Exploitation

Corman

In Alex Stapleton’s documentary Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel, prolific filmmaking legend Roger Corman discusses a philosophy of entertainment that he developed about a decade into his career. Corman had just made his first serious drama, the 1962 integration-themed The Intruder. The film, which he and his brother self-financed because studios wouldn’t touch it, was Corman’s first work that he felt to be truly important, and it stands today as a film without equal in its timely diagnosis of American race relations. The film also turned out to be Corman’s first indisputable box office failure. So after The Intruder, Corman changed course: he decided to continue pursuing relevant themes in his work, but maintain his dominance of American B-cinema. The text of his films would entertain audiences, but the subtext would resonate with an eye on timely social, cultural, and political issues. Corman saw his 1967 film The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, for instance, as both an entertaining gangster picture and a comment about the underground economy that develops when immigrant groups are sidelined from legitimate social mobility in a xenophobic America. The message, Corman admitted at a local Q&A this weekend, would not be apparent to all audiences. But at least it would be there. Corman was hardly the first to recognize the political power of entertainment, but the fact that one of the most prolific B-movie producers in history understood this unique potential is significant: what are supposedly the most lowbrow or expendable of movies can actually be the most […]

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Sundance 2013 News and Reviews

    Editor’s Note: With Sundance 2013 upon us, we’re revisiting some of our favorite shorts from Sundance years past. This wonderful little film played the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, played in our Short Film of the Day series in May 2011 and is back for another run as we kick off a week of Sundance shorts. Why Watch? Because you should think twice before buying that Christmas tree. From the director of Hobo With a Shotgun comes this classic tale of tree-xploitation, shot in pristine 70s style. It’s a bloody affair with some beautiful practical effects and over-the-top everything. We cut them down, we humiliate them with decorations, and now it’s their turn to shove tinsel up our ass. Fair warning: as with any movie where foliage commits wanton acts of violence, there’s a healthy amount of curse words. Also, be on the look out for my interview with Treevenge and Hobo With a Shotgun director Jason Eisener on Reject Radio. What Will It Cost? Just 14 minutes of your time. Trust us. You have time for more short films.

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Killer Joe

Exploitation cinema is good for the id. Because the great majority of us are not thieves, murderers, sociopaths, or people with problematic sexual instincts, exploitation cinema provides a safe space and an opportunity to view characters who may be any of the combinations noted above without having to experience the debilitating guilt, life-ending consequences, or moral panic that would incur if we ever engaged in such activities ourselves. In other words, exploitation cinema is a brief respite from a reality mostly determined by standards of law and order, rational behavior, stability, and long-term thinking. Exploitation cinema provides the exhilaration of chaos that is enthralling to witness onscreen, but that one wouldn’t want to encounter in anything resembling reality. While William Friedkin’s Killer Joe is a film that fully earns its NC-17 rating with its portrayals of abject cruelty, predatory sex, and strange and unusual acts of punishment, it’s never a film that asks audiences to take the events onscreen all to seriously as Killer Joe doesn’t even seem to even take itself at face value. The movie’s mood and ending will certainly polarize audiences, but if one is willing to accept and go along with the esoteric tone Friedkin strikes (and there are perfectly legitimate reasons not to do so), then Killer Joe is likely one of the more engaging films of the year if for no other reason than its sheer audacity.

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Why Watch? Gorgeous gore, an exploitation grain, and a last shot that’s supremely disturbing (and not at all safe for work, which is why this one is embedded after the break, due to YouTube’s unfortunate pause placement). This little chunk of horror from Damien Leone is not afraid to deliver the goods. It sags slightly in the middle, and it could use a pinch more backstory, but it features a soul-smashingly fearsome new icon in Art the Clown. With his beaming black-toothed smile and tiny top hat, he really is the stuff of nightmares. Enjoy seeing him when you close your eyes at night. He’ll be waiting for you there with his rusty tools and indomitable will to stay alive. What will it cost? Only 19 minutes. Special thanks to Brad McHargue for suggesting this bad boy.

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“Deep down inside, you’re dirty. Do you hear me, dirty? You’re damaged goods, and this is a fire sale.” These vile sentences shouted out by modeling agency owner Mr. Lang (Lawrence Aberwood) during the heated climax of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s 1963 nudie-cutie Scum of the Earth reflect not only the understandable fear felt by naïve model Kim (Allison Louise Downe) who is begging the depraved Mr. Lang for her naked pictures, but also the real life fear of being exposed against your will. Exploitation films of any era depict society’s underbelly, offering viewers a voyeuristic look at a frightening world. Just like with horror, these films show truly discomforting subject through a lens of entertainment. The exploitation films of the 1960s toyed with taboos and boundaries in a way never seen in films before or since. With the evolution of cinema road shows and drive-ins, teens and adults had more freedom when it came to viewing films out of the reach of the slowly imploding Hays Code. This was the time of gore, sex, drugs, and unabashed pleasure in film. The country was coming out of the Cold War and heading straight for Vietnam. This was the time for society reflection, and filmmakers were more than happy to give violence-hungry audiences something to chew on.

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The trailer for grindhouse throwback Dear God No! makes a bold claim, but it looks like it can easily back it up. It’s a promise that the film will have wanton violence, swinging breasts, and alliteration. Yes, dear reader, roving rapist bike gangs love poetic devices. It’s definitely not for the kiddos, and we’re all working on the honor system here, but the amount of silly brutality in this thing might not even be safe for some adults. The amount of nudity, people will probably be able to handle. Plus, it’s got a handy NSFW poster (from The Dude Designs) to go with it. Go ahead and bask in all its glory:

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Yet again I find myself sitting in the dark waiting for one of my most anticipated films of this year’s Cannes film festival, and am met with a chorus of coughs ringing around the screen. Here’s a thought – if you are allergic to either a) the dark or b) the cinema, maybes it’s time you stopped going. It sounds like a bloody Victorian bronchitis convention every time the lights go down… Anyway, The Skin I Live In (also known as The Skin That I Inhabit, depending on how you translate the original Spanish title), is the latest in this year’s auteur-focused Competition line-up, and thanks to both director Pedro Almodovar‘s assertions that he set out to make a horror “without screams or frights” and his reunion with sometime muse Antonio Banderas, this one sat at the top table in terms of anticipation. Warning, there be a few spoilers below, though I have tried to avoid as many as possible. But like Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, such is the nature of the film that some hints are a necessity.

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The second film of the day, following Midnight in Paris this morning, Sleeping Beauty is the only Australian film included this year, starring Emily Browning (who hopefully won’t be a high-profile casualty of Snyder’s sickly Sucker Punch) as a University student drawn into a mysterious hidden world of beauty and desire. Or at least that’s what the marketing material says. Regardless of what they position this erotic, chiller had already been picking up a lot of buzz, possibly because the official synopsis that I read as part of the bulging press pack (stuffed lovingly into my press PO box this morning) suggested a film about a girl who willingly becomes a Sleeping Beauty – or someone who takes a sleeping pill and allows herself to have “erotic experiences” with “old men” that she has no control over. Funny that, because Browning’s whole role in Sucker Punch can be labelled as overly eroticized and submissive too. Zing!

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, we talk with veteran voice actor Steve Blum and Hobo With a Shotgun director Jason Eisener. Plus, Erin McCarthy from Popular Mechanics and Will Goss from Film.com tackle the Movie News Pop Quiz and maybe, just maybe find some love along the way. By that, I mean a loving concern for summer blockbusters like Harry Potter and Transformers 3. Listen Here: Download This Episode

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The last film Emily Browning was in featured her exploited, stripped down to lingerie and kicking a dragon’s ass. For Sleeping Beauty, it looks like she’ll be exploited and stripped down without a dragon in sight. The film from writer/director Julia Leigh was selected for Cannes in competition, and tells the story of a young student (played by Browning) who takes a job where men fulfill their sexual fantasies with her while she’s asleep. Of course, the trailer is sufficiently haunting, and it spells out a potentially bleak film that explores a person as object. Check it out for yourself:

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This piece contains spoilers for Sucker Punch. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, go watch it before diving in. Once the first images hit, or when the first synopsis hit, or maybe even when Zack Snyder dreamed up the concept for Sucker Punch ten years ago – a time bomb was set to explode twice, and it finally did this weekend. The first explosion was the basis for the existence of the movie, and it continued exploding many, many times during the runtime. The second was the question of feminism. Now that the movie is out, it has also exploded. The reactions from before the film was released varied, and they still do. Some see it as feminism merged with geek culture (which assumes geek culture isn’t sexless to begin with). Some see it as an affront to the advancement of women parading in thigh high boots. One who gives a strong argument for the latter is Angie Han of /film, who writes the hell out of an editorial called “On Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch: Why Ass-Kicking and Empowerment Aren’t Always the Same Thing.” You should absolutely go read it before reading this, although I’ll do my best to condense her arguments (in a fair way) in order to respectfully counter them.

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. The opening of this trailer might be the best of all time: “For the next 90 seconds while this preview of coming attractions is playing…will all filmgoers with any degree of wit, taste and intelligence…please keep your critical remarks to yourselves…or we’ll nail your tongues to the floor. Thank you.” With the introduction over, let’s get to the go-go dancing. Think you know what it is? Check the trailer out for yourself:

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Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. “He’s taught to hate and attack black people!” “I want you to shoot him now before he kills more blacks!” Oh, Samuel Fuller. Those are just two of the brilliant lines in your ode to a racist dog that can bite people on the arm and make them drive their trucks into storefronts. Why is a methed-out Colonel Sanders helping Kristy McNichol to retrain her dog who only murders black people? Is there a message in this thing? Is it about love or something? And, wait, there’s a Criterion of this thing? You’re damn right there is. Think you know what it is? Check the trailer out for yourself:

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The first trailer for Hobo With a Shotgun was, of course, technically a fake trailer. With the first trailer that actually corresponds to a movie coming out, it looks like director Jason Eisener wanted us to see the deeply human side of the hobo. This is perfect for Rutger Hauer, the unnerving master of all things uncomfortable. The look that he gives in this is the human equivalent of chugging a big gulp of curdled milk. Just for fun, we’re putting the trailers up side by side for a comparison. Both battle for bloody supremacy, but only one of them is doing it for the kids.* *Trailers not suitable for children.

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You might need to wear a cup, but this teaser trailer is actually pretty tame.

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Bill and Jimmy are in trouble. They’ve fallen in with a foursome of pot dealers, and their lives are about to be thrown into a whirlwind of loose morals, febrile piano playing, and rape. The dangers of the plant on screen! Tell your children!

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culturewarrior-precious

This week’s Culture Warrior talks about something that never makes anybody uncomfortable: RACE!

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ff-mandrill

A hitman who kicks unprecedented amounts of ass gets an assignment to kill the man who he believes killed his parents. The plot thickens when he falls for the man’s daughter and must decide between leaving her an orphan or forgoing the revenge he’s waited for his whole life.

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The one thing that makes Kevin Carr’s claims totally outrageous is something that no one in our audience knows about. That’s right. I’m about to drop a bombshell. A big one.

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