The Geisha of Gore’s Best Movies of 2010
by Colleen Wanglund
This is a hard list for me to do because I don’t go to see too many new releases. Most of my outings to the movie theater this past year involved seeing midnight cult classics. However I did see a few new releases and I have also included some movies that were released on DVD in 2010. Not all of them are Asian horror flicks, either. The first four picks were new releases and the other six are movies that were on DVD. This list is in no particular order, because that would be asking a lot.
One of the few new releases I got to see this year was MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD. It played in July at the New York Asian Film Festival and it was a fun night. Directed by Yoshihiro Nishimura, Iguchi Noboru, and Tak Sakaguchi this is splatter horror at its finest. A teenage girl discovers she is an alien and is being hunted down by citizens and government forces alike when Kisaragi brings her to his “coven” of aliens. Kisaragi is training them to be a hit squad so he can wipe out the government and take over Japan. Ultimately the girls turn on him. What I love about this movie is the signature special effects by Nishimura and the comedy. Chock full of blood, guts and laughs MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD is a must for any horror comedy fan.
I loved SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD. Directed by Edgar Wright, it’s a quirky little movie about a boy who falls for a girl but he has to fight the League of Evil Exes if he wants to date her. All of the characters were fun but my favorite was Kim….a female drummer and a wiseass to boot! Watching SCOTT PILGRIM was like watching a live-action anime…..and I love my Japanese anime. The fight scenes between Scott and the various exes are done as though they were in a video game and it worked so well. There’s also a really cool soundtrack to go with it.
Another new release I got to see in the theater is ALL ABOUT EVIL, directed by Joshua Grannell and starring Natasha Lyonne as a mousy little woman who wants to save her dead father’s single-screen movie house. She mistakenly shows footage of herself murdering her step-mother instead of the feature movie….but the crowd loves it. Deborah taps her inner serial killer and decides to make her own snuff films. Her homemade movies pack them in night after night. With a cast that boasts John Waters’ alum Mink Stole and Cassandra Peterson (Elvira herself!) this was one great horror comedy. Joshua Grannell as his alter-ego, drag queen Peaches Christ, put on a fantastic pre-movie stage show and Peaches is larger than life! This was a great flick and a great night spent at the theater.
The last of the new releases is THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE. This twisted bit of filmmaking by Tom Six is one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen. A mad scientist (played by the creepy Dieter Laser) kidnaps three tourists in order to complete his experiment of creating a human centipede. His experiment is a success for him, but not so much for the young people involved. They are stitched together mouth to rectum. What I really liked about this flick is the total bleakness of the story. There is just no hope for these poor tourists. The acting is very good and the pacing was excellent. THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE is definitely not for the squeamish. I’m really looking forward to the sequel….and I don’t say that often.
VAMPIRE GIRL VS FRANKENSTEIN GIRL (DVD 2010), originally released in 2009, is another special effects masterpiece by Yoshihiro Nishimura. It takes the original ideas of Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster and spins them on their heads. Monami, a transfer student and vampire, tricks the boy of her dreams into eating some of her blood so he can become a vampire. His girlfriend is none too pleased, but dies while confronting Monami. Keiko’s father brings her back to life by turning her into Frankenstein Girl and the two girls do battle on the Tokyo Tower. VAMP takes shots at teenage fads like wanting to be black and cutting and its pure hysterics. The special effects are great and it’s easily one of my top Asian horror films.
MANIAC (1980) was directed by William Lustig and stars Joe Spinell as a serial killer who targets “loose” women who remind him of his abusive mother. He then takes trophies back to his one-room apartment and puts them on mannequins. Frank then meets a photographer played by the beautiful Caroline Munro, and there’s a weird scene where he visits her on a shoot and the most bizarre music is playing in the background. I got to see this one recently in the theater at a 30th anniversary midnight showing and William Lustig was kind enough to spend an hour after the movie answering fans’ questions. For its time this was a pretty violent film. I especially enjoyed watching Tom Savini get his head blown off in a truly amazing and bloody manner. One of the best horror movies I’ve seen.
HAUSU (1977) was just recently released to DVD through Criterion, and it’s about time. A group of high school girls goes to the house of one girl’s aunt, only to discover the house is haunted. The special effects are cheesy but they totally work. There’s a severed head in a well and a piano eating a girl whole….I guess it didn’t like her playing. It’s horror, it’s bizarro, and it’s one fun movie to watch.
BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD (2010) is a direct-to-video DVD release. It’s another animated adventure for the caped crusader when his old nemesis The Joker returns to wreak havoc on Gotham City once again. There is someone new in the mix fighting both the Joker and Batman, but his style of fighting is vaguely familiar. I love everything Batman so this was a real treat for me. The artwork is really cool and typical of the Dark Night comics.
ZOMBIELAND (2009) was a flick I got to see at midnight when it was first released. Zombies are my favorite sub-genre in horror and after seeing some very lousy zombie movies, ZOMBIELAND gave me new hope for these movies. It’s a horror comedy that balances itself very well. I’m not the biggest Woody Harrelson fan but I thought he was great as Tallahassee, a wiseass cowboy type who just wants to find some Twinkies. Jessie Eisenberg plays Columbus, a nerdy-type trying to get to his family, who has a ton of rules for zombie survival. Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin round out this cast of misfit survivors of the apocalypse, and there is a memorable cameo by Bill Murray.
My final pick is a movie that should have been released to DVD a long time ago but unfortunately fans had to wait until this past November to get it. Directed by the great Fritz Lang, METROPOLIS (1927) made history in its original theatrical release. It takes place in a futuristic city where the elite clash with the workers, and the son of the city’s founder falls in love with a prophet who predicts the coming of a mediator to save them all. METROPOLIS is a silent film with beautiful imagery done in the Art Deco style of the day. The movie was the first to depict a robot on-screen. METROPOLIS has inspired countless filmmakers over the decades and it even inspired the video for Madonna’s video “Express Yourself.”
Honorable mention goes to THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) one of my favorite movies of all time. Released on DVD in November of 2010, it stars Robert Mitchum as a killer disguised as a preacher who terrorizes two children in the hopes of finding their dead father’s hidden money. Mitchum is truly terrifying in HUNTER. You’re never sure if he really is a religious fanatic or just pretending to be one. Directed by Charles Laughton, THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER also stars Shelly Winters, Lillian Gish, and Peter Graves.
© Copyright 2011 by Colleen Wanglund