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From The Underground


There are $175 million studio films bolstered by major star power.  There are $20 million “independent” films with established mainstream actors in them.  And there are micro-budget films from the underground – made with almost no money at all.  My occasional delve into the inky blackness of this underground cinema keeps me up-to-date about what is being produced around the world by small crews, tiny budgets, and rebellious filmmakers behind the camera.  Passion and tenacity don’t always make up for the lack of budget – but sometimes, unique, entertaining, and even thought-provoking films are made by these micro-budget filmmakers.  At the very least, they provide interesting alternatives to the often lackluster, usually cookie-cutter Hollywood product.

Rather frequently, underground filmmakers (or their distributors) send me their movies, asking for feedback.  Because my schedule has been even more jam-packed than usual this year, the stack of poverty-row shockers on DVD sitting next to my desk has grown quite tall.  For this blog entry, I decided to pull three flicks from the stack at random, check ‘em out, and report to you.

Such micro-budget concoctions are not everyone’s cup o’ tea.  However, if you are among the indie film fans interested in the seedy underbelly of cinema, please join me on this walk to the wrong side of the tracks.  Stay alert – this could get dangerous.

Ms. Cannibal HolocaustMs. Cannibal Holocaust
Director: Ron Bonk

The remaining tenants of a rundown apartment building, a day away from demolition, are under siege by a cannibal cult that has been terrorizing the city.  With all connection to the outside world severed, the tenants can only do their best to hold out before they are hunted down... and consumed.

Writer/director Ron Bonk (The Vicious Sweet, Strawberry Estates, Clay) is a veteran of outsider cinema, having toiled in its trenches for two decades.  Ms. Cannibal Holocaust is probably the filmmaker’s best work.  Ignore the somewhat silly title – there is much to enjoy in this standout low-budget flick.  The story cleverly blends familiar genre elements with unexpected sucker-punches, and the characters are multi-dimensional and interesting.  But where Bonk really shines is as the movie’s cinematographer.  He makes the most of his film’s settings - framing the textures and angles of the gritty, urban locations in a captivating way, in nearly every shot.  Ms. Cannibal Holocaust serves up a suspenseful and sinister meal that its target audience will devour to the bone.

A Day of ViolenceA Day Of Violence
(Full, uncut version)
Director: Darren Ward

Lowlife criminal Mitchell Parker stumbles across and steals 100,000 dollars in cash.  Hunted by the gangsters whose money he has stolen, Parker must evade capture while trying to conquer his own demons.

Directed by Darren Ward (Sudden Fury), this quirky UK-lensed crime thriller delivers on the carnage promised by the title – big time.  A Day Of Violence wants desperately to be a Quentin Tarantino or Guy Ritchie film.  However, this crimson-splattered caper makes up for its fanboy gesticulations with exciting, blood-soaked action and go-for-the-throat gore.  The special effects are well done, and the movie maintains a fierce energy.  It’s definitely worth checking out for some hyper-violent, b-movie fun.

Actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice (City Of The Living Dead, House On The Edge Of The Park, Cannibal Ferox) appears in A Day Of Violence.  Coincidently, he is also in the third film I pulled from the stack beside my desk:

House of Flesh MannequinsHouse Of Flesh Mannequins: The Director’s Cut
Director: Domiziano Cristopharo

Loner artist Sebastian spends his days photographing violence and watching homemade videos of bloody, jarring imagery.  His neighbor, children’s book author Sarah Roeg, begins to take an interest in him – as well as his disturbing artistic pursuits.

This US / Italian production offers up a diabolical smorgasbord of bloodshed, pain, horror, and shocking images.  The violence is extreme, and the sex and nudity are graphic, but it’s all definitely “art film” instead of schlocky “b-movie” in its presentation.  These lurid elements contribute to the threatening, nightmare tone director Cristopharo achieves.  It is this tone that makes his film fascinating.  Daring (often grating) subject matter, creative lighting, otherworldly imagery, excellent use of music, and sharp performances from the whole cast mesh to give this movie its captivating fever-dream quality.  For each viewer impressed by House Of Flesh Mannequins another thirty will likely be repulsed by it.  However, the movie earns major points for being incredibly unique, and venturing down artistic paths few filmmakers would dare to take.

Thanks for reading.