The Act of Killing (Madman)


“One of the most challenging and disturbing films you will ever see.”

Full review here:


“What’s that smell?” asks one of the drunken guys as they walk into the massage parlour. “Its natural, its generations of sperm,”replies his friend. “No it smells like dead meat,” suggests the drunken guy thoughtfully.

Surely that would be enough to turn heel, maybe conclude the night without a happy ending, but not for this sex starved trio. So in true formulaic horror movie tradition we’ve got a reluctant guy pining for his fiancé and his horny as hell perverted mates who drag him in to a sex filled gore fest.

They begin by choosing their girls. “You can finger their buts before you make a choice,” offers the manager as the girls stick their derrière through a hole in the wall. It’s sexist and demeaning, yet it’s approached with a pitch-black humour and gutter gore sensibility. Nothing is too much. There’s a real fascination with castration, not just the act of the chop, but inventive ludicrous castration scenarios that you get the sense the whole film is actually based around. Then of course there are the overly copious geysers of groin blood.

It’s totally seedy. By the time they’re pulling entrails out of each other it barely raises an eyebrow. It’s part of a movement of over the top gore and sex films of late, like Tokyo Gore Police mashed up with Sex and Zen. It does to cinema what Ramstein does to music. Takes things too far and then escalates. What saves it from being too much even though it is too much, is its attention to detail. For all its hackneyed plot and base humour there’s a real inventiveness here. Not to mention a celebration of all things wrong and bad taste. Do they live? Do they die? Who the hell cares?


Note this film was banned yesterday in Australia, despite being passed with a R+18 in April. Details here:

A Serbian Film banned by the Classification Review Board

A Serbian Film reminds you that you can’t unwatch a film. Like Irreversible, I Spit on Your Grave, Salo and a few other excessively violent, transgressive and sexually provocative films, it will stay with you. It’s the debut feature from Srdjan Spasojevic and it aims to shock. He has that in common with Von Trier, it’s shamelessly exploitative, and unrepentantly manipulative. He’s trying to push our buttons and he succeeds. The opening scene is a five-year-old child impassively watching a porno video, the actor mechanically grinding away at the starlet all kitsch and tasteless. His mother catches him and chastises the father for leaving his videos where the kid can get to them. “Relax, it’s fine,” he says, “I saw my first porn at his age.” The father is the actor in the film.

Critics have panned this film as overly excessive, suggesting that its depravity cloaks a lack of substance. Others have suggested that it can be read as a metaphorical representation of the morally bankrupt vacuum left in the former Yugoslavia. Yet it reads more like a comment on the pornification of our culture, where women, men, even children have been reduced to sexual commodities by mass media. This is an edited version, yet it still retains representations of necrophilia and the rape of a baby, so one wonders what has been cut out to secure the R-rating. South Australia has banned it and JB-Hi-Fi wont stock it.

Yet it is fascinating, particularly in its total disregard of the taboo. It moves so far beyond what is acceptable that it leaves the viewer bewildered. Yet it can’t simply be dismissed for it’s gratuitous nature. It’s a film about power and manipulation; the sexual violence is ultimately a means to an end. Unlike Pasolini’s Salo, Spasojevic does seem to take a certain salivating delight in the depravity drawing it out much further than it needs to go. The only response is to shut down. Unfortunately however you can’t unwatch it.

Bob Baker Fish


This four-disc box set of film noir from the 1940’s displays a rare kind of diversity and depth. Of course we know that noir sprang from the cynicism and uncertainty post WW2 and these films are not only brimming with double crosses and dames you can’t trust, but also a morality, a sense of family that is rare in the genre.

Henry Hathaway’s The Dark Corner, possibly the most conventional noir here, manages to marry many conventions, a private detective caught in a frame, an innocent dame who loves him and mysterious dapper gentleman possibly behind it all. Interestingly the dame is actually Lucille Ball in a rare dramatic role. “I feel all dead in side. I’m backed up in a dark corner and I don’t know who’s hitting me,” mourns the detective as the police and the criminals close in.

Cry of the City, directed imaginatively by Robert Siodmak is so much more than the sum of its parts. In fact it’s hard not to see parallels with Michael Mann’s Heat in it’s portrayal of the complex of the complex relationship between a cop and a criminal in the dark expressionist streets New York’s lower East Side.

House of Strangers is a flashback tale of an immigrant patriarch Edward G Robinson in a breakout performance, who’s success and a banker and standing in the community blinds him to the anger and greed of his sons, forced to endure their fathers old world habits. It’s the tale of a family at war with itself and previously has been labelled as The Godfather in reverse.

The standout though is Nightmare Alley, a dark tale of the rise and fall of a gifted con man who begins as a low life Carney, using his friends as a stepladder on his rise to the top. This is probably the most mean spirited in the collection, grim and harsh, a world way from stylised expressionistic private detectives and crooked cops. This film is dirty and mean and doesn’t hold back.

Bob Baker Fish

Trash Humpers (Curious)

It’s fascinating what Trash Humpers does to you. It’s almost plotless, just a crap VHS camera following three aged delinquents on a trail of random destruction and stupidity. They also dry hump rubbish and perform fellatio on branches. It’s totally exploitative, highly manipulative and very very wrong. Yet if it was only kids bashing dolls with hammers or old people drinking wine and destroying TV’s then it would get tired very quickly. Director and actor Harmony Korine (KIds/Gummo) has his faults, his unquenchable desire to shock, his precocious artiness and willingness to exploit his subjects for his own amusement, yet it’s precisely these qualities that make this film so great. And he also imbues Trash Humpers with a certain unexpected gravitas, where in spite of the ridiculousness of its premise, the acts of stupidity take on an almost hypnotic quality, and strangely enough it becomes quite touching.

It’s the worst looking film you’ve ever seen. Things you’ve recorded off your phone look better. It’s definitely a sign of our times, it’s jackass made by people without any conceivable talents, an exercise in seedy suburban wrongness, where Korine picks out some neighbourhood randoms to visit. So we get racist homophobic rednecks, randoms with extra long toenails, nonsensical monologues in maid outfits, firecrackers and whenever Korine runs out of ideas someone roots some rubbish. There’s no music, just the singing over and over by camera operator (Korine in old persons makeup), bastardised folk songs where the humour comes from the oppressive repetition. Much like the rest of the film.

It’s an annoying, painful and difficult film to watch, but it’s also incredibly bold in its refusal to comply with cinemas expectations. Korine is a singular voice; it’s probably the funniest film you will ever see, though to be fair, it’s humour borne from pain. Your pain, because ultimately it’s difficult to shake the notion that it’s not his subject, but the viewer that is the butt of Korine’s joke.
Bob Baker Fish

RUBBER (Madman)

There’s an episode of Family Guy where Stephen King is meeting with his agent. He’s looking around the desk madly. “What about…a pencil sharpener is possessed by evil spirits and starts killing people?” “You’re not even trying anymore are you,” deadpans his agent.

Rubber is a film about a car tire that inexplicably comes to life, works out that it can make people spontaneously combust and goes on a murderous rampage. We’ve had Christine, Chucky, reanimated dead animals, so why not a tire?

Sure it’s stupid. A little bit strange, but that’s not all.

There’s also a few other elements and they’re all equally odd, all quirky attempts to subvert cinema and stretch its boundaries. For instance there’s the presence of the Greek chorus, seemingly outside of the narrative, watching through binoculars and commenting on events. Then even that’s subverted. Later some of the characters break down the fourth wall, referring explicitly to the film, joyfully exposing its artificially. Almost every image is surreal. It feels like these images are equally as important as narrative. In Rubber weirdness reigns. In Rubber weirdness is normal.

It’s the debut film from quirky electronic artist Quentin Dupieux, aka Mr Oizo, and to be honest it’s wronger, weirder and much more inventive than most folks who have been in the business for years. It misses as much as it hits, but it’s fun, absurd, and silly. But then if you think about it so is cinema. So why hide it?

Interlude (Directors Suite)

Douglas Sirk was Hollywood’s king of melodrama, of impossible love, of broken hearts, and life shattering suffering. Cautionary tales of how if you open your heart against the odds and are willing to dream of a perfect love, there’s always a downside. He would offer you the dream, replete with beautiful picture postcard technicolour perfection, in this case exotic Salzburg and Munich, then he’d delight in throwing in the obstacle, not just a love triangle, but also a hidden secret that threatens to tear our lovers apart. That is the key to Sirk and why he was unique in the world of melodrama, his desire to create the impossibly perfect veneer, all the while conscious that this is simply surface beauty and a darker more complex emotional darkness lurks beneath.

In Interlude’s case we’ve got Helen Benning (June Allyson), an earnest young woman abroad, searching for love and adventure. Whilst initially courted by sensitive young doctor Morley Dwyer, the arrogant temperamental symphony conductor Tonio Fischer steals her heart. Everything’s going swimmingly, an exciting exotic European romance, up until Sirk brings in the obstacle. Tonio’s mad wife. Hello Jane Eyre.

There’s a certain discomfort in the final third of Interlude, you feel conflicted, almost complicit in your desire for the lovers to triumph despite the steadily mounting adversity. And Sirk shamelessly escalates to the point of hysteria. Like much of Sirk’s best work (Magnificent Obsession/ Imitation of Life) this is a remake of a John Stahl film, 1939’s When Tomorrow Comes, and this film is included on the second disc. Sirk’s version however is much more rewarding, thanks in the main to those typical Sirkian obsessions. Oh the agony.