I’ve encountered a number of odd things lately. Some shockingly fascinating, some sexy, some just plain odd. But they’ve all left me inspired. Each one has piqued my interest in their origins, and when it applies, what will come next of the people involved. I’d like to share those things with you…
Animals (Artsploitation Films)-What is Animals? Is it fantasy? Is it comedy? Is it drama? Yes, all of those things and weird too. Writer/Director Marcal Fores taps into a myriad of personal veins that range from the unbelievable to the undeniably familiar to anyone who’s been through puberty…or just their teen years for that matter.
In short (sorta), Animals is the story of Pol (played by Oriol Pla), a teenager in his formative years. Pol’s life is rather drab; he lives with his brother and conducts a life fitting of your basic teenager. But as is the case with all tales, Pol has a secret. Not your average secret, either. Pol has a friend named Deerhoof…a sweet little teddy bear. The 2 have shared a lifetime of memories and intimate secrets. That friendship encounters another world with the arrival of a new student in Pol’s school named Ikari. Ikari is dark and fascinating, which natural garners Pol’s fascination/obsession. Following a death shrouded in mysterious circumstances, the group sets off on a series of strange adventures. The foibles of teenage life are filtered through surreal lenses. Throughout all, these characters intersect on, though littered with tragedy, begs to be traveled. Reality is skewed in the most intriguing ways as love, sex & death are given new definitions.
Animals is fucking beautiful, period. It’s a completely different take on teen angst and confusion. The screenplay is amazing, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the performances are downright wonderful. While Animals may be a dark comedy drama fantasy something-or-other, it’s end result is a well executed movie. I was fully engaged. At moments, you’re given the impression that this was written from the perspective of someone who struggled with their own identity at one point. Be it their sexual identity or just who they were at all, the surrealism in Animals is used as a metaphor for some very personal ideas being exorcised. It’s not often a character takes me to such a personal place, but when they do, it stays with you. I cannot recommend this movie enough. The ways in which Pol seeks out who HE is are so angular and entertaining, you often leave behind the idea that overall this story is about death. If you’re old enough, you’ll revisit a place you’ve long left. If you’re young enough, Pol, Ikari, and Deerhoof, and the rest of the cast are representatives of familiar personalities in your life. Or, perhaps they’re representatives of who you are. Either way, worth every second of time you’ll invest into it. This is one of the best films to land stateside in a long time. If you’ve come looking for something conventional, you best keep looking. However, you will find a dark coming-of-age fairytale with a beautiful perspective if you stick around for Animals.
Jug Face (Moderncine)-If all the ingredients are measured out correctly, a recipe takes on its purest form. Such is the case with writer/director Chad Crawford Kinkle’s unique stroke of brilliance, Jug Face. The film is set in a backwoods community of moonshiners who conduct a series of odd ritualistic sacrifices to a beast who occupies a pit. Presumably, these sacrifices are a penance that both keeps the beast at bay and allows the moonshiners to harvest their “crop” so to speak. Whatever is in the pit is their god. Unfortunately, to appease that god, the community makes the aforementioned sacrifices. Those sacrifices are made up of their own. The sacrifices go like this: The local potter (Sean Bridgers) receives a divine message that leads to a face being sculpted into his most recent jug. If your face appears, your throat is slit over the pit and your blood is drained into it. When young Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) discovers she is pregnant, she has one goal in mind; to flee the community that may put her to death. Oh, and did I mention she was impregnated by her brother? Yeah, they’re that type of community. Ada makes the effort to get out after an encounter with a restless soul of a young man was wrongfully given to the pit. She knows her time is near, but Ada has plans to do otherwise. The community (which includes her family) is closing in on the discovery that she is due and Ada has just one opportunity to rid herself of their cult-ish clutches.
Man, what a cool movie! Kinkle won an award for this screenplay. After seeing Jug Face, I get the impression that he has a lot more in store as a filmmaker, too. It’s definitely derived from that American Gothic mentality, but the South portrayed in Jug Face is truly scary, not Wrong Turn scary…true fear. The combination of an impoverished South and the supernatural play into one another like a well constructed jam session. Both Kinkle’s script and the players involved create this ever-growing air of tension that culminates in a series of satisfying climaxes. Not satisfying in the sense of “Hey! The good guys win again!”, but satisfying in that the payoff is going to punch you in the gut. Attribute this to a stellar cast. The aforementioned lead, Lauren Ashley Carter, is ideal for this role. Her performance as Ada is is what makes horror my genre destination of choice. You hope to encounter actors like this because they keep you invested in what the future of horror has to offer. Easily one of my favorite performances of the year, hands down. I absolutely loved her in this. I’m not certain as to whether or not she will become a face we are familiar with in future horror films, but I’m certainly hoping so. Lauren Ashley Carter has the goods.
In addition to Carter, a couple of very recognizable faces kick their own performances in the ass. First, genre vet (both as an actor and filmmaker) Larry Fessenden does was Larry Fessenden does best: Character acts the hell out of this role! He is a name I’m always grateful to see pop up in the credits of a movie. His performance as Ada’s father/village leader is quite dramatic, but also earnest. Considering we’ve been down the road of backwoods cults before, a character like the one Fessenden portrays isn’t new. But, because Fessenden is so good at what he does, you’re compelled to hear him out. His conviction, no matter how fucked the situation may be, is admirable. His fear and admiration of the pit is palatable. The reverence he shows for the pit’s wishes is reflected in the community he leads as well. With that need required to portray this role properly, there was no one better than Larry Fessenden to take the reigns. He was joined by the underrated Sean Young(best known for her role in Blade Runner). Young’s performance as Loris, Ada’s mother, gives a human/realistic side to this community. Though she is erratic and sometimes vicious, Loris ultimately wants her daughter to have better. Unfortunately, her methods to prove so are often brash. For a prime example, look no further than her “examination” of her daughter. In this community, a daughter is to be “joined” (married basically) with another member of the village chosen for her. Ada disapproves of such antiquated ideologies. Ultimately, she sees it as a form of slavery. Loris disagrees (obviously), hence her reason for administering her own form of vaginal examination. The examination is done to ensure Ada’s virginity (which we already know is non-existent) and results in a dark altercation between the two. Sean Young does a great job of balancing. On one hand she comes hard and fast with that “Mommy Dearest” level of evil, but she also approaches her character with enough humanity that you can see that she’s not fully a monster. With so many extremes going on in this community, Young’s performance ultimately is the most identifiable simply due to the fact that you can read the misery in her face. The years of wondering when the pit will call for you have seem to taken their toll. Her portrayal is an accurate read on what that would look like on any of us. May this mean Sean Young will resurrect the now defunct “Hag Horror” films. She can do scary and make it real.
Jug Face is no run of the mill horror film. Kinkle’s story gave us a refreshing take on the scary backwoods family cult premise…and let’s be honest, that’s a premise in our world! With the exception of a few hokey dialogue trappings, this script has legs. You’ve got an original concept that uses some classic themes, a great cast, beautiful backdrops, and a spectacular use of tension. Couple that with some producers who know their shit (Lucky McKee and Andrew van den Houten, respectively) and the recipe previously discussed is executed with precision. You can consider this my ringing endorsement of both the film and its maker. Looking forward to what comes next from Kinkle.
Oui, Girls (Impulse Pictures)-You can probably link it back to growing up watching sleazy movies I should’ve never seen. Perhaps you can attach it to the fact that when I hit puberty and began masturbating as if I were being paid to do so (like all other teenage boys), this was the smut that was available. However you go about it, please don’t leave out the most important detail: I’m a die hard fan of the golden age of adult cinema. I’m talking about shooting on 35mm. I’m talking about written scripts, not just fucking on film. I’m talking about THEME SONGS WRITTEN FOR THE MOVIE!!! There will never be another era of porn like the one the world experienced through the 70’s into the mid 80’s. You may not see the artistic merit in it, but it’s there. Watch Behind The Green Door, The Devil In Miss Jones, Barbara Broadcast, or Sensations and tell me those AREN’T movies. You can’t, plain & simple. Those movies represent just a sliver of the cool movies that were birthed in that beloved era. Unfortunately, a lot of those movies are no longer in circulation due to a myriad of reasons. Fortunately for us, there are companies on this planet such as Synapse Films’ imprint, Impulse Pictures. Impulse Pictures specializes in unearthing some of the forgotten erotica from the heyday. One such slice of fried gold landed in my mailbox recently entitled Oui, Girls.
Oui, Girls is a virtual all star roster from the golden age. Featuring some of the most important names of the time like Paul Thomas, Sharon Kane, Lisa De Leeuw, and Joey Silvera, Oui, Girls oozes with awesome. The film’s primary starlet, Anna Ventura, plays Barbara. Barbara goes undercover working for Nick (Thomas) to try and uncover a murder. In doing so, Barbara and Nick are thrust headlong into a world of perversions that leads straight to one place-the Circle S Singles Ranch. Once inside the ranch’s perimeters, the duo fuck their way through the ranch’s current batch of patrons uncovering details as they go. Nick and Barbara are teetering back and forth between their investigation and falling in too deep (no pun intended).
Have you ever heard the name F.J. Lincoln? No? Hmm…perhaps you know him better as Fred Lincoln. Or maybe if I called him by the name Weasel, a light may go on. That’s right! The writer/director/producer of Oui, Girls (as well as a slew of others, namely Same Time Next Year featuring a spry young gent named Ron Jeremy!) is also one of the infamous “Baddies” in Wes Craven’s Last House On The Left. Back in the day, the lines between exploitation and adult film were quite blurry. A lot of the directors and actors moved back and forth between the two worlds. Lincoln was one such character, taking his turn writing and directing erotic cinema…and you know what? He was pretty damn good at it!
The cast of Oui, Girls is stellar. Attribute that to Lincoln. All of his films I’ve seen were well cast. In fact, I’m gonna take this time to dote on one the cast members in particular, Sharon Kane. Kane is one of the women I remember fondly from my youth. Foraging for porn was much harder when we were young. We didn’t have a plethora of free sites at our disposal…no sirree, we didn’t have sites!!! WE DIDN’T HAVE THE INTERNET!!!! IT DIDN’T EXIST!!! AND I WALKED UPHILL TO SCHOOL BOTH WAYS WHILE THE COLD WAR WAS GOING ON!!! Sounds awful, huh? It was. So, when you got your hands on some of that illicit material, you cherished it. You fucking studied it. Well, I studied Sharon Kane. Along side Seka, Vanessa Del Rio, and Christy Canyon, Ms. Kane was an object of my teenage lust. Like Seka, she had short blonde hair (for a period of time) which I found incredible sexy. That stuck out to me. Your hot substitute teacher had a short sassy ‘do, ya’ know? In fact, if you’ve ever had the privilege of seeing my beautiful wife, you’ll notice that she has short blonde hair. Sometimes platinum, sometimes naturally blonde, but always hot. Attribute that to whatever you’d like, but I like that “look”. Oh, and for the record, she chose that hairstyle…not me. I digress. Sharon Kane was a face I was very familiar with. She was in a lot of the movies that I grew to love from that era. Her performances both as an actress AND a performer was always exciting. When I received my copy of Oui Girls, I lit up after seeing Ms. Kane’s name billed as one of the players. As always, she’s sexy. She has a strong command while on camera, at times it’s almost intimidating (another trait I admired in the other performers I mentioned). She’s billed in the liner notes as “The Amazing Sharon Kane”. This is an understatement. Kane owns her scenes. OWNS them. I honestly squirmed a bit watching her perform in Oui, Girls. She still does it to me.
Bottom line, Oui, Girls is legit. It’s another cool movie unearthed and lovingly restored by Impulse Pictures. It’s got a great bunch of stars from the era packed into it. It’s a glimpse of a different time in that industry, but it still stacks up against its peers pretty darn well. Gimme a F.J. Lincoln movie over Gaping Buttholes Vol.36 any day! That’s a thing, right
The Rialto Report-As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m a bit of podcast whore. I bloat myself them on them daily. Mainly, Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast consumes my time, along with a few others (The Nerdist, You Made It Weird, How Did This Get Made?, and The Indoor Kids are all worth hitting up!) are my go to’s. Then, I discovered The Rialto Report.
The Rialto Report is a podcast hosted by Michael Bowen and Ashley West solely dedicated to the golden age of the adult film industry that took place in New York. Ya’ know, the pre-Giuliani Times Square? That New York. The one they choked the life out of. The podcast features guests from all facets of that era including performers, directors, journalists, etc. They recall their time in that world. Some of the best episodes I’ve come across include The Platinum Princess, Seka, and an episode disspelling one of the most mythical women to take part in the adult world…Uschi Digard. Yeah!! So many strange rumors crushed in that interview that my head is still reeling.
This podcast is a love letter to a different time filled with fascinating weirdos and monsters alike. If you fancy yourself a fan of that era in any capacity, I recommend…nay, DEMAND…you listen to The Rialto Report.
Hope these leads y’all down some strange roads of joy! I’m gonna leave you with a track from Noctum’s latest album, Final Sacrifice (Metal Blade Records)…I can’t stop listening to it!!! Neither should you!!!
Tags: animals, artsploitation films, exploitation, fred lincoln, Golden Age of Porn, Horror, Impulse Pictures, jug face, Larry Fessenden, Last House on the Left, Lucky McKee, oui girls, porn, Sleaze, Synapse Films