What’s scarier than the exploitation of capitalist culture, our societal collapse into a dystopian nightmare, and our inexorable march into cosmic obliteration? Answer: Nothing. And so MMC! celebrates this All Hallow’s Eve with a trio of animated mind-melters from Canadian animator Nick Cross. First up is The Pig Farmer (2010) – “a simple tale of a wayward soul, awash in an ocean of tragedy and regret.” Well, that and various pork-related gags. Don’t be fooled by the fairy tale-vibe and cutesy look; this short ain’t for the kids!
Next up is Perihelion (2013), “a sort of animated tone poem” inspired by German Expressionist and Surrealist painters of the early 20th Century like Otto Dix, Richard Oelze, Ingrid Griebel-Zietlow, Rudolf Schlichter, and Max Ernst, as well as Francisco Goya. The short operates as something of a Möbius strip tracking a cycle of human downfalls. The effect is amazing in execution and awful in vision. You’re welcome!
Lastly, we wrap up this dispiriting tribute to Nick Cross with The Clockwork Elves (2020). Cross’s summary of the short is questionable: “The Clockwork Elves could be a pyschotropic exploration of spirituality and death – or it could be a tale of a little goofball hopped up on goofballs. Either way — it’s a cartoon.” Made single-handedly over seven years, the short takes the animator’s critiques of late capitalism deeper into the psychedelic nightmare than ever before, creating a vision quest montage that is amazingly spectacular, shockingly vibrant, and exceptionally apocalyptic. This is the squished and squashed, cutesy-pie version of Pearl Jam’s “Do the Evolution” video and it’s just as bracing.
If all of this is a bit too nightmarishly heavy for you, then MMC! recommends revisiting Over the Garden Wall (2014), a modern Halloween classic that perfectly celebrates American colonial folklore, historical commercial art, and East Coast animation. Cross worked as the series’ art director and it should be required viewing for any Halloween fanatic.
It’s Tuesday and MMC! is aiming its spotlight at La Casa (2019), Jorge Olguin’s latest which drops on VOD today! Tired of his recent forays in big film productions and having seen a five year project fall apart, Olguin’s latest is a lean 75-minute effort that he calls “a full-on, classic haunted house movie.” He served as his own writer, director, cinematographer, sound designer, composer, and editor on the project and his mere three-night shoot took Olguin a year to assemble in post-production. Olguin’s reward for his effort was a premiere of La Casa at the 2020 edition of the prestigious Sitges Film Festival.
La Casa is set in 1986, amid the brutal and repressive regime of Augusto Pinochet, and is based on accounts of the Casona Dubois, an infamous Santiago residence associated with various urban legends of unnatural mysticism and paranormal activity. Officer Arriagada (played by acclaimed Chilean actor Gabriel Cañas) is on duty one night patrolling the empty streets and enforcing the government-imposed curfew. Already troubled and distraught, Arriagada is sent to investigate complaints about noises emanating from a nearby home and he is drawn into the building by screams of a woman. Once inside, Arriagada in confronted with horrors connected to personal and national traumas that threaten him both physically and psychically. La Casa resembles contemporary found-footage horror cinema with its single-camera perspective, its concealed edits, and its progression in real-time, and Olguin’s technique is commendable, masking what is likely a limited budget and modest effects with a constrained point of view, evocative lighting, and an electronic score that would easily be overbearing were it not proceeding in such tight lockstep with the film’s visuals. The result is intensely impressionistic, making La Casa almost feel more like a walkthrough than a film, more like a ride than a story. It’s a highly affecting experience which is hardly subtle but thoroughly engrossing if you acquiesce to being pulled into its dark undertow. This trailer precisely expresses the experience of viewing La Casa and so, if you wish this minute and forty-second audio-visual experience could last another 73 minutes, Olguin’s film won’t disappoint.
When a bank heist goes awry, Rex Coen (Ben O’Toole) spends eight years in prison and is hounded by the media on his release. The unwanted attention forces Rex to flee his hometown of Boise, Idaho, in search of anonymity in Finland, but his arrival in Helsinki lands him in a new, fresh hell. Gassed during his taxi ride from the airport, Rex wakes up drugged, beaten, and bound in the basement of a twisted family hiding a dark secret. With only his personified conscience to help him, Rex is in a race against time to save himself and a beautiful young woman (Meg Fraser) from his terrifying captors and a fate worse than death.
An action-horror-comedy that merges Fight Club with Fargo, Alister Grierson’s Bloody Hell is a raucous midnight crowd pleaser ready for fans of Sam Raimi, John Wick, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Special Edition Contents:
High Definition Blu-ray (1080p) presentation
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and Uncompressed Stereo PCM
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
Boi To Hel, new interviews with cast and crew
Rex in an Ass-Kicking Contest, an interview with director Alister Grierson and lead actor Ben O’Toole on the film’s special effects
Happy Christmas Eve! And what better way for MMC! to extend its season’s greetings than by sharing Chowboys: An American Folktale (2018), the final work of Winnipeg’s irreverent Astron-6. Here, three stupid cowboys struggle to survive in the frigid mountains on the coldest night of the year. Beautiful hands, sheet cakes, St. Nicholas, and cannibalism make for a wacky and gory holiday short set on Christmas Eve. God bless us, everyone (although maybe not Wendigo Santa).
Pacific Northwest, 1983 A.D. Outsiders Red Miller and Mandy Bloom lead a loving and peaceful existence in near isolation. When their pine-scented splendour is savagely destroyed by the sadistic Jeremiah Sand and his cult “The Children of the New Dawn,” Red is catapulted into a phantasmagoric journey filled with bloody vengeance and laced with fire. Armed with a hand-forged battle axe and an insane thirst for revenge, Red won’t stop until he has destroyed Jeremiah and his disciples.
From the visionary mind of Canadian filmmaker Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow), Mandy is an ultra-hard, stylishly told hell-trip with heavy metal symbolism, demonic motorcycle mutants, buzzing chainsaws, and a phenomenal performance by Nicolas Cage as an unstoppable, single-minded avenger. Arrow Video proudly presents this modern grindhouse classic for the first time on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray.
LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
4K (2160p) UHD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible) approved by director Panos Cosmatos
High definition Blu-ray (1080p)
Original DTS-HD 5.1 surround sound
Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
New audio commentary with Panos Cosmatos and filmmaker and critic Sam Ashurst
Interview at the Sundance Film Festival with producers Lisa Whalen, Josh Waller, Daniel Noah, and Elijah Wood and special guests Nicolas Cage, Vince Neil from the band Mötley Crüe, and Panos Cosmatos
Acid Wash, new interview with cinematographer Benjamin Loeb
It’s Gobblin’ Good!, new interview with director Chris Casper Kelly and special effects artist Shane Morton on the Cheddar Goblin commercial
And Red All Over, new interview with designer Richard Kenworthy of Shynola on the film’s title cards
Standing on the Edge of Time, new interview with animation director David Garcia
The Blade and the Beast, new interview with weapon maker Tim Wagendorp
Deleted and extended scenes
Teasers and trailers
Concept art and stills gallery
Rewind This!, a feature-length documentary with audio commentary by director Josh Johnson, producer Carolee Mitchell and cameraman and editor Christopher Palmer
Soundtrack CD with music composer Jóhann Jóhannsson
10″ vinyl single of “Amulet of the Weeping Maze” by Jeremiah Sand
Fold-out double-sided poster featuring original and newly commissioned artwork
Four retro-poster photos double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions, alternative posters and promotional images
44-page collectors’ booklet featuring new writing on the film by Travis Woods and an introduction by Panos Cosmatos
The final day of the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival opened with Matthew Rankin’s The Twentieth Century (2019), a fictionalized portrait of Canada’s weirdest, longest-serving, and middlest-of-the-road Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King. The film side-steps Mackenzie King’s secret spiritualism and instead creates a broader, stranger fantasy of Canada at the dawn of a new era. Rankin’s prerecorded introduction for the film described it as “nightmarishly Canadian” and his words were apt. The Twentieth Century is an Eraserhead/Isle of Dogs-esque imagining of Canadian history and culture, one obsessed with maple walnut ice cream, the scent of fresh timber, passive-aggressive manners, Indian leg wrestling, and medicinal “puffin cream.” Inspiration was taken from the Prime Minister to-be’s personal diary and Rankin connected with Mackenzie King’s tendencies toward vanity, repression, self-righteousness, and self-pity. Played by Dan Beirne with petulant primness, Mackenzie King struggles to achieve his maternally prophesied political and romantic aims (and sublimate his dominating shoe fetish), and the film traces his misadventures through the brutalist interiors of Rideau Hall, the frozen utopia of Quebec, a sunny and freshly logged, new age Vancouver, and a baseless and fetid Winnipeg.
A former Winnipegger himself, Rankin carries on the prairie post-modernism of Guy Maddin and John Paizs, and like his predecessors, Rankin finds ways to make a hard earned dime look like an eccentrically spent dollar (or loonie). Hand-painted and animated in sections by Rankin himself and utilizing a palette that evokes the colours of Canadian banknotes, The Twentieth Century’s stunning production design recalls earlier film eras with its intertitle chapter cards while it also embraces the fresh Canadianness established in the aesthetics of Group of Seven painters like Lawren Harris and York Wilson and the modernist designs of Expo ’67. Rankin even loads his historical subject with a gleeful perversity and a shameless phallocentricism that would do Ken Russell proud – watch out for that ejaculating cactus and that narwhal horn! The Twentieth Century is an acid trip-take on peace, order, and good government and it is staunchly glorious.
Oscilloscope Laboratories has picked up the rights to Rankin’s brilliant film and we can only hope that its eventual hard media release will not only include The Twentieth Century but also many (if not all) of Rankin’s short films including Negativipeg (2010), the most Winnipeg-ish thing I’ve ever seen committed to film.