Faces Of Death (1978) (Video Nasty review #6)

Director: John Alan Schwartz

Starring: Michael Carr

“During the past 20 years I know that my compulsion to understand death was much greater than just an obsession. My dreams have dictated my mission. But now it is time to witness the final moment, to discover the circle that forever repeats ifself. The end of the beginning or the beginning of the end? I’ll leave that decision to you.” (Dr Gross, Faces Of Death)

I’ve been putting off watching Faces Of Death for years but I knew that my pledge to eventually watch all 72 video nasties meant that one day I’d have to grin and bear it. With my fiancee on holiday in France, I figured there was no time like the present. As I expected, Faces Of Death is fucking horrible.

Ironically, this is actually a real drowned corpse that a member of the film crew came across by pure chance during the film's production

This gruesome ’70s film is part documentary, part mockumentary, a film that claims it wants us to consider death and make us question the ways in which we kill and be killed, but in reality it’s just an excuse to show scene after scene of grotesque footage. It’s since been admitted that around 40% of the footage was faked, but that of course means around 60% was real and that’s just macabre.

Of course, even if it hadn’t been admitted that much of Faces Of Death was fake, these days it’d be much easier to tell anyway. The film originally gained notoriety and popularity in the early days of VHS, where people would rent and copy the taboo tape, passing it around their friends and constantly degrading the already fuzzy picture quality in the process. This made it easier to believe all the footage was real, because the detail lost in the tape quality would be filled in by the viewer’s subconscious and made “realistic” in their heads.  Continue reading “Faces Of Death (1978) (Video Nasty review #6)”

Beyond The Mat (1999)

Director: Barry Blaustein

Starring: Mick Foley, Jake Roberts, Terry Funk, Vince McMahon

“My mother was 13 years old when I was born. Why? Because my dad raped a little girl that was in a room asleep. My dad was going out with my mother’s mother. There you go. There’s some bones for Jake the Snake.” (Jake Roberts, Beyond The Mat)

I know professional wrestling isn’t “real” – I know the results are predetermined, I know the storylines are set months in advance and I know winning a championship belt is nothing more than a backstage reward for your in-ring ability and the way you connect with the crowd. So does Barry Blaustein, the documentary filmmaker who spent a few years making Beyond The Mat. But that doesn’t mean the athletes involved (and they are athletes – they might have already picked a winner but it still hurts) don’t often go through both physical and mental hell to bring an entertaining show to the public. This film aims to expose that torment.  Continue reading “Beyond The Mat (1999)”

Religulous (2008)

Director: Larry Charles

Starring: Bill Maher

“Of course [you don’t believe in Santa Claus], that’s ridiculous, it’s one man flying all over the world, dropping presents out of chimneys, that’s ridiculous. But one man hearing everybody murmur to him at the same time… that I get.” (Bill Maher, Religulous)

Bill Maher is no stranger to controversy, but in Religilous he tries to take it to the next level by discussing, criticising and mocking every religion he can think of, usually to the faces of those deeply involved with said religions.

For the record, I’m a part-time Catholic. I was raised Catholic, went to a Catholic school, used to go to chapel on a weekly basis and consider myself Catholic. That said, I’m not the greatest Catholic in the world. I don’t go to chapel anymore and I pick and choose which of the Bible’s rules I live my life by because society has changed a lot since then – if slavery was okay 100 years ago and it isn’t now, what’s to say the stuff we were being taught 2000 years ago is still valid?  Continue reading “Religulous (2008)”

Best Worst Movie (2009)

Director: Michael Stephenson

Starring: George Hardy, Michael Stephenson, Margo Prey, Connie Young

“You compare our movie to a Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart movie and it fits in. Because our movie was all about people and the experiences those people are experiencing. Just as Casablanca and those movies are about people and the experiences they are experiencing.” (Margo Prey, Best Worst Movie)

Let’s not beat about the bush here – I review an awful lot of shite on this site. That’s what makes it fun. The worse a movie is, the more I generally enjoy watching it. As a film that many regard as the worst ever made, then, Troll 2 is a film that holds a special place in my heart.

The New Kids On The Block reunion wasn't a very pretty sight

Most of us don’t take the time, however, to consider the people who starred in these films, or those who directed or wrote them. How do these people feel when they read the countless reviews ripping their hard work to shreds? How does it affect your confidence when, 20 years down the line, people are still calling your film a bucket of dogshit or saying you shouldn’t even be cast in a primary school play? These are the questions that Best Worst Movie attempts to answer.  Continue reading “Best Worst Movie (2009)”

The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior (2005)

Director: Kevin Dunn

Starring: Warrior, Vince McMahon, Bobby Heenan, Ted DiBiase, Hulk Hogan, Jerry Lawler, Jim Ross, Bruce Pritchard, Chris Jericho

“History tells us, Hogan, that a man’s legacy is built from the premise that within his life, the moments lived, once lived, become a piece of his history. Somehow, you have conveniently, even eloquently misplaced pieces of your history. In the one time, epical battle between us, Hogan, you were the quintessential influence of what was good, great, and heroic. But different than you may remember, and albeit you may have beaten myths, legends, giants, and other great men, you never, never beat a warrior. And certainly not the ultimate one.” (Warrior, The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior)

Even though I’m a self-confessed wrestling fan, I haven’t stuck anything wrestling-related on TWABM yet and I’m not sure I will again, at least not unless I come across another DVD as ridiculous as The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior. While a lot of wrestling these days could be considered “a bit mental”, that’s more or less par for the course and talking about it on here regularly would be like talking about camels on That Was A Bit Humpy – it sort of goes without saying.

It's hard to believe but it turns out this guy was a bit of a nutter

If that camel was to suddenly start talking about another camel who pissed it off 20 years ago though, and went out of its way to assassinate its character in every way imaginable, then we’d have something worth talking about, and this DVD does exactly that. Except it’s about a wrestler, not a camel. Look, just forget I ever mentioned camels, that was a terrible idea.

Anyone my age (late 20’s) who was into WWF when they were younger doesn’t need an explanation of who the Ultimate Warrior was. He was easily the most intense and energetic of the WWF superstars, and though we never really understood what he was going on about or even enjoyed his matches much – even as a kid when everything was exciting – his crazy facepaint, sheer power and endless energy made him a fan favourite. Behind the scenes though, it turns out he was a few turnbuckles short of a squared circle.  Continue reading “The Self-Destruction Of The Ultimate Warrior (2005)”

9/11 (2002)

Directors: Jules & Gedeon Naudet

Starring: Jules & Gedeon Naudet, the Fire Department of New York, the citizens of New York City

“When I came back that day to the firehouse, one firefighter came to me and he said, ‘You know, yesterday you had one brother. Today, you have fifty.'” (Jules Naudet, 9/11)

On 11 September 2001 I had a lie-in. I was moving to Edinburgh in a matter of days and was enjoying all my home comforts for as long as I possibly could, and that included my comfy bed. I woke up to my dad standing over me, trying to nudge me awake. “Chris,” he said urgently, “come on downstairs and see the telly. Two planes have flown into the World Trade Center”. Then he ran downstairs to keep watching. As I sat up and rubbed my eyes, I have to confess I thought to myself: “What the hell is the World Trade Center?”

Some of the early scenes feature ominous shots like this one

It was a thought that, with ten years of history behind it, seems like the stupidest thing any human being could ever muster in their mind. But I was a naive 18-year-old back then and, having never been to New York or been interested in the world of finance, I had no reason to have been familiar with the Twin Towers. Still, my dad seemed interested in it for some reason, and he’d never woken me up to see the news before, so I stumbled downstairs to see what the big deal was. And then, like the rest of the world, I sat dumbstruck in front of the television for the rest of the day.

I feel I should defend my decision to review 9/11 on this site. Given my usual tongue-in-cheek review style, the site’s heavy focus on cult and horror films and the slew of cheesy schlock posters decorating the site’s edges – not to mention the site’s name – it may seem incredibly disrespectful to review such a serious documentary, one about an atrocious terrorist attack in which almost 3000 people died.

This footage was one of the only shots of the first plane crash

I have three reasons for reviewing 9/11 today. Firstly, as I write this it’s 11 September 2011, ten years to the day after the original attacks. Secondly, despite the quirky nature of most of the films I review, That Was A Bit Mental has a pretty wide-ranging criteria for films that qualify for inclusion in the site. Quite simply, any film that features something out of the ordinary is considered for TWABM, and to say the events of 9/11 were ‘out of the ordinary’ is perhaps the ultimate understatement. Finally, 9/11 is a fantastic documentary and the one that best illustrates the atrocities committed that day by far.

Originally, this was a documentary about firefighting. French brothers Jules and Gedeon Naudet wanted to make a film following a rookie fireman as he joins a New York fire department and learns the ropes, tackles his first fire and the like. To be fair, from the first ten or fifteen minutes of footage (which take place in the months preceding September 11) it looked like it was going to be a fairly shit documentary.

The footage inside the WTC is unsettling

The rookie they were following, Tony, was a “white cloud” – a term used for firefighters who never get big fires while they’re on duty. Every time Tony was working, the fires weren’t happening. As one of the Naudets says, they had a good film about cooking – much of the footage involved the firefighters making dinner at the station – but a pretty bad one about firefighting. And then September 11 came.

That morning, the department got a report of a suspected gas leak – a fairly straightforward incident with no real danger. One of the brothers went with a small group to practice his filming while they checked it out, and while he filmed them he heard a noise above him. Pointing the camera upward, he unwittingly became one of the only people in the world to catch footage of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center.

The brother in the streets was even closer than this when the first building collapsed

What follows is a remarkable take on the events of that day, split into two stories. One follows the aforementioned brother as he follows the small team of firefighters to the WTC (they were the first team to arrive there that day), showing remarkable footage from inside the tower as the emergency services try to plan an unplannable rescue. The other follows the other brother who, upon hearing the news of the first attack, goes out onto the streets to document the mood there and ends up getting caught among the carnage as the towers collapse.

The only thing I don’t like about 9/11 is the talking head sections, where the firefighters chat about what happened. One firefighter in particular, James Hanlon (who used to be an actor before joining the FDNY), doesn’t come across as sincere and his ‘interview’ sections are clearly pre-written, dramatic statements that seem a little showy and don’t really suit the honest, raw tone of the rest of the film.

Hanlon’s ill-suited showboating aside, 9/11 is immensely powerful. Look, I don’t usually advocate this sort of thing, but here’s a link to the whole bloody thing. The DVD is out of print now, and buying it second-hand won’t raise money for the 9/11 charities like it did when it was originally on sale nine years ago. So here’s the whole thing. It’s an hour and 45 minutes long. Just watch it. It does a much better job of explaining the feelings of 9/11 in that time than I, or anyone else, could ever hope to in a million words of text.