Long Dream (2000) Director Higuchinsky’s adaptation of a horror manga by Junji Ito is only 59 minutes long, but it packs a potent wallop. A seasoned doctor (Masami Horiuchi) and his young protégé observe an unusual patient with a strange affliction. Each night, the patient experiences dreams that incrementally increase in duration (one night equals a month, then one year, etc…). As his mental state erodes, and his subjective perception of time progresses, his physical appearance undergoes a radical transformation. The changes in his patient seem to trigger a reaction in the elder doctor, who experiences vivid flashbacks to his past
Long Dream (aka: Nagai Yume) was produced for Japanese TV, so the production values are accordingly lo-fi (although the makeup effects are quite effective). Once you keep your expectations in check, and allow the film’s implications to sink in, it gets under your skin. The film illustrates how we enter another world in the dream state, which amplifies our pleasures and pain. As with his earlier film adaptation of Ito’s manga Uzumaki, Higuchinsky demonstrates his affinity for capturing the author/illustrator’s uniquely unnerving visuals and tone. The conclusion only contributes to our mounting sense of unease. Our next foray into sleep is a potential plunge into the abyss.
Rating: ***½. Available on DVD
Prevenge (2016) Writer/director/star Alice Lowe’s (Sightseers) unconventional comedy evokes squirms more frequently than laughs, as it explores the fears and angst of pregnancy. After her partner dies in a rock climbing accident, Ruth (Alice Lowe) is forced to face the prospects of single parenthood. Her life continues to slide into upheaval when the fetus instructs her to murder anyone who’s slighted her. Lowe, who was very pregnant at the time, lends an extra level of veracity to her role, as someone whose body is no longer her own. Ruth’s attempts to cater to her unborn infant’s homicidal demands only lead to further strife. Prevenge has some funny moments, but Ruth’s mental anguish is a little too immediate to take lightly. The film deserves merit, however, for Lowe’s raw portrayal, which makes her film at once personal and universal.
Rating: ***. Available on Blu-ray (Region B) and DVD (Region 2)
The New York Ripper (1982) Lucio Fulci’s sleazy gore-fest is often difficult to watch, but hard to ignore. A killer with a Donald Duck voice roams the streets of New York in search of his next victim (which include sex workers and an adventurous socialite).
A grizzled detective (Jack Hedley) and a cocky college professor create an uneasy alliance to outwit the murderer. Fulci keeps you guessing until the end, throwing one red herring after another into the mix. With few likeable characters, it’s not an easy watch, but it’s never boring. It works as an imperfect portrait of New York’s seamy underbelly, or at least a version of the city that Fulci wants us to see. While I can’t quite bring myself to recommend it, I can’t quite condemn it.
Rating: ***. Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Amazon Prime
Lady Terminator (aka: Nasty Hunter) (1988) Director H. Tjut Djalil takes more than a few cues from James Cameron’s seminal killer android film, but with an Indonesian twist. Based (loosely) on the legend of the South Sea Queen, the film’s prologue introduces us to a lustful queen who lives in an undersea palace. An American anthropology student goes scuba diving, and suddenly falls under the queen’s spell. Using the student’s body as a host, the vengeful queen embarks on a bloody quest for a jade amulet, luring horny men to their deaths along the way. As the body count rises, the cops, led by a plucky American (why he’s in charge, I’ll never know), attempt to stop her one-woman killing spree. Lady Terminator knows what it is, and never makes any pretenses about being anything else. It’s silly, trashy, and irredeemably amateurish, but sometimes that’s all we want from this sort of movie.
Rating: ***. Available on DVD