Somebody reckoned that this idea looked good on paper, and I must admit that I thought the same when I read the distributors blurb. We are in low-budget territory here, that’s nothing new with independent filmmakers and so one has to expect somewhat lower standards than major movie companies have. It’s also expected that the quality of talent may not be top-notch, and the industry is full of people using friends and family as extras in their films, but when the ‘star’ of the film, Nana Gouvea, is a totally wooden ‘actress’ who also happens to be the Producer’s wife, you just know that there are barrels laying around with the bottoms scraped out. It’s nepotism at its worst.
For purely practical reasons I often dictate the review as I watch the film, it saves me a lot of time because following the dictation all I will need to do is to come back to this and edit it. A similar process usually happens in filmmaking, where the ‘rushes’ from that day get reviewed, which I can only assume didn’t occur with Black Wake. My reason for saying that is simply that even 12 minutes into this film it is already a tedious mess of poor protracted dialogue, bad pacing and unnecessary scenes.
Tom Sizemore, once a reliable backup for tough guy roles in many big Hollywood movies, does his best with a lacklustre script, although to be honest his acting these days isn’t up to scratch, even so, he still manages to elevate a few of his scenes in a dire film with his presence. Under normal circumstances an actor with the quality of Sizemore’s back catalogue wouldn’t be working in films like this, but alcohol and drug abuse have clearly taken their toll and his history of violence against women is similarly intolerable so my bet is that he’s glad of any work he can get. He has worked with Carlos Keyes before on the films Blood Circus and Killer Response (both of which, not surprisingly, star Nana Gouvea). However, exactly how long they will continue to work with Sizemore is debatable in the wake of this month’s allegations of him molesting an 11-year-old girl.
Regarding Nana Gouvea, in less than 20 minutes she has already proven her ability to overact into a web cam, it is also unfortunate that much of what I’ve seen so far is exposition from her character in streams of badly delivered dialogue. Her facial expressions are often at odds with what she is saying and considering that much of this film (in its entirety) is her talking, that’s not good.
Over the 20 minute stage and Eric Roberts makes his first appearance, now Eric Roberts has also had a heavyweight career, although a mixture of heavy cocaine use and a disfiguring car crash, both in the 80s, altered his trajectory. He has a reputation these days for never turning down a project with 74 movies in the bag last year alone. I will go on record here as being an Eric Roberts fan, I think he is capable of much better things than walk on parts in rubbish like Black Wake. I hope there will come a time when he gets that second bite of the cherry and can leave B-Movies behind, but for the time being he’s doing stuff like this, and that might well be good for him financially, but it’s bad for the rest of the cast as they all look far worse next to someone who can actually act.
From the distributor blurb:
“It has screened at festivals across the world, winning Best Horror Feature Film at the 2018 Phillip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival, Best Special Effects and Best Kill at the Independent Horror Movie Awards 2018 and the Special Jury Award at Brazil International Film Festival 2018.”
Maybe it’s just me; I’m always fascinated when something as bad as Black Wake wins awards. It makes me question the credibility of the awards to the point where I actually bother to research them to see if they have any validity. The Philip K Dick film Festival awards are in the sixth year, so perhaps not enough word is out for them to be sent good quality movies, I will give it the benefit of the doubt. The two awards from the Brazil international film festival seem hollow considering the somewhat limited field, so in my opinion, and it is only my opinion, I don’t see the awards as been that big a deal on the international forum. Sounds good for publicity reasons, just not a true indicator of any quality.
An hour into this is and it is finally getting better, for a film alluding to Lovecraftian darkness it’s taken its own sweet time getting anywhere near that, we now have scorpion-like bugs, uninspired zombies and a largely unseen monstrous mind-controlling shape in the sea, but still we monstly have Nana Gouvea mugging to the camera and explaining shit that we should be being shown to the point where I am now sick of the sight of her.
1:18 and we actually see what (some of) the shape is and then the end credits with the only part of the film worth watching, the mass of out-takes in the end credits.
To say that I didn’t enjoy this film is an understatement. To give you some idea of just how thrilling it wasn’t I started watching it three and a half hours ago and thanks to it being so boring for the first hour I was able to leave it every ten minutes or so and go do something more enjoyable such as emptying the bins, cooking and eating my lunch, doing the washing up, putting laundry in the machine, hell, I would even have de-wormed the cat except that I don’t have a cat. Anything would have been more enjoyable than… Ah fuck, I can’t even remember the name of this pile of shite now… THAT’s how good it is. Black Wake, that’s it, it’s called…. ZZZZzzzzzzzzzz
Having finished it I can only assume that those who give awards have probably watched the last ten minutes and assumed that’s representative of the whole, something like that anyway. Needless to say, I can’t recommend it.
A short French film from Director Roman Soni
Many filmmakers produce short movies with varying results in terms of production quality, acting ability et cetera, some having very ill-conceived and poorly executed ideas, but I am glad to say this film by Roman Soni is not one of them. A shade less than 13 minutes long Strix begins with an unfortunate woman being attacked and murdered and a Venetian mask being left by her body. We then jump forward 12 years to an almost obligatory shower scene, rather than the usual woman taking a shower getting stabbed by an assailant this woman is actually able to finish her ablutions and get dressed. There is however someone at the door, that someone is wearing the same Venetian mask.
What could be a standard slasher flick takes a little diversion as the guy in the mask holds the woman hostage. Her husband and his friend arrive back at the house to find her with a knife being held at her throat, and they are told they must play a questions and answers game or she will die.
At this point you’re probably thinking that you can guess the rest, and if you manage to your better at this than I am because although I got some of it in advance it was clever enough to include a satisfying twist.
The stars, Corentin Cuvelier, Sebastien Wust, Emilie Gn, Yohan Desvaux and Juline Thibaut all add class to the proceedings with clear and credible performances.
The technical aspects are solid, the score near-perfect and special effects as good as anything out there.
Obviously with it being less than 13 minutes long there is not a hell of a lot of content to review, certainly not without giving major spoilers. So I will go no further except to say that it’s available on YouTube and worth 13 minutes of anyone’s time. It is in French, so you may need to toggle the subtitle setting.
The Clown Prince of Guerrilla Film-Making
I’m wearing my ‘Fanboy’ hat today; for once it’s not a case where I was unfamiliar with the subject of this biography as I have grown up watching Larry Cohen’s output. There’s a better than average chance that even if you are unfamiliar with Larry Cohen you’ll have seen, or at the very least heard of, many of his films. For the benefit of those who can’t quite place him here are a few of his ‘cult classic’ creations:
Q (The Winged Serpent)
A Return to Salem’s Lot.
Aside from those he is the man responsible for dozens of other films and TV series spanning several genres and fifty years, amongst which is the first thing which brought him to my attention, the TV series ‘The Invaders’ with Roy Thinnes as David Vincent, an architect who sees a UFO and spends 43 episodes trying to convince everyone that aliens walk among us. It’s classic TV and expands on the small town paranoia evident in America at the time as well as being bolstered by such things as the Twilight Zone episode ‘The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street’ from 7 years earlier.
His work output is something few can match, but aside from being prolific as both writer and film-maker there’s another aspect of Larry Cohen which is noteworthy in that he is a true renegade. Up until recently there have been relatively few people who have wrote/directed/produced their own projects, mostly as film studios have overbearing control of what their budgets goes into, although nowadays with modern technology making it possible to create an entire movie on a smartphone it’s more common to be an ‘indie film-maker’. Larry Cohen had one way of operating, and that was ‘his own’, he didn’t want what he was writing to be at the mercy of directors and producers who would bastardize his work and so he wore all of the hats required to get a project in the can. He also had a somewhat liberal attitude toward ‘getting permission’ for certain things such as filming street scenes and using particular buildings, and so he winged it for much of the time, setting up cameras and ‘stealing shots’. A fine example of pushing his luck would be having comedian/actor Andy Kaufman dress as a policeman and join a real NYPD Police Parade without telling anyone. The documentary is full of stuff Larry Cohen brazenly pulled off which if you were to try it today you’d probably end up doing hard time for, assuming that with today’s permit-centric society with surveillance on every street corner you were actually able to do something longer than the average ‘prank’. What Cohen did was, simply put, ‘Guerrilla Film-making’ at its finest.
For the addicts such as myself there are many clips of his finest works, such as the notorious ‘Window Cleaner’ scene from ‘Q’, and a wealth of interviews with John Landis, Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, Fred Williamson, Rick Baker, Yaphet Kotto, Traci Lords, Eric Roberts, David J Schow, J.J. Abrams and Mick Garris to name a few, and of course the man himself who gives plenty of screen time packed with anecdotes, (some of which are typically disputable for such a roguish storyteller) of his life and times from his early days of wannabe stand-up comic turned writer and film maker, right up to his latest endeavours.
‘King’ Larry Cohen may not be a household name, and that is something I think is awful given his contribution to entertainment, but one thing is for certain, he deserves the title ‘King’ as he is the ruler of his own talent as well as a man who recognises the capabilities in those around him and enables them to give their best, something which has been for the betterment of an industry in which the strictures placed on creativity are overwhelming.
‘King Cohen: The Wild World of Filmmaker Larry Cohen’ will receive a full theatrical run across the U.S beginning July 20 in L.A (with other cities in the weeks to follow), courtesy Dark Star Pictures. There’s no news as yet about distribution for the home audience, but when that happens I’m certain this will be a ‘must see’ for any genre enthusiast.
Definitely one to watch.
Just in case you’ve been living on a distant planet with no electricity for the past few decades and don’t know who Kane Hodder is, he’s an actor famous for numerous character portrayals in horror movies, most notably as undoubtedly the most famous incarnation of Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th Franchise. He is also Victor Crowley in the Hatchet series of films as well as having appeared and starred in a slew of other movies not only balls-deep in monster makeup but also with his face easily visible. You may even have seen him in cameo roles in films such as the Oscar winning ‘Monster’ and not have realised that this is the guy who is the best incarnation of Jason Voorhees in all of the slashers.
Every so often I will make a confession in my reviews and here’s biggie for you… I’m not much of a fan of the Friday the 13th films. Why? Well, it’s because I find franchises get tired very quickly, mainly because there’s nothing new happening. The likes of Friday the 13th and Halloween are really just the same seemingly indestructible guy in a mask going around slaughtering people. I loved them when they first came out in the cinema but after three or four or more movies with the same character doing the same things it gets a bit dull.
What’s that you say? I’m not a fan of Friday the 13th and by extension not a fan of Jason? So why am I reviewing a documentary about Kane Hodder? Simple answer, it came my way and I figured it would have old clips of movies I enjoyed and could possibly show me other films he was in that I didn’t know about as well as stuff about other actors in the slasher pics. It did that and a whole lot more, and I am being totally sincere in saying this… IT CHANGED MY LIFE.
What I was expecting to be a strictly ‘for the fans’ documentary was actually an intimate stripping away of personae to reveal a variety of truths about a horror icon. When I say variety of truths I am not in any way accusing them of having different levels of honesty, no that is not what I am saying at all. The reality is that of a soul laid bare, with the variety being the sheer number of extremely personal and painful details that this man offers up. I am by nature an honest man, I like to see that in others but rarely do, and so I find it to be incredibly powerful when someone goes on record about several truly horrific episodes of their life.
For quite some time there were various stories, mainly created by Kane Hodder, regarding the extensive burn scars he carries which have been reported as happening in numerous different ways on the set of various films in which he performed stunts. In this documentary he finally confesses the painful reality of what happened, with photographic evidence to prove that this is the genuine version of events. It has clearly taken him a vast amount of guts to endure, survive and indeed to thrive after an accident which could very easily have killed him and having survived could have led to him isolating himself from society. There are candid confessions about his life growing up and about his general state of mind and personality throughout as well as some moments I found painful to watch as it is clear certain events of his life had a profound impact.
As regards details of the work he is known for there are testimonials from several legends of the horror ‘establishment’ such as Bruce Campbell, Cassandra Peterson and Robert England to name a few. Kane Hodder (his real name) is now a brand name as he is famous in his own right with his popularity never diminishing during the four decades he’s been devoted to entertaining us. Often the queues at conventions are significantly longer for him than for anyone else there, this in spite of the fact, or perhaps because of it, that this large and powerful man actually enjoys choking his fans. There is something inherently unnerving about Kane Hodder, and this documentary does an excellent job of exposing what it is about him that accounts for his enduring appeal with the fans and his ever increasing presence in the pantheon of movie monsters. As I touched upon earlier, I thought this would be a strictly ‘for the fans’ piece and I have seldom been more wrong. I would be quite happy to suggest that absolutely everyone should watch this, especially those who have ever been bullied, or been a victim of anything which has altered their lives for the worse. Jason Voorhees is seemingly indestructible, he is bullet-proof, fireproof, hell he’s even bombproof and yet the one thing he seems to lack is a soul. Kane Hodder appears to be equally invulnerable, a man with an indestructible soul.
As stated earlier, watching this changed my life. I will now justify that by saying that I have had a life of adversity, there have been times when I have buckled and others when I have broken, yet I have persevered to the point where I’m truly happy with my life and things are getting better exponentially. It has taken great physical and emotional strength to arrive at this point in my life, and although things are still not perfect there is hope. Having seen what Kane has been through it has become clear that there are people who cannot cope with even the slightest difficulties, there are those who handle extreme situations positively and then there are the ‘Kane Hodders’ of the world who possess a superhuman force of will and a determination to rise victorious against all odds. I used to be one who could not cope, I eventually became one who could handle extremes, but even at my very best I cannot compare to Kane Hodder. I need to. What watching ‘To Hell and Back’ has done for me is to recharge my batteries, to give me that extra push forward beyond complacency to truly achieve something of note. He has reminded me that we can be better.
To Hell and Back will appeal to fanboys and fangirls alike, it has the right nostalgia notes, an interesting insight into a stuntman/actor’s life and enough gory clips to satisfy just about anyone, but what really shines for me is the incredible story of an outstanding human being.
Clarissa Jacobson presents a canteen full of absurdity.