Saturday, October 19, 2019

Bin mei (1982)

... aka: 賓妹
... aka: 你要活著回去
... aka: Marianna
... aka: Ni yao huo zhe hui qu
... aka: You Have to Come Back Alive

Directed by:
Pak Tong Cheuk

Hong Kong shaving cream salesman Peter Yu (Han Chin) travels to the Philippines for business. After finalizing a deal late one night, he gets in his car only to startled when a panicked young woman starts banging on his window and asking for help. Some men she describes only as "rotten bastards" are after her. Peter lets her in and takes off back to his hotel. The girl, Marianna (Anna Maria Gutierrez), is vague about what's going on and refuses to talk about any of it. She asks to spend the night and then sneaks out by morning while Peter is still sleeping. A friend meets her right outside the hotel, kills a couple of the men who've been after her and then the two take off in a jeep and go back to their village. Mention is made of a man named Kirk from a rival village and there being some kind of fight over who gets to "possess" Marianna.

Back in Hong Kong, Peter's exercise instructor wife Nancy (Sally Yeh) starts becoming insecure when some gossipy women in the sauna talk how about Filipina women like to seduce Chinese men away from their wives while The Pointer Sisters' "Slow Hand" (!) plays on the soundtrack. When Peter returns home, his coworkers ask if he's caught a new v.d. called "Luzon Cauliflower" while Nancy drills him about his Philippines activities to make sure no affair took place. Despite Peter's denial, doubt is cast once Marianna shows up at his office in Hong Kong looking for help. She was sent there by her tribe to hide and meet up with an aunt who's out of town herself. With no friends or relatives in the area, Peter feels compelled to help her.

Seeing how is wife is stressed and overworked dealing with her job and their two kids, Peter decides to kill two birds with one stone by hiring Marianna as a live-in cook, maid and babysitter. However, Kirk has a sinister older female spy in Hong Kong who spots Marianna around town. She starts shadowing her and the family, gives Marianna a threatening letter and hands her a package containing rice and a human ear presumably belonging to her father. Marianna confesses some of her troubles to Peter and both prove all the gossips correct by indulging in a little affair. Leaving work early, Nancy walks in on them having sex, kicks Marianna out and then goes on a downward spiral of depression, locking herself away in her room, completely ignoring her hubby and frequenting a disco with her coworker Rose. After Kirk's men break into the Yu's home, kidnap and terrorize their kids and try to rape and kill Nancy, she decides to flee the city to stay with her uncle in the Philippines.

On the plane trip, a wealthy half Filipino / half Chinese playboy named Amando (Mark Joseph) flashes a larger-than-she-already-has diamond wedding ring at Nancy as a way to say "Hey, you can do better!" He finds out where she's staying and starts romantically pursuing her. Though she shrugs him off at first, Peter shows up to try to win her back so Nancy uses Amando as a way to make him jealous. The two men get into a fist fight but it's settled the following day when Nancy decides to work things out with Peter. Before they leave the country, the two go on a romantic sightseeing trip to Baguio when things finally - after nearly an HOUR - take a turn for the horrific.

The two stop at a rest stop where locals sing the African-American spiritual "Michael Row the Boat Ashore" (!!) and they have their gas siphoned out of their car, which leads them to becoming stranded in the jungle. First, they encounter a village filled with white-faced, hooded zombies, then stumble upon a rest stop where weird lobotomized locals in the middle of a cockfight stare at them. From there, they end up in another seemingly abandoned ghost town filled with corpses. But wait, there's more! The couple are then kidnapped by a cannibal tribe which also happens to be Kirk's tribe (what a coincidence!) who are now in possession of Marianna. A hog is slaughtered and a witch doctor spits blood in Nancy's face before trying to sacrifice her. Thankfully, Marianna's tribe shows up just in time to save them. The two tribes then start slaughtering one another with machetes, spears, arrows and spiked booby traps while Marianna, Peter and Nancy try to survive the carnage.

Suffering from one of the most extreme cinematic identity crises ever, it's almost surreal how this bizarre little mystery / jungle adventure / marriage melodrama / horror flick can never quite decide what it wants to be. And the characters who populate this are all kinds of unsavory. I would say its portrayal of Filipinos (with most of the men shown to be brutal, murderous and thieving savages and the women home-wreckers desperate to escape their presumably awful country) is offensive, except its portrayal of the Chinese characters isn't much better. Hell, the wife finds her kids bound and gagged in the bathtub and is out drinking and disco hopping in the very next scene! However, this is filled with all kinds of entertaining, random nonsense, and it's not at all predictable, so I never found it boring.

Lead actress Yeh (who also starred in Ronny Yu's ghost comedy The Occupant, the critically acclaimed Peking Opera Blues and John Woo's highly influential The Killer) went on to become a hugely popular, award-winning pop singer with a successful international career. In fact, even though most of the music is stolen or recycled, several of the original songs heard here are probably hers. Directors Dennis Yu (THE BEASTS, THE IMP) and Jeffrey Lau (THE HAUNTED COP SHOP and its SEQUEL) were the producers.

The Asian releases on VCD and laser disc (on the Mei Ah Laser Disc Co. Ltd. label) come with English subtitles, though the dialogue is a mix of Cantonese, Filipino and even quite a bit of English. There's been no DVD release to my knowledge.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Shreck (1993) [copyright 1990]

Directed by:
Don Adams (on VHS box; closing credits)
"Carl Denham" (opening credits)
Harry James Picardi (on VHS box; closing credits)
Anthony Van Deuren (closing credits)

Sometime after World War II, a Nazi madman made his way to America, took on the new name of Max Shreck and settled in the small rural town of Harvest, Wisconsin. Soon after, townsfolk started disappearing. In the spring of 1958, police received a phone call from a whispering voice uttering just three words, "death," "Shreck" and "house." Upon paying a visit to Shreck's home, police shot him in the head after discovering the body of a high school majorette killed with a nail-lined helmet. Further investigation of the house uncovered a "torture dungeon" in the cellar complete with various torture devises and an oven Shreck used to burn up his victims' bodies. The remains of at least eleven victims were found. Somehow, this house of horrors was left standing and is currently inhabited by teenager Roger Drake ("William Lantry"), who's a huge horror movie fan and Nazi fetishist who couldn't be happier to live there. He's so into the story that he's even made his own amateur documentary on Shreck.

With his mother out of town and left all alone for a spell, Roger decides to take things a step further. Not content with hanging a swastika made of Christmas lights, listening to Hitler speeches on TV, making his own life-sized Max Shreck doll complete with gas mask and camouflage attire and baking a Nazi pizza with a pepperoni swastika (!!) Roger comes up with the brilliant idea to hold a séance to resurrect Max's spirit. Along with his "Dogs of Gore" horror-loving buddies Neil (Van Deuren) and Mike ("T.K. Malone"), the trio recite some generic Satanic chant and fake offer up blood as a joke but instead end up actually unleashing Shreck's spirit, who promptly inhabits the doll.

Shreck (Big Joe Mueller) goes outside and flattens all of the tires on the car, trapping them there, then digs up corpses of previous undiscovered victims in the front yard and resurrects them as sheet-covered helper ghosts. An attempt to call the police fails as only Nazi speeches come through the receiver and bullets from a rifle and a knife to the back don't slow down the undead Nazi. Even worse, the guys seem to have also managed to transport themselves back in time to 1958, more specifically to the exact night of Shreck's human death. Everything inside the home disappears, while Nazi curtains, Shreck's special dagger, a May 1958 calendar, older furniture, a movie projector (with a reel of Nosferatu) and even the former last victim, Karen (Sharon Wozniak), all reappear.

Like nearly every zero budget homegrown camcorder production, there's a whole lotta downright awful here. The acting's terrible, much of the dialogue is bad, the videography is consistently poor (especially the blue-tinted night scenes) and there's choppy editing, laughable public access fx, poorly choreographed attack scenes and a glacial pacing during most of the first half. If you make it past the first ten minutes where the star walks around on train tracks, makes Shreck t-shirts, listens to music and does absolutely nothing of interest you at least deserve a participation ribbon. Throwing in actual Nazi and concentration camp footage at points is tasteless, too, and not in any good way. But, dammit, I still somehow ended up enjoying this!

Surprisingly, there are some imaginative and really interesting ideas in here. I especially liked the traveling-back-in-time aspect coupled with the séance / resurrection spell. There are also some other amusing little touches, like the killer extracting a gold tooth from a victim and a couple of silly torture devises, including one that features a seesaw sending someone higher and higher up until they're decapitated by a swastika ceiling fan. We also get a pitchfork to the face, a hand cut off and fed to a tarantula (?!) and some kind of jagged metal weapon the killer slides over both feet and attempts to stomp someone to death with as he heads towards them on crutches!

The VHS release came in 1993 courtesy of Video Outlaw, a subdivision of Akron, Ohio-based Tempe Video. That label seemed to release exclusively shot-on-video junk (probably stuff that Tempe was embarrassed to issue on their main label) like The Zombie Army (1991), Snuff Perversions (1998), Necro Maniac (2000), Slave Girls on Auction Block 1313 (2001) and a bunch of Todd Sheets films. I don't think anyone has even bothered resurrecting Shreck since the initial VHS release. Even a later obscenely popular DreamWorks animated film series starring an ogre with an extremely similar name didn't help this film's plight any.

The opening credits list "Carl Denham" as director, though the end credits say this is "A movie by" Don Adams, Harry James Picardi (the two credited writers) and co-star Van Deuren. However, the video box lists just Adams and Picardi as the directors. Two of the stars, "William Lantry" and "T.K. Malone" are, in fact, also Adams and Picardi. I'm just not sure which is whom. Due to a pseudonymous "Arch Stanton" being billed as videographer, Jim Wynorski (who sometimes also used the same alias) has been assigned the credit, though he had nothing at all to do with this production.

Adams and Picardi went on to make a few other films, including Vengeance of the Dead (2001) and Jigsaw (2002) for Charles Band's Full Moon, as well as Dozers, which was filmed back in 2008 but has yet to be released over a decade later.

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