Sunday, September 2, 2018

Shan kou (1980)

... aka: 山狗
... aka: Beasts
... aka: Beasts, The
... aka: Flesh and Bloody Show, The
... aka: Flesh and the Bloody Terror
... aka: Mountain Dog
... aka: Survive

Directed by:
Dennis Yu

Five teenagers; outgoing Wah (Eddie Chan), his shy and innocent kid sister Ling (Patricia Chong), Pauline (Siu-Ling Wong), her lazy / cowardly boyfriend Ken (Cheun-Man Ko) and third wheel Louis (Paul Chung), who has a crush on Ling, head by bus to the mountains for a summer weekend camping trip. After switching to a lorry, they're dropped off in the middle of nowhere then hike to the valley of Kau Wah Shan, where only a tiny village rests. Something immediately seems off with the unfriendly locals. The bus driver refuses to speak to them and when they stop at a small general store, the owner lies about having a telephone and sends them on their way. The five find a nice place to set up camp not too far from the store and near a waterfall, ignoring a "No Camping" warning as they do and instead using the sign as firewood.

A couple of obnoxious redneck locals, Fu (Man-Bo Kwok) and Ko (Chor-Fai Kwong), who spied on the girls from a shack behind the store, show up to menace Ling and demand some of the soup they're cooking. You see, in this village there isn't much in the way of law and order. There's also no opportunity and little hope for the impoverished younger villagers, who've resorted to semi-savagery and stealing whatever they can in order to survive while they fantasize about running away to live in the Netherlands. The two men are chased off by Wah, but they'll soon be back... only there will be more of them, including constantly-snarling Snake (Ming Kam), who has rotten teeth, hisses, drinks snake venom and has a cobra for a pet, the big, bald and slow Mo (Kent Cheng) and the sadistic ringleader Holland Man (Ching Wong).

While Wah and Louis are busy chopping wood and Pauline and Ken are busy messing around in some weeds, Ling finds herself alone washing dishes at the base of the waterfall. The five thugs arrive, hold her down, rip off all her clothes and brutally gang rape her. After finding her nude and unconscious, Wah chases after them and is pushed into a boar trap dug in the ground, where he's impaled on sharpened bamboo sticks. Snake even drops his cobra into the hole just to make sure Wah's finished off for good.

While most of the locals defend the thugs responsible and say the teens were not welcome there, the CID show up to investigate matters and haul four of the five killers in. A local drunk identifies them as the culprits always stealing his chickens and harassing him, but he's written off as an unreliable witness. Ling is of no help as she's gone crazy from her attack and does things like brushing her teeth bloody after (gah!) using her toothbrush to clean a toilet. The rapists / killers are then set free and return to the village. But there's someone who's not about to let them get away with what they did: Ling and Wah's father, Mr. Chan (Sing Chen); a woodworker in good physical condition for a his age. Chan goes to the same area where his children were attacked, camps out and waits for the right moment to strike.

After burying the drunk farmer up to his neck, the "Disco Boys" steal his money, which they use to go into the city, get drunk and pick up hookers. They're rejected by most due to their poor hygiene and one even farts in Fu's face in a scene that would be repeated about 1000 times in various Troma movies. When they return home with a bar girl, they attempt to gang rape her but she manages to run off. They then start disappearing one by one, all falling victim to the vengeful father, who puts his carpentry skills to use making various booby traps he hides in the woods. The weapons used include a jagged sickle blade, a metal mouse trap (which is so big it could probably also catch a bear), a nail lined box and, my personal favorite, snakes.

Fairly well-made on a low budget, this ugly, gritty, mostly humorless film has clearly been heavily inspired by a number of U.S. backwoods terror tales and revenge flicks like Deliverance (1972), THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978). The bad guys are truly disgusting cretins and, while they're certainly adequately loathsome and the actors (some of whom never appeared in anything else) are well cast, they also go a bit over the top with it. The goons yell, behave idiotically, drool, act obnoxious, pick their noses, lick blood, smell bad and constantly bicker and fight amongst themselves. The victims and the father character are given far less screen time when this would have benefited from a bit more balance in that department.

If you've seen your fair share of exploitation films, you've probably already seen most of this before. It's neither the best of its kind nor the worst and it's neither the most graphic of its kind nor the least. It merely falls somewhere in the middle. The outdoor scenery is nice and there's plenty of violence, fighting and blood, plus some full frontal female nudity in the uncut version. I actually found the first half of build-up with the teens hiking / camping, which tries to be atmospheric with a lot of added fog and eerie Theremin-sounding music, stronger than the actual revenge portion, which is supposed to be the big pay off. Those not interested in seeing violence inflicted upon real animals should also be warned that a pig, a chicken, a rat and snakes are killed. And the same folks probably won't appreciate the bits where a monkey is yanked around on a chain and a dog is thrown on the ground.

Numerous cuts of this title exist, some of which are missing violence, bits of the rape scene and the full nudity of the bar girl. The HK theatrical release ran 83 minutes and was cut and these cuts are maintained on both the Pearl City VCD and DVD release. The pre cert English-dubbed video released in the UK on the Mercury International label (under the title The Beasts), plus the Dutch VHS (also with the English dub) are said to be the uncut versions. In the U.S., mail order bootleggers Video Search of Miami offered a shortened 72-minute version with hardcore sex insert shots added, which was released under the titles Flesh and the Bloody Terror or The Flesh and Bloody Show. Someone (unofficially) also put together an 86 minute composite, splicing in some of the cut footage into the best quality available print. It's mostly in Chinese with English subtitles but with bits of the dubbed version wedged in here and there.

The soundtrack features songs from The Police and Genesis and a disco version of Ace's 'How Long' (I think by Lipps Inc.), most likely used without permission. This may also be why this film was not officially released here in America. Director Yu (credited as Dennis W.K. Yu on the print I viewed) also made THE IMP (1981) and Evil Cat (1987).


Thursday, August 30, 2018

Sister's Keeper (1988) (TV)

... aka: Freddy's Nightmares 2
... aka: Freddy's Nightmares: A Nightmare on Elm Street - The Series: Sister's Keeper
... aka: Freddy's Nightmares: Sister's Keeper
... aka: Freddy's Nightmares - The Series: Sister's Keeper

Directed by:
Ken Wiederhorn

I was originally planning on just watching debut episode NO MORE MR. NICE GUY (1988) and then being done with Freddy's Nightmares for now, but after finding out there was another episode directly following the events of Nice Guy with some of the same main characters, well, I just couldn't leave myself hangin', could I? So here I am writing about something I had no intention of covering and here you are reading about it. Airing November 20, 1988, "Sister's Keeper" was the seventh episode of Season 1 and, like all other episodes, runs about 45 minutes. Fans could just combine it with the pilot episode, stick a "6 months later" title card in between and essentially have themselves another feature-length Freddy movie falling between The Dream Master and The Dream Child. If I ever reference this in the future I'll probably just call it A Nightmare on Elm Street 4.5: The Dream Twins.

After spending years trying to stop Freddy only to have to resort to vigilante justice to finally get rid of him, Lt. Timothy Blocker ended up paying the ultimate price. He not only left behind a steep dental bill, but also a wife, Sarah (Anne E. Curry), and pretty twin daughters, Lisa (Gry Park) and Merit (Hili Park). While Lisa made it through the entire ordeal fairly well, Merit was traumatized, went mute and had to spend some time in a mental institution. Now released, she has her voice back but hasn't quite shaken off all of the rest of her problems. The mother, back to working long hours to support the family, is seldom home so the girls only have each other to lean on.

At school, Lisa's the popular one. She wears make-up, crimps her hair, wears the coolest 80s clothes like floor-length tent dresses with turtlenecks and has a "hawt" but otherwise pretty useless boyfriend named John (Josh Coxx). Meanwhile, Merit pulls her hair back, dresses down and wears dark colors. Because her mental issues are common knowledge around town, she's also teased and called "The girl who cried Freddy." A guitar-strumming dullard named Jeff (Jeff Bennett, from the seventh Friday the 13th film) still likes her because she has a "tragic nobility" about her. But that doesn't sit well with Allison (Robin Antin, later founder of The Pussycat Dolls), who has a crush on Jeff and starts bullying Merit. But high school drama for the Park girls will soon feel like a walk in the you-know-where once Freddy (Robert Englund) decides to come after them for revenge.

No one believes Merit when she claims that Freddy actually killed the dad just as no one believes her whenever she claims Freddy is now trying to kill her in her dreams. Lisa is hesitant to believe herself, except for the fact that every time Freddy slashes Merit in a nightmare, the wound ends up on her body instead. After one too many close calls, the girls suck down enough coffee to stay up four days straight trying to come up with a plan. Through a former hippie teacher, they learn that since they're identical twins they may be able to "share" the same dream, and be actively involved in that one dream, if they fall asleep at the exact same time. But will that be enough to save them from Freddy?

While the acting and story aren't up to much, this is actually a bit better than the first half of the story. Having the twins constantly switching looks and identities; at first so the screwed up one can experience the perks of popularity and the other can experience what it's like to be the outcast, but then also being mistaken for one another both in real life and in nightmares, creates the necessary "Is it real or not?" amount of disorientation needed for something like this. Plus, where the first episode had some colorful lighting to accentuate the few Freddy scenes, this one goes bat shit crazy with the stylized lighting and shows zero restraint pouring on a bunch of gaudy colors every chance it gets. Some of the shots, especially one with Freddy's face colored green but with an orange band across his eyes while purple, green and red highlight the rest of the frame actually look really cool.

Even though nothing here is any match for the movie fx, this still has a few fun Freddy bits like the mom jamming knife blades into her fingertips to make a glove and, especially, a gloppy extended arm that recalls a memorable scene from the original. Kevin Yagher was in charge of the make-up and Englund also receives a credit as "series consultant." Director Wiederhorn, best known for the pretty good early zombie film Shock Waves (1977) and the disappointing Return of the Living Dead II (1988), went on to direct six other episodes of the series.

While five Freddy's Nightmares episodes received a VHS release in the U.S. in 1991, this one did not. However, it was released elsewhere. In the UK and Czechoslovakia it was paired with the episode "Freddy's Tricks and Treats" (S1E4) and released as a video feature titled Freddy's Nightmares 2. The Australian, Japanese and Dutch VHS releases all paired it up with the episode "Mother's Day" (S1E8).

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