Faust: Love of the Damned

A good deal of the time, one has a difficult time of distinguishing “good” superhero movies from “bad”ones.  Between plot, acting, adaptation, and special effects-there are so many different ways it can go so horribly wrong.

Then there are movies like Faust: Love of the Damned.

Based on the comic book of the same name, Faust is the story of tortured artist John Jaspers (not Jasper Johns) who, after witnessing the brutal murder of his girlfriend and muse, Blue, makes a deal with the mysterious “M” (The Devil), and becomes a nigh-unstoppable demon of vengeance complete with 2 razor sharp claws on each hand (three would infringe on a certain ol’ Canucklehead) and an organic devil-looking costume.  Before you make the comparison, the Faust comic actually predates Todd McFarlane’s Spawn even though the Spawn movie came out first.

The movie suffers from an overabundance of plot, as well as characters and motivations which change almost from scene-to-scene.  At different moments, Faust is a: revenge film, a vigilante picture, a discussion on the nature of good and evil, a "what is the role of violence in society" morality tale, a detective, a love, and a "Beauty and the Beast" story, cult cinema, a film about dealing with being a victim of violence...oh, and a soft-core porno picture.  The only consistent and amusing theme of the entire show is the interchangeability of sex and violence...which is probably a bad thing.

But there are so many good things too!

For starters, the “What the hell am I looking at?” factor is very strong.  Highlights include:

  • Hot, naked women turned into quivering puddles of goo.
  • Sharp-fanged tongues growing out of a man’s chest and eating another man.
  • Spontaneous, slimy tumor growth.
  • A giant, scary metaphorical penis-demon.
  • A woman giving birth to a boa constrictor.

and

  • Jeffery Combs deep-throating that same boa constrictor!

The casting and performances are strong including the aforementioned Combs playing a lone-wolf police detective who plays by his own rules.  He even has sideburns and a leather jacket to signify his rebellious nature!  Mark Frost plays our hero delivering some of the most ridiculous dialogue this side of Dark Shadows with cross-eyed gusto.  Andrew Divoff is our bad guy, and the only thing more fun than his creepy voice is his creepier smile.  Well, that or his blinding white wig.  Isabel Brook plays the Damsel in Distress, and I only bring her up to make sure you keep an eye out for her incredible lower teeth.  It’s like she’s perpetually chomping on Chiclets.  Hypnotizing….

Anyway.

Director Brian Yuzna-of Re-Animator fame-made Faust in Spain, which makes for some wonderful situations; such as no location even remotely resembling America, and every other actor being dubbed.  This also accounts for the wonderfully graphic make-up effects provided by Screaming Mad George (yes, that is the name of the company).

You know what?  I take it back.

Despite the presence of a costumed, super-powered person, this is just not a superhero movie.  This is something much more fun and disgusting.

Forbidden Zone

Before his incredible collaborations with Tim Burton, before developing a cult-favorite band new wave band with such hits as Weird Science and Dead Man’s PartyDanny Elfman was part of a musical theater group called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.  I do not have words to explain just how strange they are so here’s a clip from The Gong Show

Danny’s the one wearing a rocket.

After having watched that, it should come as no surprise to you when I say that when these people decided to make a feature length movie, they created one of the most disturbing things ever captured on film.

Forbidden Zone is nominally about the Hercules family after they moved into the former residence of a heroin dealer named Huckleberry P. Jones, which is exactly what I plan to name my first child, regardless of gender.  The basement of the house features a doorway to “The Sixth Dimension,” a land of utter madness.

After having watched this movie several times, I have come to the conclusion that the Sixth Dimension is-in fact-HELL.  Frenchy Hercules (Marie-Pascale Elfman) decides to check out the Sixth Dimension and finds, among other things: King Fausto (Herve Villechaize) , a few torture chambers, a frog person, some concubines, The Princess (who never puts a shirt on), the Kipper Kids, a number of cross-dressers, and Danny Elfman  himself as Satan... doing a Cab Calloway impression.

Still with me?

This movie doesn't have a plot so much as a bunch of connecting segments between musical numbers, which consist of original songs by the Mystic Knights, and older 40's-style recordings to which the cast lip-syncs.  Admittedly, I am a big Danny Elfman/Oingo Boingo fan, so I may be biased, but I really love the music in this picture. This was the first film Danny ever scored.

The film’s director, Richard Elfman (Danny’s older brother), made Forbidden Zone with almost no money, and it shows.  He shot the film in black and white not for artistic reasons, but because he couldn't afford color.  The sets, predominantly two-dimensional Cabinet of Dr. Caligari-esque paintings by  Marie.  Most of the cast were not professional actors and yet were encouraged to ham up their performances as much as possible.  Furthermore, at any given moment, the film switches to animation a la “Monty Python.”

These factors contribute to the movie’s overall charm, which it has in loads.  It’s just hard to notice that charm, as the film offends the senses on almost every level. To begin, there are more bodily fluids, nudity, and/or sexual situations here than most porn films. As the director explains on the commentary track, “I love to put people in their underwear. Be they beautiful, young ladies or mature gentlemen playing 12 year old boy scouts.” There are also situations that he claims are not meant to be racist, but come off-well...let's just say the film begins with Huckleberry P. Jones being played by a white man in blackface.  Amusingly, Forbidden Zone has also been criticized for being anti-Semitic, despite the Elfman clan being Jewish.

Forbidden Zone is a semi-animated nightmare that keeps me up at night whenever I watch it.  After just watching it now, I am still flabbergasted. While I can't recommend it highly enough, I can never seem to get anyone to watch it.

Unborn, The

This is the sort of film that brings people together... in much the same way being held hostage does. The only way I was able to get through the movie was guffawing with good friends and complete strangers. At one point, a young man leaned forward and told me and my associates that, "Yo, Nigga is old"-and in light of the movie we were watching, it was a welcome change of pace.

The Unborn bites off far more than it can chew. With the line, "you must finish what began in Auschwitz," being the last written words of a Holocaust survivor to a doe-eye college student. Who, by the way, the film doesn't consider worth our time beyond shameful leering.

I found the co-opting of the Holocaust deeply offensive in this context, though I'm not sure why, and I wondered if anyone on the staff of the production was in position to say, "maybe we shouldn't make this movie." It's simple really, because all one has to be to think The Unborn was a bad idea is:

  1. Well-read
  2. Not a moron
  3. Some combination of one of those and Jewish.

Or, at least know one person who is Jewish, and ask them. Even then, I'm sure a local Rabbi would gladly tell you that you and your entire production company are about to make a serious error.

Almost as frustrating, this movie takes the male gaze to a whole new level by leering at this girl's cracks and assets like a strip-club talent scout at a high-school cheer-leading competition. I suppose her adolescent cuteness, barely-there derrière, and knock-kneed lankiness are the reason that no less than fourteen people die to save her from possession from a dybbuk, which is pretty much a demon that posses people (like Pazuzu in the Exorcist, but Jewish). Again, fourteen people die to protect this girl.

This whole film is completely terrible for just that reason. I like hot girls. Who doesn't like hot girlsOther girls like hot girls! But I will be damned-damned I tell you-if I think that I should throw away nearly over a dozen lives because someone is physically attractive.

Topping all this off is the main character, who after surviving this ordeal thanks to Stringer Bell (Elba) and Commissionr James Gordon (Oldman), gets a sonogram that proposes she is about to have undead demon spawn children-and she doesn't get a goddamned abortion.

What. The. Hell?

The one lesson any person with half a brain would have learned in this movie is that children are gateways of the devil. But noooooo, our heroine has to keep the baby, because. . . I actually have no idea. Her grandmother would have wanted it that way, I guess. A stupid ending to a stupid film.

Drive Angry 3D

A few days ago, my father asked me if Nicholas Cage was able to make a good movie anymore.  Having recently watched trailers for Next (2007)Knowing (2009), and The Sorceror’s Apprentice (2010), I immediately responded with no small amount of sadness, “no.”

Then I saw Drive Angry.

Now, like Zarathustra taught us the Ubermensch, the Cavalcade teaches to you the Drive Angry!

John Milton (Nicholas Cage) has broken out of Hell in a sweet muscle car.  This is a completely different concept from Ghost Rider (2007), in which Nicholas Cage is possessed by a demon hunting other demons on behalf of the Devil with a sweet chopper.  His purpose: to stop Satanic cult leader Jonah King (Billy Burke) from using his granddaughter in a sacrificial rite to bring Hell to Earth.  In between Milton breaking out of Hell and [Spoiler Alert] stopping King is nothing short of glorious.

Brought to us by the writer/director team Todd Farmer and Patrick Lussier who have brought us epics like Jason X (2001) and My Bloody Valentine 3-D (2009)Drive Angry’s primary goal is showing as many car stunts, bodily mutilations, and gratuitous nudity as humanly possible in 104 minutes.  Gentle readers, you have to understand, the marketing for this film is deplorable.  Remember those commercials with Cage shooting people in a hotel room and dodging an axe thrown at his head?  What the advertisers do not want you to know is that Cage is actually having sex with a completely naked woman the entire time!

I do not have the space or the legal rights to list every incredible action stunt in the picture.  But I can tell you about the performances featured in this film because they are all gold.  Cage is surprisingly restrained here.  There is maybe one Elvis-ism, no screeching, and no quirkiness for quirkiness’ sake.  Cage plays it straight and it works perfectly.  Lussier takes full advantage of Cage’s ability to go from zero to BROODING in .0005 seconds flat.

Amber Heard is plays Milton’s sidekick, Piper.  Having only seen her previously as “406” in Zombieland (2009), I did not expect much.  This actress is phenomenal.  She is essentially Elly May Clampett if she were metal.  Billy Burke’s ability to work leather pants and puffy shirts while simultaneously making any semi-religious nonsense sound like the Gettysburg Address firmly cement him as the heir-apparent too Billy Drago.  Our esteemed screenwriter, Todd Farmer, makes a cameo doing exactly the same thing as he did in My Bloody Valentine 3-D.

However, the man that steals the show is William Fichtner.  Playing “The Account,” the Devil’s bounty hunter, Ficthner joins the “Why didn’t anyone think to give him superpowers before?” list.  Said list includes Christopher Walken after The Prophecy (1995) and Robert Forster in season two of "Heroes." Fichtner glides through the movie as the entire world is his amusement park.  Drive Angry Fun Fact: It is!

The thing is, you all have to go out and embrace this film in the 3-D in which it was intended.  If you don’t, we’ll never get another one.  And we need another one.  This is a film that gives Nicholas Cage license to say with complete seriousness that he will not drink a beer unless it is the skull of his mortal enemy.

Wanna guess what he does before the credits roll?