The Questions Lady Terminator Raises

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Question #1: Does Lady Terminator have anything in common with The Terminator? What are the similarities and differences between Lady Terminator and The Terminator?

Similarities:

-A destructive force from another time comes to the present to exterminate someone in both films.

-Both include the line, “Come with me if you want to live.”

-There is a moment in each film where the virtually indestructible villain is knocked to the ground with ample gunfire and the camera shows their twitching fingers.

-Both feature an eye-removal-before-a-bathroom-sink scene.

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Differences:

-Guns are reloaded significantly less in Lady Terminator.

-In The Terminator, a cyborg from the future travels to the past to stop the birth of an eventual wartime revolutionary. In Lady Terminator, an anthropologist is possessed by a sea witch from the past, who seeks vengeance on her husband’s great granddaughter.

-No characters in The Terminator have magic eels in their vaginas; no sex scene in The Terminator culminates with castration by a vagina-dwelling magic eel.

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Question #2: What kinds of TVs explode into flames when shot?

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Sonys.

Question #3: Ricky Brothers composed the music to Lady Terminator. Is Ricky Brothers one man, whose first name is Ricky and last name is Brothers, or is the Ricky Brothers a band name, not unlike the Doobie or Allman Brothers?

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I don’t know, but Ricky Brothers—whether band or man—wrote for synthesizers, in my opinion, at least as well as Pino Donaggio did for The Barbarians.

Question #4: Exactly how many instances of violence to the male genitalia occur in Lady Terminator?

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Thirteen, although I’m only counting the wise old sensei getting excessively machine gunned to the crotch as one instance.

Question #5: Was Michael Sorich, the actor who overdubbed the voice of the character Snake, aware at the time of the children’s cartoon program Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Particularly, was he aware of Townsend Coleman’s work on the voice of Michelangelo?

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Probably.

Question #6: “What’s the point of not having money if you can’t spend it?”

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Question #7: How does a urine stream with that much propulsion form when the fly isn’t even open?

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Question #8: Lady Terminator lists Dave Mallow as the film’s dialogue coach. Was Dave Mallow fired before the completion of the movie on grounds of incompetence?

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Question #9: Is the glowing green thing the wise old sensei shoots into the eponymous villain’s eye what causes her to grow extra nipples?

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On the same token, does the growth of extra nipples alone warrant the painful removal of one’s own eye with an X-acto knife?

Question #10: Wouldn’t it be nice if more cops, before final showdowns with devastating murderesses, could join hands and say, in unison, “Let’s kick ass?”

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Yes.

Question #11: Why does Tania, the lady terminator, wait till she is incinerated by the flames of a bazooka blast to shoot deadly lasers out of her eyes?

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She had this ability the whole time, and, up until the last five minutes of the movie, relies on automatic weapons?!

Question #12: Isn’t it possible to be both a lady and an anthropologist?

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“I’m an anthropologist, not a lady!”

You know, like, when did anthropologist become its own gender?

Click this link, to attempt to answer these perplexing questions for yourself.

 

Wiener-Dog (2016)

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When I saw Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Doll House, Palindromes) had a new movie out, I knew I had to see it. But I had to be ready—in the right state of mind—for the darkness, awkwardness, and sadness a Solondz movie entails. So, I waited till I was couch-bound, sick, and loopy from cold medicine.

Anyway, Wiener-Dog. It’s an homage of sorts to Robert Bresson’s Au hasard Balthazar: you know, that horribly depressing and stark French art film where the poor mule has all the different cruel owners. It’s the same idea with Wiener-Dog, except it’s with, yeah, a wiener dog instead of a mule.

The female wiener dog, our hero and protagonist, goes through a number of different owners. Each one gives her a new name. Her names include Cancer, Dootie, and Wiener Dog. With each different owner, we get a different vignette, and we see our hero the Dachshund go from a wealthy suburban family’s kid (Keaton Nigel Cooke) to an awkward do-gooder Veterinary Assistant (Greta Gerwig) to a developmentally disabled husband and wife (Connor Long and Bridget Brown) to a failure of a film professor (Danny DeVito) to a bitter elderly woman (Ellen Burstyn). Each owner is too dysfunctional in their own special way to care for and keep the poor wiener dog, and in every vignette, human hangups prevent our hero from ever enjoying a stable home.

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Wiener-Dog has its hilarious moments as well as its heart wrenching, the world-is-a-cruel-horrid-place moments. It’s definitely a lot funnier than Au hasard Balthazar, but then again so is The Virgin Spring. It also might be even sadder, in its own weird, deadpan way. There’s something so perfect about the wiener dog. In spirit, it seems far and beyond superior to the humans that determine its life. If you have a dog, you’ll be hugging, clasping, and saying, ‘I’d never ever treat you that way’ to it after seeing Wiener- Dog. Affective, the film is, with Solondz’s signature dark humor keeping the sadness in check.

The scene where Greta Gerwig rescues the dog right before it’s about to be put to sleep at the vet’s is pure teary triumph.

The scene where the dog is fed a granola bar by a kid who doesn’t know any better is familiar, disastrous, and cringe-inducing.

Overall, the movie is loaded–it’s rich–with so many different elements. It philosophically posits the question, What are dogs in human lives even for? It lampoons, if not indicts, film school and doctrinal screenwriting approaches. Danny DeVito plays one sad sack. I loved the scene where his students tear him apart behind his back, ridiculing his tastes and achievements. There’s an awfully tender love story between Greta Gerwig, the dog’s potential best owner, and Kieran Culkin. There’s a hilarious performance by Michael Shaw as a controversial New York artist whose first name is Fantasy.

It’s a simple story, yet very complex in the emotions it plumbs the depths of.

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I recommend it. It’s an experience.

NIGHTCRAWLER (2014)

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Jake Gyllenhaal plays Lou Bloom, a complete sociopath who adheres to a thoroughgoing capitalist ethic, much like Christian Bale as Patrick Bateman in AMERICAN PSYCHO.  Bloom communicates primarily by parroting the entrepreneurial self-help advice he reads on the Internet, and climbs the social ladder by cheating, lying, obstructing justice, and, overall, having a frigid heart. He’s a foil for the nasty underbelly of the so-called American dream: get ahead in life through hard work, elevate your status. NIGHTCRAWLER is here to remind us, all too often, getting to the top isn’t necessarily the most scrupulous endeavor, and—regrettably—certain sects of society have come to revere a greedy, Machiavellian ruthlessness.

NIGHTCRAWLER is the antithesis of feel-good escapism. It’s a sober, ballsy film with a bitter, bummer ending reminiscent of CHINATOWN, FIVE EASY PIECES, and so many classic, confrontational films of the 1970’s. Its socio-political indictments aside, it’s also an extremely well-crafted and engrossing thriller.

In the beginning of the film we find our antihero, Lou, hawking scrap metal to a construction company. It’s obvious he’s down and out as he drives around L.A. in his old, dingy Toyota, selling stuff he stole to pawn shops. His life changes, though, when he meets Joe Loder (Bill Paxton), a nightcrawler, or freelance video crime journalist and all-around gritty dude. I could do this, Lou thinks, and, sure enough, it’s not long before he’s racing to crime scenes to film bloodied car jacking victims and the like.

He’s in business. He eventually makes enough to trade in his Toyota for a Mustang and hire an assistant, Rick (Riz Ahmed), who is virtually homeless and willing to work for thirty dollars a night (Rick’s trust in Lou really comes back to bite him in the ass).

All the while Lou sells his footage to Nina (Rene Russo), the director of a news network down on its ratings. He becomes infatuated—enough to proposition her in a tacky Mexican restaurant (one of the most uncomfortable scenes I’ve watched in recent memory). She resists his forward, commodified attempts at seduction . . . but is that subject to change? Ultimately, she’s ruthless enough herself to admire him. She’s also willing to run his increasingly unethically obtained footage because, as Jane’s Addiction put it: “the news is just another show with sex and violence.”

Did I mention Lou’s footage is increasingly unethically obtained? Because it is. Big time.

NIGHTCRAWLER works. Unbelievably well. A lot of that has to do with its undeniably strong cast. Gyllenhaal: you thought he was screwed up in DONNIE DARKO? Just you wait . . . I don’t know what it takes to realize a venture capitalist sociopath. Now, I don’t think anyone does–not like Jake Gyllenhall, anyway. His dark, crazed power culminates as, in a fit of rage, he screams at his bathroom mirror before smashing it. That’s the face of a horrific refusal of weakness, and therin lies the essence of Gyllenhaal’s unforgettable character.

Everything about Rene Russo is so immensely believable, too. A seasoned, tough journalist, she’s beyond cynicism. It no longer occurs to her the purpose of the news is to inform citizens–to the best of its ability–of the true state of affairs in the world. Whatever gets the ratings is her mantra, and that means: “violent crime creeping into suburbia.” Aging Paxton is similarly jaded, and emerging actor Riz Ahmed is utterly plausible as a lost, desperate twenty-something. After his “job-interview” scene with Gyllenhaal in a greasy spoon diner, you’re left wanting to know more about him. Unfortunately, your curiosity is never satisfied.

Like the culture it critiques, NIGHTCRAWLER demonstrates an obsession with objects. So much cinematic significance is packed into recurring shots of the stolen watch Bloom wears, his Mustang, his chic sunglasses. Status symbols: the closest thing Bloom has to a raison d’etre.

You get so caught up in NIGHTCRAWLER’s thought provocation, in fact, that you worry it won’t have a bummer ending. The good guys, who are about as compassionless as the bad guys, can’t win, you say. A popcorn Hollywood ending would really muck up its integrity. It puts you on, for a moment, but there is no need to fear. NIGHTCRAWLER retains its integrity.

Writer/director Dan Gilroy (Rene Russo’s husband) has made his mark on confrontational cinema with NIGHTCRAWLER. He’s already a seasoned screenwriter (THE FALL, BOURNE SUPREMACY), but this is his directorial debut. He’s done something powerful. He’s penetrated a core, shown us a world all too real.

We’ll see if he can outdo himself.

What’s in the Basket?: Talking Basket Case, Horror Movies, and Creativity with Kevin Van Hentenryck

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From 2010-2012 (I think) I wrote for Splatter-Shack.com under the pseudonym The Diabolical Dr. Ross. It was a homegrown horror site for fans, and we had a lot of fun. Splatter-Shack, unfortunately, is no more. That means my interview with Kevin Van Hentenryck has been without a home for a while.

Not anymore . . .

Here it is:

Kevin Van Hentenryck is a cult movie icon. He is best known for his work on Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case trilogy, in which he starred as the conflicted, nerdy, and naive Duane Bradley. We are first introduced to Duane as he walks down Times Square carrying a mysterious basket under his arm in Basket Case Part 1. What’s in the basket? Booze? Easter eggs? Hardly. It’s his surgically removed Siamese twin brother Belial, who is so deformed that some don’t even consider him human. Duane, telepathically linked to Belial, tries to lead a normal life–despite Belial’s violent desire to vengefully punish the doctors that separated them. Van Hentenryck portrayed, in the Basket Case films, an unforgettably tragic character, as awkward and endearing as he was deadly. In addition to the Basket Case trilogy, Van Hentenryck also appeared as the “man with the basket” in Frank Henenlotter’s second feature film, Brain Damage, and starred in the horror/comedy short, The Catskill Chainsaw Redemption as a soul-searching maniac.

Kevin Van Hentenryck is a man of many talents and interests. Apart from acting, he is a successful sculptor and sculpting instructor specializing in stone carving. And when time and logistics permit, he makes music. Splatter Shack was proud to present this exclusive interview with the one and only Kevin Van Hentenryck, and it’s a joy to bring it back on RPAAL.

ROSS PETERSON: Kevin, it’s an honor. Thank you so much for talking with us. First off, how did you land the role of Duane Bradley, and how did you first become involved with Frank Henenlotter?

VAN HENTENRYCK: Well, I was studying in New York City at the Academy of Dramatic Arts, and Ilze Balodis, who plays the social worker in the first Basket Case film with the glasses, she was a member of the administration of the school. One day she said to me, “I know this guy who makes movies. You should meet him.” I said, “Okay.” So I went and met him and I ended up doing three small parts in a film previous to Basket Case called Slash of the Knife, which never got released but apparently Frank liked the way I worked. So sometime later, a few months later, I don’t really remember the timeframe, he calls me up one evening and says, “I have this idea for a film. Do you wanna hear it?” And I said, “Yeah, sure.” So he tells me the whole storyline of Basket Case over the phone. He talked the whole movie through to me over the phone. He asked me if I was interested. I said, “Sure. Sign me up.” That was it.

RP: Do we have any hope of one day seeing Slash of the Knife released?

KVH: I highly doubt it. Frank has insisted all along that he would never release it.

RP: Did anyone anticipate Basket Case becoming such a seminal cult classic when you were making it?

KVH: No, no. We weren’t even sure we’d be able to finish it when we were making it. It was such a struggle. At the time, we were thinking, you know, if we could only just finish it, then maybe, maybe, we could get a distributor.

RP: So once it was released, did it have a decent run? What was its reception?

KVH: Well, the first version of the film that was released was badly cut for the rating’s board. It just ruined the film. So it didn’t do that well at first. But, Joe Bob Briggs, you know, John Bloom, was an early champion of the film. He wanted to show it as a midnight movie, but he refused to show the cut version. So I don’t know if it was above board or under the table, but they got him an uncut version that he showed and people loved it. And when they saw that reaction they just started quietly switching all the cut versions to the uncut versions, and it totally took off… The rest is history.

RP: Now, the locales in Basket Case rival those of Taxi Driver in terms of New York City sleaze.

KVH: Oh yeah.

RP: Did you ever feel threatened while on location for Basket Case?

KVH: Oh yeah. As a matter of fact when we started off at the Hotel Broslin, there was this place near Madison Square Garden. We tried to start filming there and, you know, we had bums coming up to us saying, “If you give us fifty bucks we wont steal your cables.” And the Times Square shot in the beginning, you know, we were threatened while we were doing that. Nobody wanted their picture taken. Because in that scene, that’s the real Times Square except for myself and the pusher character. Everything else is real life. Businesses didn’t want the front of their establishments photographed. They didn’t know what it was for.

RP: When you were bringing Duane to the screen, what was running through your mind? What were your motivations? How did you conceive of the character?

KVH: Well, the Bradley brothers consider themselves one entity. They believe themselves to be one person that was cut in half. I always tried to work from that perspective as much as possible, to reinforce that, to demonstrate that whenever I could. A good example of that, of my input in the character, is where I’m in the bar with Bev Bonner and I’m drunk and I’m referring to Belial, and I say “Duane and I.” After the cut Frank said, “You made a mistake,” and I said, “No I didn’t.” He thought people would think it was a mistake, but anyone who knows how film is made would know better than that. That oneness of being between Duane and Belial really helps with getting an insight into the Bradley brothers’ psyche.

RP: So if someone were to remake Basket Case, would you have anything to do with it?

KVH: That’s up to whoever buys the rights I suppose. I’d like to do another film about the Bradley boys.

RP: Another sequel?

KVH: Yeah.

RP: Has Frank Henenlotter expressed any interest in doing another Basket Case sequel?

KVH: He’s expressed mild interest. But, regardless, I’d like to play Belial again. I’d like to make Belial into a real character and not just this raving thing. That’s why I’d like to do it, so we can flesh out Belial’s character and have a real relationship between the brothers… and that’s a really complicated relationship.

RP: So how do you feel about all of the cult classics being remade? Do you like it or does it annoy you?

KVH: Well, you have to look at it as a sort of flattery. Whether or not it’s executed well is something else entirely. For someone to believe that a film is worth remaking, that is a real statement of praise. The trouble is, though, that it’s like a band trying to cover a great song. Something like, I don’t know, The Doors’ “Light My Fire”, or whatever your taste is. You pick any icon in any genre and it’s a losing game to try and redo it.

RP: And that’s why so few remakes these days are really any good?

KVH: Yeah. You can’t go back. You can go forward, but you can’t go back. But on the same token, I think it would be very interesting to revisit the Bradley brothers today. Very interesting.

RP: Now, besides acting, you are a professional sculptor, and aren’t you in a band as well?

KVH: I play music on and off. The band thing is on and off. When there’s people around we get together and play.

RP: So you don’t tour or record?

KVH: No, we’ve never really got that off the ground.

RP: As far as your sculpting goes, what inspires your art?

KVH: Well, the stone carving has been my primary focus since even before we made Basket Case. I consider myself a fine artist, and not a conceptual artist. But the whole thing about art is the distillation of feeling so that others can share in it. That’s what I attempt to do in my work.

RP: What advice do you have for someone trying to break into the world of filmmaking, or more generally, trying to pursue a creative endeavor?

KVH: There’s a line in something that I’ve heard along the way that says, “There is no try. There is only do.” Don’t be trying to break into anything. Just do it. If you want to be good at something you have to practice it. You have to do it all the time. You have to live, breath, dream it. So it doesn’t matter. I always used to say when I was first starting with sculpture, not that I wanted to be a sculptor, but that I was a sculptor. Be what you want to be. I have a little card in my studio that I cut out of a magazine. It was, I don’t know, a self-help magazine or something. But this little phrase kind of sums up my approach. It says: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” That’s what it’s really about. If that’s not what you’re doing, if that’s not how you’re approaching things, then you’re wasting your time.

RP: What are your plans for the future as far as film and your art are concerned?

KVH: Well, I have a lot of sculpture that’s in progress here in the studio. Every summer I do a free two week stone carving class in the Catskill Mountains in New York State. I’m on Facebook. People can contact me through Facebook if they’re interested in learning stone carving for free in the Hunter Mountain area of New York. It’s about 45 minutes northwest of Woodstock. I also do sculpture classes at a couple of other locations. I have a few people talk to me about film stuff, I’d like to get back into that… And I’m writing a script for Basket Case 4.

RP: Really? Basket Case 4?

KVH: That’s right. It’ll be very different than the first 3. It will be sort of like the first one in feeling, but totally different otherwise.

RP: How will it be different?

KVH: It’s much more realistic and psychological. The Bradley brothers are 50 now. There will be a couple of sets of female twins and a mixup there… you know, a little craziness.

RP: Would you direct it?

KVH: I’d love to. But I don’t know anything about directing, so I’d have to have a really good assistant director–somebody who really knows film. But I know these characters. So I’d want to be involved to some degree at that level. But, like I said, I’m working on it. It’s not done, but I’ve got a good treatment on it.

RP: How long have you been working on it?

KVH: I’ve written little bits for years on and off. I’ll get an idea and I’ll jot it down and slowly I’m assembling them into something that makes sense.

RP: So, one last question that is totally unrelated to anything. If you could listen to one album forever what would it be? If you could watch one film forever what would it be?

KVH: One album? Holy shit. I guess it would be the Who. The one where they’re pissing on the monolith.

RP: Who’s Next?

KVH: Yeah that’s the one. I wore that one out when I was younger. And a movie? Boy, that’s a really tough one. There are so many films. I’m a real fan of Fellini’s Satyricon. But, I’m also a big fan of the Who’s Quadrophenia, for example. That movie’s a lot of fun. It kind of depends on my mood I guess. My favorite monster movie is Frankenstein.

RP: The 1931 Frankenstein?

KVH: Boris Karloff, man! In that era, with that make up, for him to make that monster sympathetic, it still blows me away.

…very, very, very cool. A huge Splatter Shack thanks [and personal thanks] to Kevin Van Hentenryck! Be sure to check out his website at www.kevinvanhentenryk.com, and it’s probably time you revisited the Basket Case trilogy as well.