Monday, 15 February 2010

Mortal Kombat (1995)

Moooortall Kombaaaaattttt!!!! *cue pounding techno theme tune* Aaaah, this is more like it. The first Mortal Kombat movie came out when I had just turned 17, and seeing characters I had been obsessed with on my Sega Megadrive in the years before that blew my teenaged mind. The film is arguably the best video game adaptation ever made (with the exception of the Resident Evil films and possibly the first Tomb Raider, but that's not really saying much, is it?), and is quite simply a great piece of brainless entertainment.

I mean, come on, like the line goes, "A bunch of people on a leaky boat are going to save the world." And they do, by travelling to the weird realm of Outworld and kick the crap out of each other and a bunch of otherworldly fighters in a martial arts tournament called Mortal Kombat. Right, that's the plot. Do we need subplots? There are a few, which are essentially mini action movies in their own right (Sonya Blade's vendetta against Kano, for example), but the main focus is endless fight scenes, the very 1990s special effects and a badass techno/extreme metal soundtrack (a personal favourite- Fear Factory during the awesome fight scene between Johnny Cage and Scorpion).

It's a film that people either love or hate, and is a glorious example of a b-movie being upped to a full theatrical release. The whole film is, just like the game itself, a series of martial arts battles between humans and hugely powerful supernatural beings, and as a big, daft, popcorn-and-fizzy-drink spectacular, it's a thing of beauty. Then again, as a film it's also a big chunk of z-grade rubbish, but that's it's charm. It straddles a fine line between ludicrous and joyous that I've never been able to get enough of.

Mortal Kombat doesn't take itself seriously despite the concept, which is where most video game movies fall down stone dead. The cast is a b-movie fan's wet dream; Robin Shou, Christopher Lambert and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa head up a cast that also features Bridgette Wilson, Talisa Soto and Linden Ashby. The casting for the main characters is pretty strong, with the main trio of Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade and Liu kang being just about perfect. The only cast member I didn't really gel with in the movie is Bridgette Wilson as Sonya Blade- she puts in a strong performance, but something isn't quite right. Bizarrely, this role was originally going to be played by Cameron Diaz, who had to pull out of the project during training for it as she broke her hand.

The script by Kevin Droney was a bold attempt at giving the video game plot some actual weight- characters have reasons for being there, and the simple beat 'em up style of the game is given a fantasy back-story that's a ton of fun and fits the subject matter perfectly. The characters look great, even with the few small changes to costumes and so on.

This first Mortal Kombat movie was a pretty huge hit when it first came out, and spawned two TV series, a live tour and a sequel movie (which I may subject myself to again in the future for this site, despite how utterly atrocious that damn film, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, was), along with action figures, comics and more. It remains huge fun to watch, and while revisiting it for you now brought back waves of nostalgia, it also reminded just how well put-together the film was, even though it's a daft video game movie.

New Line Cinema released the flick, which was directed by the much maligned Paul W.S. Anderson, and while it was never gonna win any awards for being a great film, Mortal Kombat was everything that a film of the video game needed to be, and it's an adaptation that no other video game film of its ilk has been able to match. While far from being a flawless victory, it is certainly no Fatality.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Name Change

Hey, Genre Addicts! Just a quick note to let you know I'm changing the name of the site to DIARY OF A GENRE ADDICT as there's already a site called GENRE ADDICT out there (I didn't know, in all honesty) and I want to make sure there's a difference between the two. The URL will stay the same, so your bookmarks don't need to change. I'll be changing the shirt designs and listings elsewhere soon too.

REVIEWS TO COME THIS WEEK: MORTAL KOMBAT, HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY AND SUSPIRIA!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Zombie Flesh Eaters (aka Zombi, Zombies 2 etc) (1979)

One of the most notorious horror films of all time, Lucio Fulci's legendary Zombie Flesh Eaters is one of those rare films that actually has the guts (heh) to back up the myth. It's a brutal and gory movie and no mistake, but there's a ton of atmosphere evident onscreen which is the missing ingredient in so many lesser entries into the zombie genre. It's a mixture of the chilling soundtrack (which uses some very clever- and rather sombre - note progressions that aren't really in keeping with the schlock genre), great direction and some very creative cinematography that really makes this flick stand head, shoulders and braaaaaaains above the rest of the herd.

Lucio Fulci's direction is a marvel to behold here. He works some minor miracles on a tight budget and with very limited resources, delivering tension and shocks despite the woeful cast and the substandard script. It deserves its accolades though, as it was ahead of its time and did kick off the billion rip-offs that were to follow. The Italian master of ultraviolence is on fire throughout Zombie Flesh Eaters, giving us lingering shots of zombies getting ever closer, while our heroes fling molotov cocktails at them and shoot them to pieces, but still they come. It's that relentless wave of dead flesh that captured the imaginations of horror fans and filmmakers alike.

Many people see this film as a cash-in on George Romero's legendary Dawn of the Dead, which may well be true to a certain extent, but thankfully Zombie Flesh Eaters (or Zombie, Zombi, Zombie 2 or whichever of the dozen titles you know it by) is very much a film in its own right too. From early on in the film you know you're in for something different to the Romero classic. I mean, ol' George never had a scene in which a ZOMBIE WRESTLES A SHARK UNDERWATER. Yes, that's right. One of the greatest scenes in any movie, ever, is right here in Zombie Flesh Eaters, when a zombie does actually have a fight with a shark. Underwater. For about five minutes. It's a gloriously ridiculous scene that you really won't have seen anywhere else.

But that's not all. Zombie Flesh Eaters has all kinds of mayhem to offer you, with eyes being gouged out, limbs being shot off, guts/throats/faces/innards being chomped on, and some of the creepiest Zombie makeups ever. The colour palette of the film is quite interesting too, with muted greys and browns whenever the zombies are onscreen (and indeed, in their makeups), which contrast greatly with the lush setting that some of the film takes place in. The notorious siege scenes towards the movie's climax are gripping and very well directed and edited.

The acting, well, is bloody awful from every single cast member, but their delivery adds a little camp fun to what is otherwise an incredible violent test of your nerves and stomach. The infamous eye-popping scene (in which a zombie drags a female character's face onto a sharp piece of wood and literally pops one of her eyes) is hideous and unnerving, even though it's blatantly fake. I guess it's that edge of unreality that gives the gore effects an added punch here, and there's plenty of them to chew over (sorry).

The final shots are grim and end the film on a marvellously sombre note, perfectly accompanied by the same few notes that have been playing throughout the whole film, giving the last images of the film a hypnotic and almost sad atmosphere. The film has been available in various cut versions for a long time, but the fully uncut version is the thing to see if you want the full effect of this truly classic film. While Dawn of the Dead is a bona fide masterpiece of cult cinema, Zombie Flesh Eaters may have it beaten in terms of sheer visceral nastiness. Have you got the guts to sit through this badly acted, gloriously directed piece of schlock? maybe, but you might not afterwards.