Monday, September 29, 2014

Raw Meat (1973)

 I had been meaning to watch this one for a while.  I bought it last year with every intention of watching it somewhere around Halloween, but I fell behind on my horror movie viewing during the wicked season and Raw Meat dipped beneath my radar.  Anyway, I was in the mood for something gruesome this weekend, so I finally sat down to scope this 70s oddity out.  Was it any good?   It was.  It was also pretty damn disgusting, but it was definitely a quality film.

Equal parts repulsive, suspenseful, and comical, Raw Meat concerns a couple (David Ladd and Sharon Gurney) who find themselves drawn into a sinister web of murder and terror after a strange encounter in a subway station.  They turn to Donald Pleasence as Inspector Calhoun for help, and he takes the case very seriously--while mocking everyone in sight, be they friend or foe.  Pleasence was the best thing about the picture, eagerly gobbling up the scenery and taking his role to such extremes that his efforts here make his work as Loomis in the Halloween series seem positively tame.  In particular, I found the scene where he and his second-in-command get positively smashed at a local bar to be an absolute riot.  This was a welcome distraction, as neither  of our leads--Ladd or Gurney--is ever half as interesting as the zany 70s clothes that they sport throughout the movie.

The direction comes courtesy of Gary Sherman, who is also responsible for the unforgettable cult classic Vice Squad.  His work here, on this earlier venture, is more leisurely and also a bit more precise.  One gratuitous tracking shot that lovingly explores all the corpses in various stages of decay that litter our bad guy's lair is perfectly smooth, incredibly vivid, and seems to go on forever.  This utterly gross and entirely masterful display of prowess proves that a classical approach can yield results that are just as disgusting as unhinged gore maestro Lucio Fulci's most depraved work.  Sherman's pacing here is also spot-on, and there's definitely one major scare in the picture that should have anyone with a pulse jumping out of their seat.  The director also gets some serious credit for crafting a picture that feels very, very British despite the fact that he's an American.  Speaking of which, I recommend turning on the subtitles.  The accents are so thick, and some of Pleasence's best bits are delivered with such ferocity, that much of the dialogue will be all but indecipherable otherwise. 

The score by Wil Malone and Jeremy Rose was perfect for this grim vessel, a subdued ode to doom with a sinister electronic vibe that somehow meshed perfectly with the dank and decrepit undergound setting.  The subways and the various tunnels and stations that appear throughout Raw Meat were used to great effect, giving the picture a potent atmosphere.  The make-up was thoroughly convincing and will surely turn your stomach at several key points.  All the necessary components were in place and everyone hit their marks; the only qualms I could offer up would pertain to the gore and the downer vibe, but that should be par for the course for a horror film about cannibalism beneath the streets of London.  Raw Meat was revolting, it was creepy, and it wisely put Donald Pleasence on center stage with a meaty part to devour.  Despite the disgusting nature of the movie and the downtrodden atmosphere, Pleasence made me laugh repeatedly, and I have to say that I enjoyed Raw Meat.

A very British horror flick directed by an American,
Raw Meat is known as Death Line overseas.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Philm - Fire from the Evening Sun

As many of you know, Dave Lombardo is no longer drumming for the metal juggernaut that is Slayer.  Of course, that doesn’t mean that he’s retired.  He’s currently gearing up for the first Fantomas show since 2009 alongside Mike Patton, Buzz Osborne, and Trevor Dunn, and yesterday Philm released their second album, Fire from the Evening Sun

I greatly enjoyed the first album (Harmonic) from this trio consisting of Gary Nestler (Civil Defiance) on vocals and guitar, Pancho Tomaselli (War) on bass, and the godfather of double-bass himself on drums.  However, this second effort represents a tremendous upgrade.  The charged vibe that permeated so many of the heavier efforts on their debut recording is still present, but the space and exploration that defined the stranger outings has been minimalized.  The end result is a leaner and more aggressive recording, yet enough of the avant-garde approach remains to separate it from the pack.

It’s a bit difficult to classify this group.  The strangest among us will surely find their efforts a bit restrained, while their sound will be far too innovative for the status quo.  Yet those who can respect something that is equal parts heavy and different will be entranced by Philm’s quixotic sound.  There are an abundance of dizzying sequences when the band seems to be letting off steam, layering Nestler’s furious vocals amid intricate riffs, a pounding bass line, and thunderous drumming courtesy of Lombardo.  There are also charged sequences that simmer without boiling over, and all of these powerful bits are interwoven with gentle and melodic moments that display the band’s finesse and depth.  It’s hard to find another band to compare these guys to—Filter comes to mind, but they were never this heavy or creative and they got softer and more mundane as time wore on.  That’s okay, because being unique is cool.  Being unique and heavy is even cooler.  Bonus points: being unique and heavy with Dave Lombard on drums is fucking awesome. 
 If you dig this kind of stuff and you’re unfamiliar with Philm, you need to check them out, and I highly recommend both of their albums.  Having said that, I feel the need to repeat myself: Harmonic was really cool, but Fire from the Evening Sun positively burns. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Approaching the Finish Line

Sorry I've been neglecting the blog, good people.  I try, but I'm currently in the home stretch with a new book and it's been hard for me to step away.  I'll keep you posted on the new book and I'll be sure to generate more content for the Land of Way as I'm able to.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

It's not often that King writes a straight up thriller, but like everything else, it's something that he excels at.  Mr. Mercedes is a nifty ride with a nice mix of intriguing characters, startling violence, and mystery, and it all comes together in a satisfying climax.  Often, when King offers up such a book, it's a little darker than most similar offerings.  While there are some gruesome bits and some explicit material in Mr. Mercedes, I thought it was gentler than much of King's work.  Having said that, it still has bite, and anyone who picks it up will be turning pages in a frenzy as they get closer and closer to the finale.