Reviews

Purge This Urge: 'Chillerama'

For decades low-budget horror has provided plots filled with terrorized teens. Chillerama is their revenge: a film made exclusively from the perspective of 13-year-old boys.


Chillerama

Distributor: Image
Cast: Richard Riehle, Adam Rifkin, Sarah Mutch, Ray Wise, Lin Shaye, Sean Paul Lockhart, Anton Troy, Joel David Moore, Kane Hodder, Kaili Thorne, Corey Jones
Directors: Adam Rifkin, Tim Sullivan, Adam Green, Joe Lynch
Rated: Unrated
Year: 2011
Release date: 2011-11-29

The cinematic horror anthology has a long history. From the German silent Waxworks (1924), to British standouts Dead of Night (1945) and The House that Dripped Blood (1971), to the American Creepshow series, films featuring a series of scary tales tied together with a frame narrative have turned theaters and living rooms into cinematic campfires for a session of ghost stories. Chillerama channels this tradition as well as the golden age of the drive-in theater to offer shorts that pay homage to, even as they send up, subgenres in the B-movie horror canon.

But Chillerama does something else. It turns these familiar plots inside out, revealing the themes that have always lurked beneath the surface of such films, the taboo subjects that give horror its vitality. Director Tim Sullivan says it best, when discussing the origins of his segment, I Was a Teenage Werebear: “Let’s take these gay clichés, and what has been subtext, let’s make it text” (interview, Fangoria blog Gay of the Dead).

Chillerama offends and disgusts, and along the way also proves that horror, even or especially low-budget horror, has always pushed the borders of acceptability, and that horror’s transgressive potential has a social utility. In other words, it’s a movie full of sophomoric semen, sodomy, fellatio, and poop jokes that both celebrates and also enacts the subversive potential of horror film.

A story documenting the last night of a drive-in slated for demolition frames four “forgotten” featurettes chosen by the owner as the line-up of the theater’s final screening. The frame itself becomes a fifth short, with a twist ending that reveals yet another frame.

In Wadzilla, mild-mannered Miles (episode director Adam Rifkin), after taking an experimental fertility drug, painfully ejaculates, then tries to kill, successively larger sperm, until one escapes, grows to gigantic proportions, then cuts a gooey swath of destruction in Manhattan.

Retro beach musical I Was A Teenage Werebear captures the sexual awakening of young Ricky (Sean Paul Lockhart) as he comes to terms with his inner beast, thanks to leather boy Talon (Anton Troy) and his gang, who transform into middle-aged, hairy, horny, and homicidal gays when aroused.

In The Diary of Anne Frankenstein Adolph Hitler carries out experiments detailed in the notebook of Anne’s more notorious ancestor, confiscated when the Nazis raid the Franks’ attic hiding place. His creature—Meshugannah—proves difficult to control.

Deathication is a compilation of the excremental equivalent of porn’s “money shot”. Mercifully short, it consists mostly of director Fernando Phagabeefy explaining the film’s gimmick—a la filmmaker impresario William Castle. In this case: how Deathication will “rape you with your own feces”.

Zom-B-Movie, the frame narrative, follows the progressive zombification of drive-in patrons, after the projectionist—turned into one of the undead after digging up his dead wife and forcing her to perform oral sex—contaminates the popcorn butter by masturbating with it. Those who consume any of the stuff turn into flesh- and sex-hungry zombies.

All the episodes faithfully recreate the production values of their inspiration genres. Rifkin gives Wadzilla the look and sound of a '50s science-gone-bad cautionary film, with super-saturated colors, cheap effects, stagey sets, the ubiquitous cigarette smoking of the period, and a Theremin-dominated sound track. Werebear has the Crayola palette, teenage character types, and idyllic beach setting of a Frankie and Annette vehicle, plus catchy musical numbers like “Love Bit Me on the Ass” and “Purge This Urge”.

Diary, directed by Adam Green and shot in black and white, looks like a classic Universal monster movie and a '40s WWII drama. Deathication... well, if John Waters had ever made a horror film it would probably have looked a little like this. Joe Lynch, who also made Deathication, imbues Zom-B-Movie with the trademark gore and sharp characterization of a George Romero picture, plus the film-savvy repartee of a post-Scream slasher.

Then there are the value-adds. Pools-full of semen in Wadzilla, every sperm joke the crew could think of (“It’s coming!” cries one reporter; “At least it’s good for the skin” admits the heroine after being covered in goo), and a scene in which Miles trashes his date’s bathroom trying to catch one of the rogue spermatozoa. Ricky crushing his coach’s head between his thighs in Werebears, Meshugannah choking a Nazi soldier with a dradle. An artist spewing feces on a canvas in Deathication, the newly undead copulating with body parts in Zom-B-Movie.

Chillerama engenders a bad case of cognitive dissonance. You recognize the exaggeration of the transgressive kernel that appeals when safely contained by traditional horror plots (“say, the Blob does kind of look like a bodily excretion...”), and recoil as it becomes the focus of the film, even as your inner 13-year-old revels in the shameless abandon of the excess.

Still, what makes Chillerama work as catharsis or psychoanalysis causes the episodes to falter as drive-in fare. Finally, a little repression can be a good thing; some elements are better left to the imagination.

DVD extras include interviews with all four directors that provide good background on the film’s genesis, and entertaining making-of featurettes for Werebears and Diary serve as primers on the joys and travails of independent filmmaking. Sullivan explains the difficulty he had casting gay adult film performer Lockhart due to the objections of talent managers and other actors, and contrasts the more enlightened perspective of the independent horror industry with the timidity of mainstream Hollywood. Watching Green and crew creating Diary makes you want to run away and join his production company.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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