Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Raid 2(2014)

I hadn’t felt this sudden change in my life for a long time. My whole body had just shifted, and altered in a way I hadn’t felt to this extent. Everything I had previously known about action and martial art films had been changed. The process in which films could be made was seen in a completely different light. A new benchmark had now officially been set in my mind after I saw The Raid 2, a benchmark which is going to be very hard to match or even beat. I saw all the trailers leading up to The Raid 2 and thought to myself “This is going to be all kinds of violent I cannot believe what I am seeing in the trailers”, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to encounter.
Rama played by Iko Uwais, is back and this time he is going undercover to bring down a corrupt Indonesian crime syndicate all the while maintaining his silence but letting his martial art skills do all the talking. The narrative is very easy to follow, and while all the characters in The Raid 2 are all connected one way or another, it flows perfectly. If you have only seen it the once and find that the there are too many sub plots within in the film, I recommend seeing it again and this time focusing more on the plot instead of the action. Every scene, character and every sub plot NEEDS to be in there, everything has to connect. This is a lot different to the previous film because while the first was also outstanding, and did have a strong plot, there really wasn’t much room for character development because everyone was getting killed off at a rapid pace and the narrative could only go so far in an apartment building. Whereas The Raid 2 gets to branch out in terms of setting, plot and emotion.
 As an audience member you really get to understand the frustration, anger and at times sadness that Rama has to bottle up inside himself to get the job done just so he can protect his family. This storyline has been done dozens of times but they have never made history like The Raid 2, and nor are they likely to. “Why”? you may ask? The emotion and depth that each character feels within themselves doesn’t just come out of their mouth with dialogue, it is in their body language, the tone of their voice, the intensity within their eyes; all their life experiences that make them who they are. When watching this film, you could look at every character and analyse them to great extent and just take an educated guess of what each of them are gone through. You may be reading this and think that is total bullshit because The Raid 2 would have to be longer than it’s 150 minute running time; but it doesn’t have to be. This is what great story telling is about, this is what a lot of action films lack, but that doesn’t make them any less enjoyable. But The Raid 2 is on a different level and I think to really appreciate it’s impact you really need to let this film infiltrate your mind and you need to be heavily interested in the action genre.

The main star of the film Iko Uwais is flawless. He has made a big leap since the first film and it made the viewing experience all the more enjoyable when the camera was letting us into his mind and soul. After going through what he thought was hell in the first film, he has now a new level of maturity and experience under his belt which helps him in the long run with taking down the crime syndicate. You can see in his eyes that at times he is very conflicted with how to feel about everything in his ‘new life’ because while he wants to hate these guys, you can see he at times may genuinely enjoy their company. He feels the struggle of emotions, of what is right and wrong, but he will then remember WHY he is doing this and then it becomes clear he has to get back on the task at hand and bring them down.
The Raid 2 also managed to bring back Yayan Ruhian, who played Mad Dog in the first installment, but this time he is playing the brutal yet heartfelt character of Prakoso.  Prakoso is essentially a hit man who only kills to pay child support to his straight laced ex-wife. What I loved about Prakoso is the duality of his role. At one point he is this fast, vicious killer, who will attack on sight, and then at the flick of a switch he is a man with a caring nature and his only wish is to see his son. It was refreshing to see Ruhian take on this role in the way he did, because it was unlike his previous role as Mad Dog. Mad Dog was just an evil son-of-a-bitch, and seemed to lack emotional depth if it didn't include anger and hate.
I'm just going to interject something personal here because my reaction to this film was so visceral. With each passing moment, I was clenching the cinema seat and just staring intently at the screen, and I just couldn't look away. And just when I thought I had seen everything, I experienced the fight sequences…they were unreal. As an action and martial art fanatic I had always tried to imagine the next level, something I had never seen, and then The Raid 2 happened. Each fight sequence held my attention, it kept me enthralled, I was in awe and it made me so happy; I was squealing inside and out. The end fight sequence was just something I had never imagined. I felt as though I was giving my heart and mind to the character of Rama hoping he would get through the next few minutes in one piece. Both of these tremendous fighters had bodies which flowed like water, each move was more than just a move, it was a purpose, it was emotion, it was their lives. I didn’t see this as just violence that was there for entertainment, I saw it as something so much more vital and important that needed to be expressed. 
While The Raid 2 had a lot more exposure than the original, it is still a film franchise which is partially unknown to a lot of people, even to fans of the genre. They are several factors to that, one them being that these films are low budget compared to a lot of other martial art and action films; the bigger the budget does not always mean the better the film. The upside of these being of a lesser budget means that the cast, crew and film makers had to come together and really focus on making this have an impact on the genre as well as cinema as a whole. They are raw films that don't have that 'Hollywood Gloss' slapped all over it and it's stripped bare of anything that could take away any authenticity to the film; that is what I respect about Gareth Evans and The Raid. 
The Raid 2 is definitely rewriting pages in the action and martial arts history book, and is going to be remembered as a timeless piece of a cinema which paved the way for the next generation of film makers, actors and martial artists to come. It is also going to change lives and alter the way an audience looks at a film. It left me speechless, excited, happy and most of all complete. 

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

I Spit on Your Grave(1978)

Our culture is very desensitized to a lot of things these days, whether it’s practical FX that they see on screen or whether it’s real life horror. There are films which convey the real life horror; it’s as if we are truly experiencing them. It’s the real horror, which can be something far more scary and confronting than any slasher with a dumb teenager who trips up in the woods and BANG knife to the face!

While those films are extremely enjoyable, there are other films that are made, that need to bring an audience to their knees, to make them question what they just saw on screen and more importantly make them think and feel something. An audience needs to feel a certain emotion, maybe it’s unfamiliar or maybe what they are seeing on screen is something that resonates a real life experience which then connects with them on a whole different level; and this is why I Spit on Your Grave is such an important piece of cinema.

In 1978 the world was exposed to brutality and honesty with the release of I Spit on Your Grave. While no company would distribute it, it did manage to reach an audience at local Drive-Ins. But what made this film have the notoriety it has today are several things; the extremely misinformed film reviews, and of course being on the Video Nasties list. Having such a negative aura surrounding the film has been a blessing and a curse. While the bad press has made a lot of people just make up their minds on the film without seeing it, there are a group of people out there that chose to watch it with an open mind; some understood the narrative, and some didn’t. A lot of people have said that this film is pure trash, and that all it is doing is exploiting a very serious subject and ‘making fun’ of it. But again these narrow minded views could not be more wrong.

Here we have a writer named Jennifer who is from New York and all she wants to do is get away and go somewhere quiet where she can be inspired to write. But as she enters this secluded town, she is acquainted with several men, who just see her as a sexy plaything; they don’t see her as someone who has feelings. A little while passes and her good looks and sexuality haven’t left their mind, so they try to force their mentally challenged friend Matthew to rape her; he refuses.  One by one, they rape her, violate her, make her feel less than human, punish her for being beautiful, for being confident in herself and they punish her for being a woman. After two weeks of putting herself back together physically and emotionally she gets her revenge, in the only way they can understand; through sexuality and violence. I Spit on Your Grave is far more than just a revenge film, this is a film about how women are perceived in the eyes of horny men with depraved fantasies and no limits.

Camille Keaton’s portrayal of Jennifer was astounding. You see her character go on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, and everything is played so naturally. You couldn’t have just had any actress with a decent pair of breasts and a pretty face to play the role of Jennifer. This film needed an emotionally strong woman who could delve inside her psyche and bring forth that honest emotion that the audience could connect with; and Camille Keaton did just that.

In a lot of exploitation films of the 70s and 80s, the musical score was a big part of the film that would bring out emotion in the audience. However in I Spit on Your Grave, there is little to no music. Even the opening title sequence is without a score, but having zero music adds to the reality, it isn’t a distraction. The film’s director Meir Zarchi didn’t hide the fact that this film was going to be brutal, and he made the potential viewers of this film aware of what they were getting themselves into; so why try and disguise the honesty with an elaborate musical score?

You cannot talk about I Spit on Your Grave without mentioning the extremely graphic rape scenes, so as a woman here is my interpretation of what I saw and how it made me feel. There have been many films which have had such sick acts incorporated into them, some make you think the film is pure trash, some make you not believe the actors portrayal and others make you connect with it in one way or another. As a woman there are times where you will have that moment of feeling used, hurt, betrayed and violated and those feelings stick with you, they never leave. And obviously seeing a film that heavily focuses on rape can touch a nerve inside you. 

I Spit on Your Grave touched a nerve within me, but I could never turn the off the film. You see the rapes for what they are; you see them with little to no musical score so there’s no distraction. You see camera angles that reflect Jennifer’s pain, as well as the depraved look on her rapists face. You see the moments leading up to it, during, and the aftermath. You see a natural progression of what happens to a woman physically and emotionally and how she deals with this pain. I Spit on Your Grave is relevant to film history, not because it was banned, and not because it was controversial; it’s relevant because it’s honest. 

Sure it’s a revenge film and she gives the men what they rightfully deserve, but this isn’t just an exploitation film that degrades women and gives a male viewer something to masturbate over. What really got to me more than just the rape scenes themselves are the aftermath of what has happened to her. Seeing her crawl away, covered in dirt, cuts, bruises and blood and looking into those dead eyes, hit my emotions to the core and I even cried. They bestowed a depraved act on her because they saw her as a tease, a whore, something that is just empty with nothing to offer besides what was in between her legs, and because of that act she really does feel dead inside. When watching I Spit on Your Grave I feel hurt, I feel upset, and I feel disgusted that something so despicable can be done to another human being. But feeling those emotions doesn’t make me automatically write off the film and see it as negative. I see this film as a reality, I see what she has gone through and how her experience resonates my past. I connect with this and I am not ashamed to admit it.

To all the women and men reading this and are not convinced that this a credible film which involves more truth than you know, think about this. Imagine you are a confident person, you have talents, you are positive but you see life for what it is. Imagine having that kind of outlook on life and then have it come burning down to the ground, because someone stole a part of you that you don’t just freely give. Imagine someone pinning you down, spreading your legs and violating you, using you, seeing you as nothing, seeing you as a pathetic plaything who’s weak, seeing your body as something that they own, that they can control. Imagine someone’s sweat, their spit, their odor on you and no matter how many times you clean yourself up you still feel vile. Try closing your eyes when you sleep, and all you can see is that person, and in the silence of the night all you can hear is their heavy breathing. Imagine feeling so much hate, sadness, and just feeling like everything inside you is now rotten. This person you have no become because of brutal act is something that sticks with you, you cannot change who you become, but you see life in a whole different perspective.  Rape scenes in films have always divided an audience; some see them relevant to the plot while others don’t. Some filmmakers add rape into their films because they want people talking about the film, which is the wrong attitude to have; they should want the audience to feel something about the film, there’s a difference.

Films like I Spit on Your Grave shouldn’t be banned because governments, religious groups and parents think this will influence kids and culture; films aren’t the root of all evil. Culture is already vile, because we have been feeding ourselves with toxic bullshit and with each day that passes we start to change our mind on all the things that are bad for us. And before you know it, it becomes more important to keep rapists out of jail rather than in jail, and the victims aren’t the victims anymore; they are just simply known as sluts. That is how society thinks. And now thanks to social media, and cameras on your mobile phone you can now HUMILIATE the victim and spread it online and you can get away with it, wow what a time to be a rapist! As a culture we have allowed this complacency and we have let it happen for so long, yet we act surprised by what is happening in the world, and since we are in denial we blame a notorious film for every single wrongdoing. If you want empty calories then by all means keep turning on your trash TV and become more and more soulless, but if you want truth then turn on a powerful film like I Spit on Your Grave, it might wake you up to your brain dead society. 

Cannibal Holocaust(1980)

In the late 1970’s and early 80’s, film-makers and audiences were becoming more socially aware. Feel good films and drawn out dramas were no longer appealing. The audiences out there needed something to wake them up, to shake up what was inside them, and to change how they feel about film. Under our layers of skin, we all have a curiosity to see and experience things we shouldn’t. Everybody wants new experiences, they want to feel something they haven’t felt before. Any film maker can just hurt the audience with harsh imagery. But it takes a genius to bring forth a strong message through vile and unthinkable images. And a message is what the audience received with Cannibal Holocaust, it’s just a pity most people still haven’t grasped that message since it’s initial release in 1980. Whenever Cannibal Holocaust is mentioned, more often than not the general response from people is discrediting the film purely because of the real life animal killings. Cannibal Holocaust should be a film where you remember the message and let it really sink in and stay with you.  

The film revolves around Harold, a university professor who’s aim is to try and find four documentary film makers alive in the Amazon. Does he find them? Oh he does…dead, of course. However, he does find reels of undeveloped film that belonged to the film makers, with the help of two locals. Harold goes back to America and develops the film and finds out the true fate of the film crew, but as you see more of the found footage you start to understand that this crew were victims of their own stupidity and arrogance. 

In the footage you will see the film crew terrorizing the cannibals, and essentially trying to play god so they can get a reaction from them for their documentary. When you see the first half of the film, you feel dirty, and disgusted that these supposedly innocent people were slaughtered by savages. But when you delve into the second half of the film your mind should drastically change and your sympathy will slowly disintegrate.  Cannibal Holocaust is so much more than violent and sadistic imagery, it has such a depth to it, but a lot people don’t bother to look under what they see; they prefer everything to be spoon fed to them. 

It is clear that this film is a mirror image of the humanity and how social and emotional complacency seems to give certain groups rights to violate whatever they can. However, people may ask “Why does it need to be so violent to expose that message?” That’s easy, as humans we are just overall complacent and nothing seems to shock us any more, that’s why in 1980 
Cannibal Holocaust brought the world to it’s knees because of the imagery. Having said that it is possible that society not only wanted it banned for it’s graphic material but also for it’s strong judgement on humanity.

Upon the initial release of Cannibal Holocaust, it’s director Rugerro Deodato was arrested because the film was genuinely depicted as a Snuff film by audiences. Deodato made the actors in the film go into hiding for a year while it was being released. It would make sense to have the actors disappear for a while, because it would take away the primal reaction and feelings that we are supposed to have for the film. It would be a distraction and also the film wouldn’t have been taken seriously enough, it would have just been seen as trash. But obviously with having the actors in hiding, the film was taken too seriously to the point Deodato was being charged with murder, so either way you couldn’t win. It’s a real shame that Deodato was forced to explain the secrets behind a lot of the practical FX, because sometimes it’s just more effective to the viewing process if you don’t know the secrets.

What is so beautiful about the film is the musical score. Throughout the film there are vile scenes depicted on the screen, but listening to this wonderfully scored music in the background of such violent images is just combined so perfectly. You may wonder why is such music orchestrated and placed in certain parts of the film where it seems so wrong. But the reason for that is to make you feel a little something different than just disgusted, and make you understand there is a little more depth underneath everything that you are seeing. There are a lot of Giallo films out there that do this and more often than not it’s the musical scores which are remembered more than the actual scenes.  That is why musical scores are so effective in films, they bring an emotional voice which makes you feel, and it brings realism. And believe it or not there a ton of realism in Cannibal Holocaust, you just have to make sure you choose to accept the themes and messages through the film and not play dumb to the fact that this film is trying to give you a wake up call. 

The four film makers in Cannibal Holocaust are genuinely unlikeable people. They don't seem to be phased by what they are doing, and are willing to provoke, endanger lives and cause havoc just to get what they want capture on screen. That just seems empty, fake and heartless. But that is how they are meant to be portrayed so then as a viewer you are meant to not feel sorry for them because everything that happens to them, they have caused themselves. The only likable character in this whole film is Harold. While he did respect these film makers and was willing to risk his own life to try and find them, he was left so appalled and disgusted with their behaviour. And deep down he really didn't feel sorry for their demise. Harold definitely symbolises that conscious that we all have inside ourselves, that a lot of the time we choose to ignore because the truth hurts. 

The legacy of Cannibal Holocaust is very interesting because there are some people out there who truly do still believe it is Snuff, and there are people who feel the film loses it’s artistic merit purely because of the animals that were killed in the film. Killing animals in film shouldn’t be condoned; however Cannibal Holocaust isn’t the only film that has done that but unfortunately, it’s the scapegoat for it. A lot of people tend to listen to someone they know who has seen the film and tells them don’t watch it, they kill animals and it’s way too violent. But this film shouldn’t be remembered for actions that the director sincerely regrets, it should be remembered for showing the world what everyone was too afraid to admit. As a society we ignore what really goes on, we ‘forget’ the past and keep recreating what came before, and as a whole we never learn. All we do is violate, take, and refuse to understand and accept something that is a little different. The real savages out there are not cannibals, they are normal looking humans like you and me. But it’s us normal looking creatures which can adapt to different situations to make people believe we are sane, but in reality they are the most twisted of all. 

If anything THAT is what you should take from this film.