Summer grab-bag, part three: Vinegar Syndrome partners

Casey (Anna Cobb) looks for validation and friendship on the Internet in Jane Schoenbrun's We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021)

In addition to their own regular schedule of releases, Vinegar Syndrome serves as an umbrella for an eclectic (and seemingly ever-growing) collection of small labels, many of which specialize in titles so far out on the fringe that their appeal lies in their strangeness and sheer audacity — like Pathogen (2006), a zombie movie made by 12-year-old schoolgirl Emily Hagins, or Final Flesh (2009), an experiment in which copies of a script were sent to producers of on-demand fetish porn who were free to film Vernon Chatman’s absurd apocalyptic family drama however they saw fit. The latest batch I received includes these, plus a sordid made-in-Florida slice of exploitation called Satan’s Children (1975), the faux ’80s local TV broadcast WNUF Halloween Special (2013), and a pair of more polished movies closer to the mainstream: Out of Order (1984), a claustrophobic German thriller about four people trapped in an elevator, and We’re All Going to the World’s Fair (2021), about an isolated teenager seeking connection in a potentially dangerous on-line cult.

Summer grab-bag, part one

An attempted robbery becomes a bloodbath in Javier Elorrieta's Night of Rage (1985)

As usual, there’s no coherent pattern to what I spend my time watching. In the past few months, I given my overtaxed attention to quite a few movies from the ’70s and ’80s – British sex comedies and cop movies, Italian gialli, French and Spanish thrillers, Chinese martial arts movies and an Australian superhero musical – plus a pair of recent Korean action movies and two ultra-low-budget do-it-yourself movies from the ’90s.

Cauldron releases, summer 2022

Liza (Monika Balsai) and the spirit of dead Japanese pop star Tomy Tami (David Sakurai) in Karoly Ujj Meszaros' Liza the Fox Fairy (2015)

Cauldron Films casts a wide net with their recent releases: Contraband (1980), a violent thriller by Lucio Fulci, is joined by Eloy de la Iglesia’s homage to A Clockwork Orange, Murder in a Blue World (1973), Jordan Graham’s mysterious folk horror Sator (2019) and Karoly Ujj Meszaros wistful Hungarian fantasy Liza the Fox Fairy (2015).

Murder, mayhem, sex and madness from Arrow

The respectable doctor finds ecstasy in unrestrained violence in Gérard Kikoïne’s Edge of Sanity (1989)

Two new Arrow releases – and one older one – plunge into sexual confusion, insecurity, violence and romantic longing: Robert Day’s TV movie The Initiation of Sarah (1977) riffs on themes from Stephen King’s Carrie; Gérard Kikoïne’s Edge of Sanity (1989) gives Anthony Perkins a chance to unleash his inner demons in a career-topping dual performance as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; and Kathleen Turner is fearless as a businesswoman who moonlights as a prostitute inspires romantic passion in one man and murderous passion in another, the latter another ferocious, jittery performance from Anthony Perkins.

Truffles, a blood-fuelled car, zombies and a family in retreat from the modern world: recent viewing

Team members enforce their ideology off the field in Bill Milling's Wolfpack (1987)

Spanish zombies, rural American zombies, a Korean serial killer, monsters and illicit mindbending drugs, a blood-fuelled car, small-town fascism, an eccentric family in retreat from the modern world, and a man with a truffle-hunting pig – there’s no pattern here in my recent movie-watching other than a restless search for the original and the entertaining.

Andreas Marschall’s Tears of Kali (2004)

Kim (Anja Gebel) cuts off her own eyelids to see more clearly in Andreas Marschall's Tears of Kali (2004)

I had to overcome numerous unforeseen difficulties to see Tears of Kali (2004), the first feature by German director Andreas Marschall (Masks, 2011), a stylish and artful collection of three loosely connected horror stories linked to a dangerous cult; each story centres on a couple of characters caught in psychologically tense conflict with occasional eruptions of graphic physical violence.

The future crimes of David Cronenberg

Artist Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) rests after a surgical performance in David Cronenberg's Crimes of the Future (2022)

David Cronenberg returns to his roots with a new movie which borrows its title and major themes from his early experimental feature Crimes of the Future (1970); once again nature responds to destructive human activity by accelerating the mutability of the body. This time Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen) transforms his continually mutating body into an object of performance art, infusing the body horror with a powerful note of black comedy in the director’s best film since Crash (1986).

Miscellaneous May 2022 viewing

Would-be actress Stella (Susan Ermich) enrols in a prestige acting school in Andreas Marschall's Masks (2011)

Bertrand Tavernier’s epic eight-part documentary Journeys Through French Cinema (2017) offers a personal and idiosyncratic history rooted in the filmmakers personal passions; Enzo G. Castellari’s The Big Racket (1976) and The Heroin Busters (1977) showcase the cynical, violent action of Italian genre movies of the ’70s; Andreas Marschall turns homage into effective horror in the retro-giallo Masks (2011); and Puloma Basu and Rob Hatch Miller’s documentary Other Music (2019) captures an experience all-but-lost today with their account of the final days of a great independent record store in New York City.

Blasts from the past

What makes a “bad” movie good?

Late summer viewing: Spies, Killers and Terrorists

John Saxon 1936-2020

Volker Schlöndorff’s Baal (1970): Criterion Blu-ray review

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