The Act of Killing Danland at the Nightmare Factory

Danland, The Act of Killing, and Nightmare Factory are currently available on instant Netflix

Danland

Danland (2012) – Not rated

Dan Lear has become famous for creating amateur porn films that swap flashiness for rough, unimaginative sex. This documentary examines Lear’s psychology and what prompted him to leave his white-collar lifestyle for a far more unorthodox profession.”

One Line Review: A shudder-worthy peek inside the life of an amateur pornographer.

I find it hard to recommend this movie but it is a fascinating look at lower level players in the porn industry. The first third sets up the premise and shows Dan in his element, making ‘amateur’ porn. It rankles because you see that Dan is really not a sympathetic character and not particularly interesting. The actors and actresses in his film are not very attractive and most of the filming occurs on dirty mattresses and furniture in a rundown house. Be prepared to shudder at some of the scenes being filmed.

The second act turns that around a bit as they show what a sad life Dan has, especially once he breaks up with his girlfriend. His life just spirals down from there. The best scenes are at the Adult Video awards in Vegas where Dan, a natural salesman, clearly feels that he is important but no one wants to give him the time of day.

I will say that the ending is brilliant but definitely be aware that this film will leave you disgusted, depressed, or both.

Nightmare Factory

Nightmare Factory (2011) – Not rated

Using the career of makeup effects guru Greg Nicotero as a case study, this documentary gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the crucial role Hollywood makeup departments play in bringing horror movies to life on the silver screen.

Obviously I am biased because my daughter is a makeup artist and she has worked on a horror film (Mister White) but I found Nightmare Factory to be an excellent documentary about horror makeup. It primarily focuses on Greg Nicotero and KNB Effects but covers plenty of other ground as well.

If you love horror movies as I do, I highly recommend this behind-the-scenes look at many of KNB’s fabulous creations.

The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing (2012) – Not rated

A 2014 Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature, this film follows two former death squad leaders as they reenact atrocities they committed during a bloody era in Indonesia when more than a million people were slaughtered.

I was rather disappointed that the Academy gave the Documentary award to the feel good 20 Feet from Stardom rather than this brilliant concept film, The Act of Killing. The former death squad leaders not only fully acknowledge the awful things they did but reenact them for the camera in some rather startling, surreal ways. This film will open your eyes to how real evil operates and thinks.

I should not have been surprised though as last year there were four extremely depressing/hard to get through documentaries nominated and the winner was the lone feel good film, Searching for Sugarman.

 

From Dusk Till Dawn

From Dusk Till Dawn is currently available on instant Netflix.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – Rated R

“Robbers-on-the-lam Seth and Richard Gecko take an ex-preacher and his kids hostage. On a race to the Mexican border, they rendezvous at a cantina, not knowing the owners and clientele are bloodthirsty vampires in this ode to 1960s horror movies.”

“I’m not gonna drain you completely. You’re gonna turn for me. You’ll be my slave. You’ll live for me. You’ll eat bugs because I order it. Why? Because I don’t think you’re worthy of human blood. You’ll feed on the blood of stray dogs. You’ll be my foot stool.”

Director and editor Robert Rodriguez makes two separate movies here. The first is a criminals on the run saga which takes up quite a bit of screentime but then it morphs into a vampire survival tale. Although much of it is unprintable, Tarantino’s script has a lot of punch and great characters.

George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino play the outlaw Gecko Brothers. Clooney is firm, loyal and desperate as bank robber Seth but Tarantino is off-the-wall as his crazy brother Richard. They take a family hostage on their way to Mexico. The father is an embittered ex-priest, Jacob Fuller, played by Harvey Keitel. His children are Kate and Scott Fuller played by Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu.

Rodriguez packs the movie with guest stars. Before the bar, John Saxon cameos as FBI Agent Chase. John Hawkes, Oscar-nominated for Winter’s Bone, has an early role as Pete the store clerk. Kelly Preston (Mrs. John Travolta) is a newscaster.

At the bar, makeup artist Tom Savini plays Sex Machine. Makeup artists Greg (Walking Dead) Nicotero plays Sex Machine’s friend. Director Robert Rodriguez pops up as a bandmember. Fred “The Hammer” Williamson plays Frost. The lovely Salma Hayek plays Santanico Pandemonium (and dances with a snake for you fetishists). Cheech Marin plays three roles: a border guard, Chet, and Carlos.

The criminals on the run saga is pretty good, mainly due to Tarantino’s funny script. It takes awhile to get to the vampire portion of the movie but once there, Rodriguez makes it a non-stop roller coaster ride of vampire destruction. Special effects are good and fun, with the vampires perishing in a myriad of ways. They use a lot of green blood to get some of the killings past the ratings board (an old trick).

People Watch: The wonderful Michael Parks plays Texas Ranger Earl McGraw. He would reprise that character again in Kill Bill parts one and two as well as both segments of Grindhouse (Planet Terror and Death Proof). He also plays writer Ambrose Bierce in From Dusk Till Dawn 3.

Sequel-itis: What happens when you take a franchise and get rid of director Robert Rodriguez, writer Quentin Tarantino, and actors Harvey Keitel, George Clooney, Salma Hayek, and Juliette Lewis? The straight to video back-to-back sequels – From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999) with Robert Patrick and Bo Hopkins and From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999) with Michael Parks. The only connecting thread is Danny Trejo but the sequels are not very good.