Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here on the IndyBlog.
I was mesmerized as I watched the 2009 outré documentary The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia, the incredible true story of a family of crank-addicted, violence-prone outlaws living in the Appalachias. And I never thought that, a few weeks later, I’d be watching the intensely unforgettable biopic of the most famous member of the clan, mountain dancer Jesco White. White Lightnin’ might be a British film, but it’s an unflinching slice of Americana, telling the story of a lifelong huffer — seriously, the guy starts sniffin’ gas at about 8 years old — and how he made a name for himself on the folk-dancing scene, becoming a minor celebrity, all in between bouts of impoverished drug-use and psychotic extreme violence. How much of this is truth and how much is fiction is pretty up in the air — the last half-hour goes into a thriller territory that is the greatest anti-meth ad ever filmed — but one thing’s for sure: It’s a brain-addled masterpiece of modern cinema.
When I was in eighth grade or so, being the fat film nerd with no social life that I was, I rented a VHS copy of Tetsuo: The Iron Man from my local mom-n-pop video store and was permanently scarred by the 60-minute shotgun blast of total Japanese cyber-punk industrial insanity. Screw Eraserhead! As far as I was concerned, director Shinya Tsukamoto was the real avant-garde mind-fuck genius and should be celebrated as such! Twenty years later, he’s delivered the third film in the Tetsuo series, The Bullet Man, and for 70 minutes, it put me back in middle school, mouth fully agape at the nausea-inducing cameras, schizophrenic editing and pounding Nine Inch Nails soundtrack.. An American office worker, living in Tokyo, finds himself morphing into a living, metal-ized, bio-organic weapon when confronted with the anger at the murder of his young son. The angrier he gets, the closer he gets to destroying the world. And he gets pretty damn angry.
When I first saw the cover of Cyrus: Mind of a Serial Killer, one look at the bloody chair, floor and cleaver and I already knew I was going to hate this movie. I am so burnt out on serial killer flicks, and, even more so, torture movies. I popped it into the DVD player not even expecting to finish it. All this apprehension was for naught, however, because as I dug more into Cyrus, the more I found not a gory exploitationer, but a real in-depth profile of a tortured, depressed mind, mostly thanks to an engagingly haunting performance by Brian Krause. He takes what could have been a one-note gag as the “County Line Cannibal” and gives it a horrific realism. Supporting performances by genre stalwarts Danielle Harris and Lance Henriksen only add to the accolades. I’m just hoping that other would-be viewers aren’t put off by the routine box-art, like I almost was.