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Your Favourite Foreign Language Films


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Dark Glasses  (2022)  Italy/Dir: Dario Argento  -  A high-price call girl named Diana (Ilenia Pastorelli) is left blind after a car crash caused by a would-be killer. She makes an unlikely alliance with a young boy (Xinyu Zhang) left orphaned in the same crash in order to survive the relentless murderer. Also with Asia Argento.

This is the 82-year-old Argento's first directorial effort in a decade, and unfortunately it's kind of a dud. None of his artistic flourishes are on display, and the half-baked story doesn't really go anywhere. There's one gory killing at the beginning that seems tacked on, and the resolution is anticlimactic. The lead performance by Pastorelli is interesting, but Argento's daughter, the best known member of the cast, has a thankless supporting role.   (5/10)

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Who Can Kill a Child?  (1976)  Spain/Dir: Narciso Ibanez Serrador  -  A British couple (Lewis Fiander & Prunella Ransome) are on vacation in coastal Spain. They decide to venture to a small island nearby, only to discover that all of the adults seem to have disappeared, and the children are acting strangely. This cult-favorite horror thriller has a lot of logical inconsistencies and some weak performances, but some effectively chilling moments. I wasn't as enamored of it as many seem to be, but it's still worth checking out for fans of the genre. Also released as Island of the DamnedIsland of DeathThe Hex Massacre, and Death Is Child's Play.   (6/10)

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Gamera: Super Monster  (1980)  Japan/Dir: Noriaki Yuasa  -  8th and final entry in the original Gamera series. When hostile aliens arrive with plans to dominate the Earth, a trio of friendly aliens known as The Superwomen recruit a young boy to summon Gamera to defeat them.

This atrocious hack job was made in hopes of paying off debts (Daiei had declared bankruptcy back in '71). It's cobbled together from footage of all of the previous color Gamera films (I don't know if any of the Gamera scenes here are new), as well as some other anime films that Daiei had produced. The opening rips off Star Wars, while the Superwomen were no doubt meant to remind people of the then-recent Superman films. Just awful. Gamera would return in the mid-90's with a well-received new series of films.    (2/10)

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Black Candles  (1982)  Spain/Dir: Jose Ramon Larraz  -  Carol (Vanessa Hidalgo) and her boyfriend travel to the rural English countryside after the death of her brother where they get caught up in a Satanic sex cult led by Fiona (Helga Line). Bad softcore sex flick masquerading as horror, with a couple of outrageous moments that have unjustly earned it a minor cult following (no pun intended).   (3/10)

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Baby Blood  (1990)  France/Dir: Alain Robak  -  A small, tentacled creature bursts forth from a captive African leopard and crawls into Yanka (Emmanuelle Escourrou), the abused wife of a circus animal trainer. The creature communicates telepathically with Yanka and forces her to kill so that it can drink the blood of her victims. This gory black comedy is often cheap and ridiculous looking, but is inventive enough to merit a view for horror fans. Apparently the English dubbed version features Gary Oldman as the voice of the creature. I watched the French language version. Also known as The Evil Within.   (6/10)

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Hiruko the Goblin  (1991)  Japan/Dir: Shinya Tsukamoto  -  An eccentric archaeologist (Kenji Sawada) investigates when his brother-in-law, also an archaeologist, goes missing. He teams up with the missing man's son (Masaki Kudou) and a belligerent school janitor (Hideo Murota) as they face an unleashed supernatural menace.

This was Tsukamoto's bigger-budgeted, more mainstream effort after his cult-favorite first film Tetsuo: The Iron Man. This one makes more sense and is less outrageous, but it was still a major flop upon release. I enjoyed it, though its odd combination of humor, gruesome body horror, and goofy creatures will be off-putting to many.    (7/10)

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The Kingdom  (1994)  Denmark/ Dir: Lars von Trier & Morten Arnfred  -  TV mini-series about a Copenhagen hospital that's the site for strange, possibly supernatural occurrences. There's also a lot of inter-office conflicts and typical medical drama developments. The primary characters include Dr. Helmer (Ernst-Hugo Jaregard), a pompous Swedish neurosurgeon who verbally abuses everyone else at the hospital; Dr. Hook (Soren Pilmark), a young staff member at odds with Helmer; and Mrs. Drusse (Kirtsen Roffes), an aged self-proclaimed psychic who repeatedly checks in to the hospital to try and uncover the place's supernatural secrets. 

This mini-series, comprised of four 1-hour episodes, was also released as a feature in some countries. Taken obvious inspiration from Twin Peaks, infamous provocateur von Trier seems to be mocking a lot of things here: the Danish medical society, "dark" genre television, and soap operas. The visual aesthetic is very off-putting: extra-grainy handheld video shot in a desaturated sepia tone. I thought it looked awful. The supernatural elements are also undercooked, with one truly shocking visual at the very end of the last episode. 

This was a cult favorite that I've heard about for years, and there was also a bad American TV remake several years later named Kingdom Hospital. I found this original very disappointing. It was followed by another four episode mini-series in 1997, and a third batch of episodes is due this year.   (5/10)

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Tokyo Fist  (1995)  Japan/Dir: Shinya Tsukamoto  -  A milquetoast salaryman (director Tsukamoto) runs into an old friend (Koji Tsukamoto) who is now a professional boxer. The boxer quickly steals away the salaryman's fiancée (Kahori Fujii), prompting the dejected fellow to train as a boxer and take down his rival. 

Tsukamoto (Tetstuo: The Iron Man) employs a fervent rapid-fire editing style and thundering music that pitches the story to a feverish pace. There's also a lot blood, and I mean a lot, geysers of it, so much that it's comical. My kind of sports movie!   (7/10) 

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Thesis  (1996)  Spain/Dir: Alejandro Amenabar  -  Angela (Ana Torrent) is working on her thesis in film studies at university, and her topic is violence in media. Her research leads her to uncover a secret library of videotapes that appear to be genuine snuff films. She soon finds herself in danger from the filmmaker, whoever he, she or they may be. With Fele Martinez and Eduardo Noriega.

This was the feature directing debut of Amenabar (Open Your EyesThe Others), and it's one of the more impressive debuts of the decade, a very slick, well-acted thriller with many twists and turns. Those twists eventually strain credulity, but not enough to tank this worthwhile entry in the genre.   (7/10)

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The Kingdom II  (1997)  Denmark/Dir: Lars von Trier & Morten Arnfred  -  Second installment in the haunted hospital series originally made for television. More weirdness abounds in this immediate follow-up, centering on the same group of characters, led by the egotistical Swedish neurosurgeon Dr. Helmer (Ernst-Hugo Jaregard), and elderly psychic and frequent patient Mrs. drusse (Kirsten Rolffes). 

The tone in these four hour+ episodes is much sillier, with a more obvious emphasis on humor and parody. After hearing about this series for so many years, the biggest surprise for me has been how goofy it is. Udo Kier has a larger role here (he appeared briefly in the final episode of the first mini-series), and it's one of the strangest roles of his career. Other notables such as Thomas Bo Larsen and Stellan Skarsgard show up in small roles, too. I enjoyed this go-round more so than the first, but I still fail to see what the fuss was all about. And it still looks awful.    (6/10)

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Bullet Ballet  (1998)  Japan/Dir: Shinya Tsukamoto  -  Goda (director Tsukamoto) is an advertising exec whose girlfriend unexpectedly commits suicide with a gun. He decides to get his own gun in order to exact revenge against the gangster who provided his girl with her weapon. Filmed in stark B&W, this is a very dark, grim crime drama with the director's signature fervid camera work and soundtrack. I liked it, but felt it started to drag.   (6/10)

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Gemini  (1999)  Japan/Dir: Shinya Tsukamoto  -  In 1910 Japan, respected young physician Yukio (Masahiro Motoki) is kidnapped and held prisoner by a man who looks just like him. The doppelganger then sets out to destroy everyone in the doctor's well-cultivated life. Director Tsukamoto stays behind the camera for his first period piece film, based on a work by Rampo. It turned out to be my least favorite of the director's work thus far, heavily stylized and ultimately grating.   (5/10)

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Dark Water  (2002)  Japan/Dir: Hideo Nakata  -  More ghostly horror from both the writer and the director of The Ring (1998). Yoshimi Matsubura (Hitomi Kuroki) is a woman in the midst of a contentious divorce who is struggling to maintain custody of her 5-year-old daughter. The duo move into a new apartment that seems continuously plagued by humidity and water leaks. Trying to find out why leads them on a perilous journey. 

This is one of the highpoints of the so-called "J-horror" wave that lasted roughly from the late '90s through the '00s. I saw the 2005 American remake with Jennifer Connelly when it was released, but only now got around to seeing the original. The two films are largely similar, although I felt this one was more effective. It's an excellent mystery, and the lead performance by Hitomi Kuroki is commendable.    (7/10)

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Phone  (2002)  South Korea/Dir: Ahn Byeong-ki  -  An investigative reporter (Ha Ji-won), already the target of death threats over a recent story, soon finds herself involved in another mystery after she begins getting cryptic calls on her new cellphone. This supernatural mystery/thriller is similar to a lot of the horror coming out of Asia at the time, with an emphasis on emerging technology. It's well done though not remarkable in any way.   (6/10)

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Haze  (2005)  Japan/Dir: Shinya Tsukamoto  -  An injured man (director Tsukamoto) wakes up in a very narrow concrete passage way with no memory of how he was hurt or where he is. He must slowly make his way through this nightmarish labyrinth, filled with dangerous obstacles, to learn the secret of why he's there. This very short (49 minutes) feature is an extended version of a 20-minute short the director made specifically for the Locarno Film Festival. It's very low budget, shot on video, and with very little plot or dialogue. I suppose it's interesting for how it was put together in just a couple of weeks, but there's not enough to it to make it worth searching out.    (5/10)

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Gamera the Brave  (2005)*  Japan/Dir: Ryuta Tasaki  -  In a brief prologue set in 1973, Gamera the giant turtle monster sacrifices himself to defeat another giant monster threatening Japan. Flashforward to 2006, and a young boy finds  a strange glowing egg at the site where Gamera died. It hatches, and a baby turtle emerges that the young boy names Toto. The turtle begins to grow exponentially, just in time for a new evil monster to emerge and threaten the world.

After the very cheap and goofy original Gamera series ended in the 70's, the character lay dormant until the mid 90's, when a series of higher budgeted, more serious movie were produced to much surprise acclaim. This attempt to jump start the series again features the top-shelf effects work from the 90's series, while refocusing the story on children and "Gamera's" (or Toto's) relationship with them as in the older films. There are some shocking things in this for a kid's movie, like people being eaten, with blood dripping from the bad guy's teeth, but it's pretty goofy overall. It proved to be a financial failure, and is to date the last of the giant turtle's movies.   (6/10)

*I used the IMDb release year, but all other sources, including the Blu-ray that I watched, all list this as a 2006 film. The IMDb info states that it premiered in the US in '05, but there are no other details.

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Bad Blood  (2006)  Portugal/Dir: Tiago Guedes & Federico Serra  -  A large family (father, mother, two sons, daughter, and a grandchild) move from the city to a small town to live on an inherited estate. The locals amuse them with tales of the supernatural, but soon find that there is more truth in them than expected. This modest, low-key film is well made and acted, but runs out of gas before the ending. The DVD I watched has the Bad Blood title, but every online resource refers to this movie as Blood Curse.    (6/10)

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Silk  (2006)  Taiwan/Dir: Su Chao-Bin  -  An eccentric, crippled Japanese scientist (Yosuke Eguchi) invents the "Menger Sponge", a mechanical device that allows people to see ghosts. Most ghosts quickly "dissolve", but some seem to linger around indefinitely. When the scientist manages to trap the ghost of a small boy, he enlists a Taiwanese investigator (Chang Chen) to find out who the boy was and how he died.

This complex supernatural science fiction film leans heavily on CGI special effects and tries to attribute hard scientific reasoning to the typical ghost tale. It's partially successful, but in the end it runs out of steam, and some of the elements of the film, like the Japanese scientist who looks like a live-action version of a goofy anime character, are cringeworthy.    (6/10)

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Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman  (2007)  Japan/Dir: Koji Shiraishi  -  Urban legend tells of the "Slit-Mouthed Woman", a ghostly disfigured woman brandishing a pair of scissors who kidnaps children and slices up their faces like her own. Now it seems she has become reality as children are reported being abducted by a woman matching the description of the notorious fiend, and it falls to a pair of young school teachers to get to the bottom of things. This is a passable J-horror excursion, with some creepy moments and a grisly antagonist, but no real surprises.   (6/10)

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1976

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The Magic Blade (1976) Yuen Chop, Hong Kong

A pretty good martial arts swordplay film but there are much better ones out there.  The version that I watched had quite a few music tracks lifted directly from Jerry Goldsmith’s Planet of the Apes (1968) soundtrack album.

 

and I’ve also seen …

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The Watcher In the Attic (1976) Noboru Tanaka, Japan

Japanese Pink film about a voyeur in a small inn who witnesses a prostitute commit a murder.  I’m making this sound more interesting than it really was.  Very boring.

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On 10/6/2022 at 1:14 AM, LawrenceA said:

Dark-Water-2002-film-poster.jpg

Dark Water  (2002)  Japan/Dir: Hideo Nakata  -  More ghostly horror from both the writer and the director of The Ring (1998). Yoshimi Matsubura (Hitomi Kuroki) is a woman in the midst of a contentious divorce who is struggling to maintain custody of her 5-year-old daughter. The duo move into a new apartment that seems continuously plagued by humidity and water leaks. Trying to find out why leads them on a perilous journey. 

This is one of the highpoints of the so-called "J-horror" wave that lasted roughly from the late '90s through the '00s. I saw the 2005 American remake with Jennifer Connelly when it was released, but only now got around to seeing the original. The two films are largely similar, although I felt this one was more effective. It's an excellent mystery, and the lead performance by Hitomi Kuroki is commendable.    (7/10)

I also saw the American remake, and found it so-so.

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Toxic Lullaby  (2010)  Germany/Dir: Ralf Kemper  -  Eloise (Samantha Richter) is enjoying a trip in the countryside with her friends. After taking some drugs. she suddenly wakes up in a desolate, post-apocalyptic world where the scattered survivors struggle to escape from cannibalistic mutants. This is very cheap, but occasionally manages to do some impressive set-pieces. The muddled script is bad, though, as is the acting.   (4/10)

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A Serbian Film  (2010)  Serbia/Dir: Srdan Spasojevic  -  Milos (Srdan Todorovic) is a retired porn star living the quiet life with his wife and young son. As his savings start to dwindle, he's made an offer to return to films for an enormous amount of money. It sounds too good to be true, and it is.

This notorious cult shocker goes places no other films had. I'd read about it for years, and put off watching it for a long time. I was surprised that it looks as good as it does, and the acting isn't bad by the leads. The shocking moments are definitely shocking, even when you know they are coming. Enter at your own risk.   (6/10)

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Kotoko  (2011)  Japan/Dir: Shinya Tsukamoto  -  An unstable young woman (Cocco), given to hallucinations and violent outbursts, loses custody of her infant child. She becomes even more unstable, but meets an author (director Tsukamoto) who tries to bring her back to her senses. This unusual psychological drama was a close collaboration between Tsukamoto and the film's star Cocco, a well-known pop singer in Japan at the time. It's unsettling at times, and also hard to follow, but I'm guessing that was intentional.   (6/10)

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