WIZARD OF GORE
Reviewed by: Dave Murray
What's it about
Ed, a noir-ish hipster in a goth world, takes his girlfriend Maggie to see an underground performance by the flamboyant illusionist Montag the Magnificent, who appears to butcher women on stage only to have them appear alive and whole at the end of the act. But when the girls turn up the next day, dead in the same ways they dies onstage, Ed spirals deeper into a madness of murder, paranoia and haitian zombie drug fever in this injection of film noir and post punk into H.G. Lewis' classic slasher.
Is it good movie?
Well, shit, I'd watch it just for the Suicide Girls! Seriously. These women, bold and brazen on their own in all of their tattooed, pierced and naked glory, can only raise the entertainment level of a flick, right? Forget for a second, if you will, the twisting, convoluted, drug induced story here, as well as the fine performances and inspired production design and cinematography. Forget also the fact that they pulled off a killer looking movie that actually manages to be smart and entertaining, while operating on a miniscule budget. What you horror fiends are here for is the T&A and the blood and guts, right? Well, you won't be disappointed here, my fellow gorehounds. True to the original, stomach churning classic (here's a tip: never eat a rare steak while watching the original Wizard of Gore. Bad Idea!), the gore is wet and heavy here, with some spectacular practical effects pulled off by Jason Collins and Elvis Jones that include severed limbs and heads, a charred girl with oozing eye and dripping burnt flesh, a nasty disembowelment, and many ither little tasty tidbits. And while I'm on the subject of flesh, did I mention the Suicide Girls? If you like some boobs with your blood, this one is for you. Damn, even the silicone casting that they dismembered was hot! It's too bad that some of the CG enhancements detracted from the all too cool on set effects. Ban that shit in indie horror, already, will ya?
Now that I've got that out of my system, this updated Wizard of Gore is an entertaining movie, but it's a little uneven. The story, while definately improving on the original, tries to be a little too smart with its twists and turns. Where the original laid out the plot for you and hit you square in the face with exposition at the end, this outing is a little more subtle. And was it ever a head scratcher of a story. It all came together on the second viewing (if you ignore the naked girls for two minutes and pay attention, you'll get it), and once I got the story, it all played out nicely. The small roles played by Brad Dourif and the hip-hop medicine man Dr. Chong, and a barely recognizable Jeffrey Combs as the homeless, rat and maggot eating Geek, were hilariously creepy and inspired. But the real standout here, of course, is Crispin Glover as the loquatious magician. His performance is downright creepy, and a cut above (pun intended) over the original Montag. While his monologues are kept mercifully short (a part of the original the snoozed me to death), the time he does appear on screen is deliciously creepy and unsettling. I could listen to his "Sit down, Bitch! You die tonight!" voice over and over again. I used to think this dude was wacko, but after seeing some of the interviews with him on this DVD, I think he's just a talented professional well on his way to becomming a genre icon. Kip Pardue's performance as the lead guy Ed is a little bland for what the guy needed to be, but the character did his job well. The suicide girls, Flux Suicide, Cricket Suicide and the absolutely gorgeous Amina Munster, who provided a wicked practical effect by virtue of only having one leg, were all gorgeous and talented in their own ways, having been hand picked from thousands of applicants through the Suicide Girls website. Finally, Bijou Phillips was just crazy and kinky enough to get my slack ass attention in most of her scenes, even though her character didn't have much to do. Awesome job she did standing out!
On the down side, along with the muddled narrative (which is cooly explained as being muddled because of the characters perceptions and memories being all fu*ked up and jumbled from the tetrodotoxin) where some of the threads weren't followed to their logical conclusions, there isn't much to complain about with this one. It's a fun ride, and an awesome effort over the original gorefest. I did have a gripe with Pardue's 1930's noir detective clothes and apartment, which while cool and different at first, started to get on my nerves, and with some of the reality bending and clarity defying scenes that took me out of the groove of the whole film, but on the whole this one is worth seeing. It's a smart, funny, sexy and bloody ride that lives up to the legacy of Lewis' schlocky classics, which inspires filmmakers and actors alike to take whatever you have and just balls out go for it. This movie went for it, on many levels, and succeeded. Not only do more people need to see movies like this, but more people need to make movies like this. If only the rest of the remake craze could be this original and incisive while revisiting the classics of the genre.
Video / Audio
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen - 1.78:1. Never has a Tetro trip looked so good. Nice transfer job that highlights the shadows and crazy colouring of the flick.
Audio: English (Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround) and subtitles in English and Spanish. Dig the sound effects and music. This movie is as unsettling audio wise as it is visually.
Feature Commentary with Jeremy Kasten, writer Zach Chassler, producer Dan Griffiths, cinematographer/producer Christopher Duddy, and assistant editor/associate producer Maxx Gillman - This was a fun listen, especially for some because it opens up the door a little more on the trippy story. Kasten in particular has a lot to say and his enthusiasm is infectious. But the commentary is busy and massive, and hard to follow who's who at times.
Outtakes and Deleted Scenes - including an almost exact shot replica of Montag's exposition monologue from the original, and more cohesive elements. The outtakes are just that, bloopers. Jeffrey Combs is a madman, but a funny one.
Making of The Wizard Of Gore - This short behind the scenes look mostly looks at the updates made on the original prmise, the set design and interviews with the actors about their parts. Pretty standard stuff, but worth it if you have 20 minutes to kill.
Behind The Screen: A Look At The Effects Of The Wizard Of Gore - Now this one was awesome! So many bloody practical gore effects, Collins and Jones really know their shit. The lifelike busts of the Suicide Girls (and I use the term bust literally!) are simply awesome, and their animatronic burnt girl and various limb chopping are very nicely done. A good look at the madness behind the showpieces of the movie.
From Volunteer To Victim: The Suicide Girls In The Wizard Of Gore - We are given a short look into Kasten's inspired idea to tap into the underground subculture of a generation by inclusing these lovely ladies in their first major film. We get a look at the casting process from quite a lot of the girls, and some little talks with the talented girls who were picked. Nice choices, I have to say!
There are finally Storyboard Comparisons to the final film, and a Still Gallery. Standard stuff all around, but nicely presented.
With all of the blood, boobs and trippy imagery, I'm surprised to find a well written (if a little jumbled and jarring) movie of such inventive originality and playfullness under the grime. And this is a remake? It's like an entirely different movie, using the story structure of the original as a springboard into shithouse rat madness! Glover is, as always, fu*king awesome as the murdering, tetro weilding illusionist, and the rest of the cast does a fine job of bringing the twisted amalgam of noir, slasher, head trip and post punk titilation to life. Director Jeremy Kasten's inspired idea to include several of the infamous Suicide Girls (in case you couldn't tell, I am a fan) in what could be billed as the first Suicide Girls horror movie, was nothing short of genius. It adds a level of subculture to the movie that plays directly to the audience that this was meant for, by including them. Keep it up guys. You've got me hooked now, and I'll be huffing on a paper bag until you give me more to whet my gums and gnash my teeth on. Where the original alternately grossed me out and bored me to tears, this update with bigger balls kicked the shit out of me and left me wanting more. And with horror, that's always a good thing.