Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy
By Steve Anderson
September 16th, 2004

Flowers on the Razorwire: Episode One, Chance Meeting

30 mins and a whole bunch of extras

I have to hand it to Joe Monks of Chanting Monks Press. If you're looking for an all new standard of disturbing, you need look no farther than the first five minutes of Flowers on the Razorwire.

The first five minutes of Flowers on the Razorwire makes the entire Hellraiser series look like a Ken Burns documentary.

Produced as the pilot episode for a Japanese horror series, and NOT as the lead-in to a larger feature as I had previously thought,it involves a lonely fellow who gets him a little sadomasochism action and finds it goes a lot farther than he'd care for it to go. Lying on a table, bound at wrists and ankles, and with about thirty giant needles embedded in his stomach, the overzealous mistress he'd hired gives our boy his marching orders: tell her a scary story or she'll find out just how far she can go before he stops making noise.

So probably scared out of his mind and hurting like a son of a bitch from having a series of giant needles embedded in his stomach, our boy improvises us a scary tale. A young Japanese girl is doing her laundry in an apartment building when, getting on the elevator, she slights a blind man by closing the elevator doors on her in a bit of a panic. This is, of course, when all hell breaks loose. She gets stuck on the elevator with the building's boiler maintenance man, who carries on about the methodology of the town's newest serial killer, frequently menacing our slight, unassuming little Japanese girl. Leading up to a twist that's surprising, assuming you haven't seen very many horror movies before. Noobs will be amazed...veterans will give an audible shrug.

But this is where the amazing part starts.

It's over.

That's right, just watched a half-hour video. For all we know, our boy in the beginning is STILL tied to that table, and the mistress is keeping him alive through a series of transfusions with blood donated by local rodents. He could be hosting a kiddie show in Vancouver with her for all we know, because the show's OVER! It's DONE!

Like me, you're probably staring at the credit roll and saying in one loud, unified voice, "Huh?"

I just sat through a half hour of sadomasochism and endless conversations about the intricate mechanics of forcibly removing a human nipple, and I don't even know what happened to the poor dumb schmuck with the needles in his stomach. Where is the ending?

Disappointed? Sure am. But even through the dark haze of my half-hour disappointment, dammit, I CAN'T completely pan Flowers on the Razorwire. I just CAN'T. You know why? Because Joe Monks has gone all freaking out to make sure the DVD extras are a real surprise. Let's go over them. Okay, there are no subtitles, or audio options, but we DO get a music video of one of the movie's songs, a blooper reel which is surprisingly funny, and a behind-the-scenes featurette. We also get a downright chilling trailer for the movie "Garbage Man" that features more love letters than "You've Got Mail".

There's also something called the "HDF Director's Reel" which is apparently a series of trailers. Like trailers for the movie "Garbage Man" that gives us a little more insight into what it's about. It features many, many killings and Zach De La Rocha screaming about bullets for several seconds. Oh, wait...that's a Rage Against the Machine song. We also get footage of guys beating each other senseless with sticks. This makes Backyard Wrestling look like a sensible pastime.

Plus, in a move that will make me sing the brilliance of Monks for years to come, Flowers on the Razorwire includes a comic book in the DVD package. A black-and-white multiple story comic book featuring a story that basically takes Watership Down and injects it with bunnies that make Bun-Bun look socially responsible.

So, God help me, I finally can't decide just what to make of Flowers on the Razorwire. While the main story is disturbing and ultimately disappointing, the extras are so varied, numerous, and utterly original that I can't help but come away satisfied. It's like I bought a lemon on the used car lot, but the dealer gave me a free balloon, hot dog, can of soda, air freshener, large pizza, key chain, floor mats, rust proofing, instant rebate and no payments for fifty years financing.

All in all, I'm only slightly less than satisfied with Flowers on the Razorwire...only slightly.

Ghosts of Edendale

90 min

Old Hollywood decides that it's not going out without a gunfight in Ghosts of Edendale, and when Old Hollywood wants to defend its turf, it doesn't fool around.

Now, let me preface by stating that I'm personally very excited about this week's column. You'll notice that, regardless of WHAT video store you go to, you won't find it on the shelves. It's not on Netflix, either. The reason is, it hasn't been released yet. That's right...Reel Advice readers are getting an advance look at an UPCOMING RELEASE. It won't even be on the shelves until mid-October, and you'll know about it in advance.

NOW aren't you glad you stuck around?

How'd I get it?

Simple...the director, Stefan Avalos, is a Reel Advice reader himself!

But now, on to the movie.

The DVD menu is a real thrill--easily one of the best out there. Figures move in the background and fade from color to black and white, as though the picture is aging and moving all on its own. In the background, a discordant piano solo crashes its way through the sequence of movement, lending a truly eerie touch to the tableau. Meanwhile, the options sit nondescript below the picture, almost an afterthought. It's subtle without being too obtuse, and a truly refreshing touch to an often ignored feature of DVDs.

Even the individual option menus have their own ominous backgrounds. I haven't seen a DVD menu this involved since Jeepers Creepers 2, and I love it.

A couple, Kevin and Rachel by name, moves into an old house in California, setting up residence on a fairly run down street, Edendale Place. Apparently, Edendale was the center of some serious goings-on in Hollywood, including whatever happened to the previous owners of the house our hapless couple just bought. Something so bizarre that they left food to rot in the unpowered refrigerator, left furniture abandoned behind them, and even rushed out so fast they knocked the back porch's wind chime.

They discover some very pleasant neighbors, like Julian and Alex, who not only help Kevin and Rachel move in, but also bring beer.

This should be Kevin and Rachel's first warning sign--strangers bearing beer in the middle of Los Angeles is not exactly normal--but if they used logical thought processes we wouldn't have a movie, now would we?

The neighborhood has this whole "pod person" feel to it--everyone in the neighborhood is in "the business" in one way or another; actors, writers, musicians are all well represented with a near fanaticism. For instance, Julian and Alex discuss Andrew, an actor who apparently botched a show they had recommended him for, and the neighborhood reacted with a systematic ostracism. They visibly hate to discuss Andrew, and refuse to invite him to parties.

I keep waiting for Julian to stand stock-still, arm stretched out, finger pointing, screaming "Anna Nicole! Anna Nicole!"

Andrew, meanwhile, is wandering around the neighborhood like a junkie looking for a crack house, desperate for Rachel to tell him when the next party will be.

Things don't get much better from there for Kevin and Rachel. Weird events plague them, both natural and paranormal. And Kevin's changing, too...not necessarily for the better. Kevin's working out! Quitting smoking! Watching what he eats! Getting weepy and obsessive over spurs his wife found Oooookay. Something is definitely not right in Kevin's head-meat.

The events keep rolling right along until the inexorable conclusion, which is presented terribly well in the truly unsettling ending as Rachel discovers that the stories of Edendale aren't just stories after all....

Creepy moments abound in "Ghosts of Edendale"--there are all kinds of scenes that'll have you working the rewind and frame advance buttons on your remotes as you ask "What was THAT?" For instance, keep your eyes on Rachel's bedroom closet for a moment that got ME nervous, and that's saying something. Check out the fence a little later, too.

Extra features are also very involved. We have a handful of audio and commentary options, behind the scenes featurettes, production artwork, a trailer, deleted scenes, and subtitles in English, French and Spanish.

Ghosts of Edendale uses music and atmosphere to a maximum effectiveness, creating a film that is at once cerebral and unsettling. It refuses to rely on trite horror gimmicks like buckets of blood and mock Satanic rituals, and instead relies on its environment and excellent cinematography to produce its shocks.

All in all, Ghosts of Edendale is a highly effective horror film, for what it uses and what it REFUSES. Stefan Avalos needs to be putting out more movies like this--it's head and shoulders above the crap that's hitting shelves these days.