Reel Advice from the Video Store Guy

Red Cockroaches | Bloody Mallory

By Steve Anderson
December 1st, 2005

Red Cockroaches
**
DVD
Directed by Miguel Coyula
NR
82 mins

Join me for a movie, part one of three, that actually might've been pretty good if it hadn't been for one particularly unpleasant part that botched the whole thing a dozen times over.

So what we have here is part one of three in a series set in a New York with lots of acid rain and the ethical values of a major corporation, DNA 21. That's scary enough as it stands, but keep going and watch what else we've got. A twentysomething hooks up with a mysterious young woman and they begin a journey together that will not end well.

It's almost like a really dark and malevolent version of the Japanese anime hit series, "FLCL." Except here, the pervasive and only slightly ominous Medical Mechanica has been coopted by a dystopian future and DNA 21. Surly, grumpy twelve year old Naota has been replaced with Adam, a callow, spineless twentysomething and cheerily vicious space police officer Haruka has been replaced with Lily, a surly, grumpy, marginally mysterious jaded Parisian urbanite with one big secret.

And while they never say just what it is that DNA 21 does, or produces, or provides, they do hint around every so often. Much in the same way that Medical Mechanica's product line is never specifically revealed.

It really IS the live action version of FLCL, except they sucked all the fun out of it and replaced it with more surrealism than a David Lynch movie. By comparison, "Red Cockroaches" makes "Naked Lunch" look like "Dude, Where's My Car?".

Perhaps one of the first things you'll notice about "Red Cockroaches", and this is actually pretty well echoed throughout the film, is Coyula's tendency to use the most bizarre freaking angle he can come across in shooting. Check out the camera work at two minutes and thirty nine seconds--BEHIND THE FORK. I've never seen a shot similar to this.

And there is a LOT of potential in "Red Cockroaches"'s world. The way they hint around with DNA 21, the way the world is just so slightly altered...anything really could be done here. I find myself looking forward to the rest of the series just to find out what they actually DID with a plotline like this. I can think of at least a few different plotlines for this, and there are probably hundreds more than I could ever conceive of.

Plus, there are all kinds of strange hallucinatory sequences, and a whole bunch of unexplainable strangenesses. Mutated insects that mean instant fatalities for humans, undrinkable tapwater, revived dead relatives, and unnerving mentions of "destroying the colonies" make for a disturbing look at a possible dystopian future.

And just what the deuce is that thing that goes whizzing by with an audible "whoosh" sound at the thirty four minute forty six second mark?? And did I see him pay for fast food with a two hundred dollar bill and get no change?? I am so intensely unnerved.

The trouble with "Red Cockroaches," however, is how little of it actually makes sense without the rest of it being complete. A lot of the movie is vague hints and suggestions at the future.

Of course, I don't pretend for a moment that this isn't necessary due to the nature of the film--it's part one of three, folks, with the other two parts due out who knows when--but it doesn't make the going any easier right now. I can't even tell if it's a horror movie, a science fiction movie, or some strange suspensish hybrid.

And join us for a truly freakish round of "If You Can't Keep It In Your Pants, Keep It In The Family!" at the forty six minute mark. And it's a good example of what truly is going on here...he's banging his sister up the ass on the kitchen floor, little red light bits zinging around everywhere, it's just twenty pounds of creepy in a five pound sack.

Yeah, that's right, folks...Lily is his SISTER. His everlovin' sister. I had to tell you--I realize it's a small chunk of plot just out the window but you've really got to be aware of this. Some of you out there join me in the assertion that incest is probably one of the biggest deal-breakers on the face of the earth and you deserve to be warned that there WILL be some of that in "Red Cockroaches."

The ending is unsatisfying, naturally, but that's to be expected with part one of three.

The special features include a making of featurette, a director's biography, a trailer for "Red Cockroaches," deleted scenes, a short film from the director, story boards, and DVD credits.

All in all, if it weren't for the incest this would have been a pretty fair movie, a solid setup to what might be an interesting trilogy. So, if you ignore that truly awful chunk of time, you actually may get along nicely with "Red Cockroaches."

Bloody Mallory
**
DVD
Directed by Marco Cravero
R
94 mins

The French are watching way too much anime, folks. Here's proof positive in the form of "Bloody Mallory."

So what we have here is some of the strangest concept I've seen in quite some time, and that's saying a lot of a mainstream direct to video release.

Get this...the pope has been kidnapped. And what's sent after il papa? A chick with candy-apple-red hair and her partners who are dyed in even stranger colors, looking for all the world like some kind of live-action anime series. They're part of an anti-paranormal commando unit, and they have to rescue the pope before demons can use him to take over the world.

Oooooookay.

This looks for all the world like Joss Whedon had way too much acid one night, watched about six hours of Sailor Moon, and then wrote a Buffy episode.

Even better, the opening credits are written in French.

Yes, I'm scared too.

Check out the Scooby-Doo style exposition around three and a half minutes in, where a nun, unknowingly about to be attacked, fills us in on the plot by saying: "I've been so edgy since our two sisters' unexplained disappearance." Seriously, folks, isn't that the kind of thing you'd expect to see Old Mr. Carruthers say as he explains what's going on to that dick in the neckerchief...uhhh...I mean, FRED?

Even worse is the monster design. Remember what I said before about this being like some kind of Buffy episode involving way too much acid? Look at the monsters--like the one in the nun's habit just after the Scooby-Doo exposition. Doesn't that just scream "This Was A Mutant Enemy Production?"

We're watching chicks with bizarre hair colors drive around in a hot pink hearse and kick demon ass that looks like it would answer to the name "Spike" almost by accident! Who came UP with this? Is this some weird misguided attempt to make the horror movie version of "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert"?

And the engineering is way, WAY off. While they were good enough to give us not only English subtitles but also closed captioning, which sync up almost flawlessly, the subtitles / closed captioning are almost NOTHING like what the dialogue is actually saying.

At the nine minute and fifty six second mark, we're treated to our worst surprise of the evening.

Speed lines.

Genuine, honest to God speed lines. Akiru Toruyama speed lines.

I don't know what bizarre, deranged, half-baked idea this was supposed to be but they put SPEED LINES in a movie.

Okay, some background is in order here. For those of you who have better things to do with your time than study early Japanese animation (which I've been calling anime since you started reading this), these guys had their own secrets for stretching a budget. Where American animators would repeat backgrounds--which is why you frequently saw Tom and Jerry run by the same couch about a dozen times--Japanese animators would take a still frame shot of a character and simply animate lines around them to look as though the character were moving so fast their movement was partially a blur. This concept was referred to as "speed lines."

Now back to the coverage.

Sweet mercy, folks, I can't believe this. Anime hair, anime speed lines, cartoonish dialogue, anime PLOT--I keep waiting for Arucard from Hellsing to show up and challenge Mallory to a smackdown steel cage match--somehow, without notifying anyone, the French just apparently one day became OBSESSED with anime!

However, it's not all bad. Starting from the half hour mark, they introduce a very innovative concept--a village from 1986 that, one day, just vanished from the face of the earth. Accessible only from the gates of the town's cemetery, it's now an evil version of what it was. Right down to this incredibly creepy six year old in a white sweater. Just watch from the thirty one minute twenty eight second mark forward and behold. This kid is CREEPY.

And who let him have the electric carving knife, anyway?

Plus, we'll get shades of "Dead Alive", that great classic zombie movie, at forty one minutes and fifteen seconds.

"Bloody Mallory" is like a massive cartoon. Between the plot and the dialogue and the set design and the costuming and even the acting

The ending is one spectacular cop out. I'm not kidding, either. Watch how the main villain is finally deposed of and see if you're not truly pissed off at how they finally closed this out. It's horrible what they went and did on this one.

The special features include a making of featurette and trailers for "Audition", "Vampire Assassin", "Frankenstein", and "Waiting"

All in all, "Bloody Mallory" is outlandish, a little fun, and a little flawed. Really more bizarre than entertaining, it may still be worth a rental.

Reel Advice can also be seen on our fantastically cheap web site--stop by at reeladvice.50megs.com, and see what a video store guy does when you give him access to a computer and a lot of spare time.-

Want to receive an expanded version of Reel Advice as an E-Newsletter?? Email to thevideostoreguy@columnist.com with "The Advisor" in the subject line.  Steve Andersen, much to his own chagrin, is a five-plus year veteran of the direct to video market. He has spent an alarming amount of time in video stores and seeks to provide the public with advance information on all the video releases that they may never have heard of...whether they want to hear of them or not. Steve appears in one way or another weekly, biweekly, or monthly on such fine entertainment-related ezines as Film Threat, Dream Forge, Reel Horror, Acid Logic, Chaotic Culture Magazine, Malicious Bitch webzine, and many others. Readers, agents, or editors can email Steve at thevideostoreguy@columnist.com




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