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Not for the faint of heart
Kitten With a Whip Reviews

Horror, suspense, shock, exploitation, or just plain disturbing movies.

ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS

There goes my appetite...for the next year.

I first rented this sick flick in the 80's, and the guy at the video store who recommended it (knowing I was into shock/exploitation movies) told me he'd give me my money back if I wasn't completely offended. Guess who didn't get their money back? . I finally found a copy of the uncut version I first saw--hard to find, unless you have a DVD player-- and yep, it still shocked me just as much. It may have shocked me even more, because I kept thinking, "No WAY could they put a movie like this out today!" I've actually seen all of the Ilsa series and each time I watch one, I think "this is probably the sickest". Then I realize they are all really sick, just in different nasty ways.

The first time I watched this, even though I wasn't watching it with anyone else, I felt guilty for not turning it off and returning it to the video store, it was so sick. People have said the violence and acting are unrealistic, but there were parts where I had to remind myself this was a movie (though it was supposedly basedon real Nazi experiments...let's not dwell on that) and the women screaming in agony at the top of their lungs were just actresses. There's a few unrealistic scenes- for instance, a woman being boiled to the point where her skin seems to have come off looks almost fine a scene later. Most of it looks a little too real for me-enough so I was feeling sick to my stomach by the big dinner scene, and I didn't even watch it all at once.

I need to get this off my chest: anyone who didn't think this movie was violent or gory, you definitely have seen a cut version. Anyone who thought it was boring or tame obviously didn't see the version I saw with the woman being boiled alive onscreen or the patients with huge, open gaping wounds that had been deliberately infected. If you see the right version (or the wrong one, depending on your point of view) there are not 5 minutes that go by without some sort of sex, nudity, violence, or all 3 at the same time. If I ever heard anyone describe this movie as 'sexy', I would get as far away from them as I could as quickly as possible.

In this debut of the Ilsa (Ilsa herself pronounces it as "Ill-za") series, Dyanne Thorne plays the title role, an extremely sadistic commander of a concentration camp where they perform 'medical research'. The men usually only get castrated (after sleeping with Ilsa and not 'satisfying' her) or beaten. The women have the bad luck to be in a camp where Ilsa is trying to prove her theory that women are naturally stronger and can take more pain than men. Some are taken away to the 'brothel' area, which is no picnic either (one of the scenes that actually made me lose my appetite showed a prisoner after the men are through with her- not a pretty sight) but the *really* unlucky ones are taken to the 'medical' area. One woman makes the huge mistake of not only telling Ilsa she can take whatever she dishes out (Rule #1 in an Ilsa movie-never taunt her with her tough you are) but giving her attitude and talking back (Rule #2, do NOT give Ilsa attitude or talk back, you will probably receive the most disgusting fate of any character in the entire movie) and Ilsa decides to make an example of her, resulting in some of the nastiest, hardest to watch scenes in the movie. I can't describe them in detail or this review probably wouldn't be posted. Anyway, then Ilsa picks one American man, "Wolf" to sleep with her, a so called 'genetic freak' who can satisfy Ilsa, so he gets to keep all his, uh, equipment for the time being. Of course, he has an escape plan...he also provides most of the unintentional comic relief in the movie, as his acting is so amazingly bad, even for an exploitation movie, that he sounds like he is reading from cue cards, a few words at a time: "I-will-make...love-to-you-like...you-have-never-been....made-love-to-before."

As a sidebar, I'd sure like to read Dyanne Thorne's autobiography, if she ever puts one out. Several times during the movie, I wondered if the actress ever told anyone how she was making a living in detail at the time. "Well, today I get paid to go dress up in complete Nazi regalia and pretend to pee on another higher ranking Nazi. Then, after lunch...". She hams it up as Ilsa, and was, let's face it, pretty brave to do this movie.

A warning to others who might consider renting this because they hear it's "campy and fun"- don't rent it for that reason unless you have a really sick sense of humor or a real &*%$ed up idea of fun. Some co-workers of mine unwisely didn't listen to any warnings from people who have watched the entire movie and went to see a midnight screening thinking they were going to see some kind of bad-in-an-Ed-Wood-way B-movie. They made it through maybe 15 minutes tops before walking out in total revulsion. It's not the kind of movie you want to watch over and over because it's so fun. I watch it every once in a while to see if I'm still as easily shocked as I was a few years ago. So far, I am. If you think you've seen it all, you haven't, until you see the first 3 Ilsa movies.

Grade ( graded on revolting and shocking content, as I am baffled as to what to grade the movie as a whole): A-

Day After, The (1983) (TV)

Well that certainly improved my mood...

I watched this movie when it first aired on TV, when I was in high school. I remember the TV stations and media warning people not to watch it alone, and to not let little kids watch. I remember the little 'discussion groups' about it at school the next day. I remember lying in bed, staring at the ceiling for a while before I could sleep that night. The main image that was left in my mind was almost everyone being vaporized when the bomb hits, and their skeletons showing through for a moment (especially the couple on their wedding day- that must have been kind of a drag).

I was home from work sick last year, and had nothing to watch. The movie hadn't started too long ago, and I figured what the heck, it would probably be interesting to see how 'dated' it looked, and how it wasn't even remotely scary anymore (especially since I wasn't 15 and impressionable, and one of the least of my worries as an adult is a nuclear war). For months after I saw it as a kid, I remember being scared it would happen on a regular basis. Hey, and maybe all the warnings to viewers were just really good publicity stunts by the networks to get people to watch. Maybe it would even be 'campy', right? Ha-ha! No.

I watched the movie with only mild interest at first, but got more and more upset as it went on. This movie has not lost any of its impact, but actually disturbed me much more as an adult. This could possibly be due to the fact that because I am now grown up, married, know how short life really is, and have more of a realistic idea about how horrible life would really be 'the day after'. I was actually shocked at how graphic and scary the movie was, especially to have been shown on prime time TV in the early 80's, even when watching in the middle of the day. There's a truly chilling scene when a main character has been in a bomb shelter too long and completely loses it, and decides it's a good idea to bolt outside. She's so far gone that she just twirls around happily, as if she came out and the land they lived on looked exactly the same. Instead, the sky is grey, ash covers every surface, every single bit of plant life is dead, and the family dog and all the livestock lie flyblown and rotting while there is dead silence, expect for the sound of flies surrounding the bodies. In another scene set in a hospital, there was a huge jump that scared the living bejeezus out of me and almost made me hit the ceiling .

There are other images that I couldn't get out of my head for a long time, such as one of the last scenes where a man visits his ex-girlfriend in some sort of shelter for the radiation victims. I think the shelter was in a parking lot or a gymasium. They try to be positive, but they both end up sobbing The camera keeps pulling back until you see that the other dead and dying people surrounding them number probably closer to the thousands than the 50 or so you thought were in the shelter at the beginning of the scene. It just keeps getting more and more depressing, grim, and scary, until the last seriously depressing scene, which is made even sadder and more emotional because you see a character obviously insane and dying who you thought might be one of the ones to make it.

Afterwards, I think I ended up having to watch "Hairspray" or something equally cheerful to cheer myself up and get my mind off it before I could take a nap.

Note: I always heard how "Threads" made "The Day After" look like an after school special. I watched it anyway. Everyone was right. See the other page for that review.

Grade:B-

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Man Behind the Sun (1987)

One of those movies that you definitely only need to see once.

There's only a handful of movies I can say that about- Threads and Funny Games are the other ones I can think of off the top of my head. If you've seen a lot of disturbing movies, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You'll get the idea after one viewing, and you won't be able to wipe some of the images out of your head, or still have nightmares about them, even years later anyway.
I heard about this movie in the 80's, when I went out of my way to see every movie or video I could that was supposed to be shocking, disturbing, or really sick. Actually, I still do that, though these days I do try to read about it first, to make sure it is worth spending my money on. So that probably means I need some sort of therapy, but that's beside the point. Many of my favorite horror authors had brought up the movie when asked about the most upsetting movies they'd seen, and someone I talked to who had seen it just shook their head grimly when I asked them about it. I looked everywhere for this movie but couldn't find it. Years after I'd given up I found a bootleg copy from the laser-disc. This was after I'd seen Peter Jackson's "Braindead" uncut at a film festival, and pretty much decided I'd seen it all and couldn't be shocked anymore.
This movie is evidently based on real-life events during WWII, about a medical camp referred only to as "Camp 731" where the Japanese perform really nasty and unusually creative medical experiments on the Chinese prisoners. This includes women, children, and, in the one scene you couldn't pay me enough to watch because it was rumored to be real and I didn't want to even see a fake depiction of it, a cat. I'd heard that it made Ilsa's SS Camp look like a day at the beach. Well, I don't know about that, but this is definitely one of the most disturbing and depressing movies I've ever seen- as the guy I bought it from said, "Guaranteed to ruin your day". Fortunately, my day was already pretty much ruined, as I was home sick with the flu and feeling wretched the day I watched it. I probably would have been able to fall asleep way earlier if I hadn't watched it, though.
This is definitely not an enjoyable movie, or fun to sit through. Any Italian cannibal movie I can think of is more upbeat than this. Even if you were one of the people who thought the un-cut Ilsa was 'campy' and 'fun', I don't think you'll be too cheerful during this.
I'd actually heard about what were supposed to be the most upsetting scenes, like the poor man in the decompression experiment that sort of implodes in a horrible way that I think is safe to say has never been filmed before or since, when all the air is sucked out of the room, and the very graphic autopsy of the one character in the movie that the filmmakers go out of their way to make sure you care about. Man, that was cold-blooded, but I was expecting that. There's one experiment, though, I think it was called the "frostbite experiment" (most of the experiments are preceded by a title card, which gives the movie an even more cold-blooded, documentary feel) that caught me totally off-guard. I don't want to "spoil" it if you're really into getting caught off guard, but it was one of the rare times I was so shocked when watching a movie I actually gasped and cursed out loud when I was watching something by myself. It takes a lot to shock me, but whenever I'm talking with someone about scenes in movies that really disturbed us, this is one of the first ones I think of. It's been over 5 years since I saw that scene but I still remember it waaay too vividly. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view) some of the newer DVDs I've seen for sale give it away in the cover art, so don't look too closely at the box before you watch it (unless you want to know what you're getting yourself into before you rent it). I've got to hand it to whoever thought up that one, because I did NOT see it coming.
If you're into non-stop over-the-top gore, then you might get bored during parts of this. The filmmakers spend some time making you feel sorry for the characters in other ways. This film is well-made, well-acted, has very realistic (way too realistic) gore, and nothing is ever played for laughs - it's not a low-budget splatter movie.The entire movie is just completely depressing, downbeat, and disturbing to the very last frame, and I really only recommend it to people I know who are pretty jaded and don't mind really disturbing, upsetting movies, or those (like me, I hate to admit) that want to say they've seen it all. You also might want to recommend it to any smug people you know that brag about how nothing makes them sick.

grade: B

Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Jesus!

I was tempted to title my summary "Drugs are bad, mm'kay?" because this movie was so sad I was desperate to inject a little humor. Man, what a sad, scary, excellent, grim, disturbing, well-made movie. The more I read about this movie and learned about it, the more fascinating it seemed. I also am one of those people who, when they hear a movie is extremely shocking and disturbing, get a burning urge to see it as fast as I can to see if it shocks me (especially if it's unrated or NC-17), since I am pretty jaded. So, I eagerly anticipated seeing it.
Unfortunately I read SO many reviews and so much about the making of the movie, that I knew a little too much about the plot going in to see it, so there weren't too many surprises. It concerns four addicts. Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly play a young loving couple, Harry and Marion, who dabble in heroin and plan to make a big sale along with their friend Tyrone (Shawn Wayans) so they can be set for life and Marion can open up her own (legal) business. Unfortunately, their recreational drug use turns into day-to-day addiction, and things start to get ugly. REAL ugly. (Watching someone shoot up directly into a gangrene-infected, pus-filled crater in his arm kind of gave me a whole new definition of the word ugly.) Ellen Burstyn plays Harry's mother Sarah, a lonely widow who wants to lose weight to fit into a red dress so she can appear on her favorite TV show. She starts out by being addicted to TV and candy, but has the bad luck to go to a doctor who-in what I thought was the only unrealistic part of the film- gives her an RX for 'diet pills', that turn out to actually be speed. I say unrealistic because, as anyone who has ever worked in the medical profession knows, very few doctors will NOT just write someone who goes to them for the first time to see them for weight loss a huge prescription for extremely powerful and addictive controlled substances without so much as an examination. In this day and age, if you went to 100 doctors and asked for Dexedrine or a similar narcotic diet pill, I doubt even one would prescribe it. If the movie took place any time before the early 80's, this would have been a little easier to swallow.
Anyway, I found her story thread the most memorable and heartbreaking. Sarah takes pills and starts losing weight, as well as suddenly becoming very energetic and chatty. Like any addictive drug, her happy blue pills stop working after prolonged use so she ups her dose more...and more...and things slowly start getting very weird and scary. In one of the best scenes midway through the film (one of the few that had a tiny bit of comic relief) Harry visits her --the only visit he makes during the movie where he doesn't openly steal her TV to pawn for dope money. He is briefly riding high (in more ways than one) and tells her he bought her a big screen TV-he wanted to do something nice for her and figured out that "TV is her fix". He looks like he's getting a bad feeling when she's babbling happily about how she has a reason to get up in the morning, and then he hears her grinding her teeth, and figures it out. This is the first time in the movie you see real fear in his eyes. Sarah soon starts having very scary strung-out hallucinations-starting out with subtle things like time woozily slowing down and speeding back up, and when her refrigerator suddenly starts moving on its own, the real nightmare begins. An agressive fridge with a mind of its own sounds Monty Python-esque when you first hear about it, but trust me, you won't be laughing by the end of the movie.
One review I read said that the movie not only pulls the rug out from under you, it drags you and the rug down a long flight of stairs into a very dark basement. Another reviewer compared the experience of watching the film to a drug, and that's not too far off the mark either. Whenever a character gets high, there's a slam-bang fast cut montage of the same images over and over; a sigh, a pupil dilating, cells changing color. The scenes where Sarah hallucinates are pretty close to the real thing. The description I probably agree with most came from Darren Aronofsky himself-he compared the film to a jump from a plane without a parachute, and the movie ends three minutes after you hit the ground. The last few minutes that show the gruesome, depressing, worst-case-scenario fates of all 4 characters are just as intense, hard to watch, and nightmarish as I heard they were. I don't think I will ever forget Harry's mother's transformation from a harmless, plump, friendly older woman to someone so frightening looking that people cringe away in fear and revulsion at the sight of her.
My only complaints would be that I wish it were longer, with more time for character development. The film is divided up into 3 segments, Summer (things going fine, having fun getting high) Fall (the beginning of the downhill slide)and Winter (end of the line). I would have liked more scenes of what these people and their lives were like before they were addicts, as well as their relationships with each other. The cast is great- Wayans shows that he has the most range and talent of the Wayans bros- I laughed so hard at him in Don't Be A Menace that I ended up buying it, but here...wow. I would have liked to see more of his character. I never liked Leto much before, but he is excellent and also almost unrecognizable (he said he dropped 1/5 of his weight for the role and boy does it show). Connelly I disliked so much before that I would actively avoid seeing movies she was in, but I was very impressed and convinced that she can act. Burstyn gives the performance of a lifetime- not only convincing, but she was dedicated enough to let the filmmakers make her look like absolute and total hell, which many actresses over 50 would probably not be brave enough to do.
I still am amazed that "Scary Movie" got away with an R (WAY more graphic sex than this film-I had to pick my jaw up off the floor at what got by the censors in that one) yet this movie went unrated, reportedly for the flashes of the sex act at the end that, while nasty, was not shown in detail. Well, this wasn't a big budget studio film, so maybe I'm not that amazed, but it bugs me.
Not recommended if you're easily shocked, squeamish, or upset. If you only like movies that take you to a happy place, stay away. Everyone who left the movie theater looked like they had just been hit over the head with a very large board. And we were all people who knew what we were getting into. Recommended for those who want to see a movie that will completely overtake you and involve you emotionally. In addition, this film should be required viewing for everyone in the fashion industry that supported and glorified that whole 'heroin chic' crap. Also a good movie if you are having some problems in your life and want to put them in perspective VERY fast.

grade: A

Funny Games (1997)

I'm not quite sure what to make of this movie.

I do know one thing: I've never seen a movie quite like this before. I saw it because John Waters said it was his favorite movie of the year, and also because it was supposed to be very shocking and disturbing.

After I watched it, I just kind of sat there thoughtfully, not really knowing what to think. That's not necessarily a bad thing; let's face it, with many movies these days, you forget about them the second they are done. This movie wasn't really what I expected. I didn't expect the movie to have such a cold, flat tone, for one thing. For another, I didn't expect it to be so damn depressing.

The plot concerns a family-two parents, one young boy, and a dog-have recently arrived at their summer home by the lake for a nice relaxing vacation. Two young men trick their way into their home and, for no apparent reason, proceed to play mind games with them, torture them psychologically, emotionally, and physically, and kill them. That's about the extent of the plot.

Some people have said the movie is very unrealistic. Those of us who have known someone who was the victim of a motive-less homicide in their own home would disagree. Most killers do get into someone's home by talking their way in, or taking advantage of a situation where someone doesn't want to be rude. I have always been extremely careful,and never open the door of my home to a stranger. After watching this movie, any stranger I find in my home will probably end up being beaten by a pulp to me, even if they turn out to be completely harmless. Also, never trust anyone who is wearing surgical gloves for no apparent reason. Husbands, if your wife asks you to throw someone out of the house, don't ask questions first-just do it. Perhaps the only part I thought was unrealistic was the fact that the husband takes several fatal minutes to try to hear both sides of the story before deciding to do anything. If my spouse walked in, saw two men in our house we barely knew, and me on the verge of tears telling him to make them leave, they would either be gone in less than 5 seconds or something violent would occur.

People have called this movie extremely disturbing. I'd give it maybe a 7 or 8 on a scale of one to ten, one being Scream and ten being, say, Man Behind the Sun. What kept it from being all-out disturbing for me? Fortunately, one of the killers frequently breaks the "fourth wall" and talks directly to the camera. (spoilers coming, skip this next and the next 2 paragraphs if you don't want to know). There's also a scene where one of the killers grabs the TV remote control and rewinds the movie for a couple minutes so they can change the outcome. While I admire the film-maker for being original, and I understand the statement he was trying to make with this, it mostly killed my suspension of disbelief (characters stopping the action by turning to the camera and asking the viewer a question will definitely do that).

However, I'm actually glad those moments were put in (except for the rewinding, because something very satisfying that occurred was 'erased'). Otherwise, this movie would have given me nightmares. Characters you care about don't survive, and in fact, come to fates that you would not wish on your worst enemy. As in life, there's no reason for the crime other than the killer's personal amusement. And as is so often sadly the case, the killers will probably never are convicted (let alone arrested) and seem to feel no guilt or shame. They permanently destroy an innocent person's life as casually as someone would kill a spider.

The scene about 2/3 through the movie that people mention as being the most shocking and upsetting was so painfully realistic I had to look away. We don't see the actual act, just the aftermath, which is much more effective. I don't think I'll get the image of Anna on the couch out of my head for a long, long time; the director shot the scene in 'real time', and everything is so still for so long that I actually thought for a minute that my DVD had frozen up.

Again, I'm not really sure what to make of this movie, or even how to find the words to describe it. Usually I write reviews fairly quickly, for this one I almost felt like I was back in college trying to answer an essay question. I guess that says something right there.

On the negative side, I don't like when directors manipulate the audience's emotions, especially with gimmicks. The plot is very thin, and there is no real 'climax' at the end; something happens and the movie just sort of meanders off. I also felt at times like I was being preached to.

I can't really use the word 'positive' to explain the things that I thought were effective, or say that there were things I 'liked' or 'enjoyed'. This is not a likeable movie. Instead, here are the things that I thought worked well or were memorable. The acting was superb; the actress playing Anna was so good that I actually had to remind myself at times that I was watching a movie and not a documentary or snuff film. There's no score. I was never able to predict what was going to happen next. We never see the act of homicide, only the aftermath. This is not what I would call a gory movie, but it is still sickening enough that I couldn't eat while watching. The film never glamorizes violence, makes it look cool, or portrays the slightest bit of likeability in the killers. It has the courage to be utterly downbeat and grim. It reminded me I need to get a stronger chain bolt installed on our door.

I don't even know who to recommend this movie to. I'm at a loss, which has never happened before. Adults only. Perhaps people that saw Natural Born Killers and thought Mickey and Mallory were the heros, or people who went out and bought OJ Simpson masks to wear as a Halloween costume should see the victim's side. I know who should NOT see the movie- those who are easily disturbed, worry obsessively about something happening to their family or have lost someone they know to a homicide, or people expecting something enjoyably spooky. If you want black humor, watch Bad Lieutenant or something else. I have a pretty morbid sense of humor at times and I didn't crack a smile once.

I heard the directors' statement that people that walk out because they can't take the movie don't need it, while the people that sit through the entire movie do. Since I sat through the movie, I really would rather not dwell on what that says about my personality and morals. No thanks, I don't think I'll go there.

Hey! I haven't watched Beetlejuice in a while, why don't I put that in?

Grade: B-

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