Saturday, June 09, 2007

When Dreckschwein Loses All Meaning

Random thought before I begin: I've not yet watched Ikki Tousen (which also goes under the title Battle Vixens), since it was for all intents and purposes a cheap knock-off of Oh!great's own Tenjho Tenge, which alongside Airmaster were a total of 3 shows that all happened to be about high school girls pounding the living piss out of one another. Airmaster had the good animation and was actually funny, Ten-Ten had the hawt Oh!great character designs and "eff the man" vibe going for it, Real Bout High School came out a year or two before and nobody cared (apart from the fact that the animation was by Gonzo), and Ikki... well, it didn't appear to have shit in comparison. Thus, I've skipped it, and 'till now I've not seen a problem with that.

Now the sequel Ikki Tousen: Dragon Destiny was animated by Studio Arms, is directed by OHATA Koichi (that's "The MD Geist" guy - and everyone who wants to chime in with 'Genocyber sucks!' can just eat me right now. That includes John O, too.), and has character designs by Rin-Sin, the awesome ecchi woman who's been drawing hentai character designs and covers of them getting molested by tentacles since the original La Blue Girl. (No wonder the girls look better and lick up their own blood this time...) It also has a budget, something that screencaps of the original told me it lacked. Much as I'm still not sold on the original, I'll probably watch it now just to see what the hell Koichi's capable of without guro-mecha, and what Rin-Sin's capable of without penetration and semen.

The times, they are a changin'.

Anyway, I'm quite literally sick to shit of bad German gore movies. That's not to say I don't like German movies, or gore, or even bad movies... it's just the one I'm working on now is... well, fucking awful. The last one I did for my boss didn't phase me: it was low budget, but no worse than most zombie films. (And it wasn't quite a zombie film anyway, I guess.) It involved people running around and shooting puss-spewing monsters while German death metal bladed in the background. It didn't deserve any awards or break particularly new ground, but it was an amusing little piece of B-movie fun none the less. It also had decent dialog... the kind where not every single line was composed of the same insult.

Now let me explain something to you about German, if not as a language then from the perspective of bored 20-somethings' who make movies using their home video cameras. They can't come up with a creative way to insult someone, and from the past 2 films I've done, the insults are invariably linked to "schwein". That means pig, naturally, and I was rather amazed that German did have the word "fuck" considering how often the insult of 'you pig' is bandied about in these low budget features. Maybe "Fucker" just doesn't pack a punch in German for some reason... but really, the worst insult I've seen in the feature I'm working on now - and quite literally every third line is an insult! - is dreckschwein. That means "dirt pig", or 'Filthy Swine' I guess. The script I've been handed translates all words relating to 'schwein' as "fucker", or "mother fucker" in situations where they used more than -just- schwein.

All I know is "Brutality" is incapable of having a scene in which schwein isn't said at least 10 times, and while the movie could be worse, I've actually grown totally bored of typing the word "fucker". Really. Does not thrill me in the slightest anymore. I could mix it up maybe, throw in a "cock sucker" here and there... but I'll call up the big boss first and make sure that's cool first. Last thing I want to do is put every fucking "fuck" back where it fucking belongs.

Fuck. Fuck fuck fuckity fuck fuck fuck fuck.

...there, I feel better.

See, this became a problem the last German horror film I did, because I re-did the translation to be more accurate. Schwein became "fat bastard" and "dirty pig", as opposed to just "bastard" as the script I was handed noted. Also, lines that said (in German) 'what in God's name' were given as "what the fuck"... so I switched that back around. Nothing worse than hearing Gottes Namen, knowing that means "God's Name", and then not seeing that in the subtitles right?

Turns out my boss didn't feel that way. (Not that he's ever demanded very hard that I change anything, but he signs my checks, so I'd like to keep happy as du schwein im scheiss. And I'm sure that grammar is wrong just looking at it.) Despite having finished the script, I went back at his request and did an emergency cursing-up pass. Turns out only about a dozen lines needed to be fixed, but the first film - which for the sake or argument I'll call "Monster Hunter" (that isn't the title... but if you know who I'm working for, you know what film it is) - was better written than the latest film - which I'll call "Brutality". See, Monster Hunter was patterned off of Quentin Tarantino and George Romero films, which - for better or worse - meant it tried like hell to have a logical structure and some clever dialog. It didn't really pull it off, but it tried all the same, and wound up being a pleasantly silly film for it. It wasn't shocking or clever, but it was occasionally funny, my favorite part being when one of the anti-heroes finds a local TV celebrity has become a cannibalistic mutant, and notes "Your show sucked anyway!" before said celeb goes "huh?" and gets his brains blown out. See? Comedy. It ain't Monty Python, but it'll do.

The latest atrocity I'm finishing up, though, isn't even up to what I'd consider the upper end of no-budget shot-on-video horror film making. I'll be honest when I say the bar isn't set very high under the circumstances, and films that would get laughed off the big screen become semi-watchable when they're quietly released in independently owned rental stores. You don't expect to be served lobster bisque at McDonalds, and you don't expect compelling storytelling or amazing production values from a movie released direct to video either. Yet, there has to be a comfortable limit to what crap can be thrown at the screen without rhyme or reason before the experience starts to become confusing and frustrating.

In "Brutality", the set-up involves a ploy for revenge, and of course vengeance begets vengeance. This isn't normal vengeance though: this is (in a strikingly pre-Kill Bill video) the kind of vengeance where you wake up after a 10 year coma, your pregnant girlfriend is dead, and so you grab your step-brothers, a chainsaw, a claw hammer, and a shovel and go to town kinda' vengeance. It's also the kind of movie where getting your brain blown out isn't a big deal - just stuff someone else's half-a-brain in the skull and you'll be good as new. Also: staples, fix, everything. Like nut-sacs. But the single most amusing point of interest thus far (I've not watched the film through... clearly I'm going crazy) has been brain surgery using a chainsaw and hot glue. Oh, did I mention the aborted fetuses getting stomped like something out of an Uziga manga (minus said fetuses being fucked before being liquefied)? Yet with all this awesomely 'tarded imagery going on, I can't help but feel the film is a bit of a failure.

Let me say up front that I don't mind cheap films, films that lack a general narrative structure, or any of that nonsense. I like David Lynch and Tsukamoto Shinya and worship the crap that Takashi Miike wipes from his ass, so clearly I can get behind films that have no typical narrative and instead use abstract concepts to propel a story forward. The trouble with "Brutality" is that it simply has no narrative structure. If the whole point of the film is to get revenge against the Mafia who killed his family in retaliation for accidental manslaughter, they did it all wrong: we know nothing about this Mafia apart from a brief voice-over in the opening, which ends with most of that mafia dead. We don't know the names for half of these people - good or bad, it seems - and without establishing who did what, we don't even really know if the people the anti-heroes are cutting apart with saws and shooting the nipples off of did the horrible stuff we think they did anyway. Hell, the only character we do see acting like a total bastard is told in a flashback after he's dead. That's right: rather than play up the revenge angle by showing the sorta'-hero take out the most evil gangster of them all after he learns the horrible truth, they just shove it in later as a new way to get a gore scene in the mix. Clearly the film wants to have a logical structure - it isn't exactly fine art, I'm more than willing to say - but it slaps everything together in such a haphazard style that all the ingredients for an awesome movie were there... they just weren't mixed or cooked properly, and instead of a delicious cake you wind up with a scalding bowl of raw eggs, sugar and flour with a candle on top. It's edible... but you can eat better, too. Mafioso's, trigger happy retards, Fisher Price chainsaws, mad scientists, a zombie, nightmares about blood getting sucked out with a bike tire pump... the potential for an awesome movie is just lined up, waiting to happen.

The worst part is the director clearly is capable of a good movie (or, at least, a more focused one): the special effects - most of which are of the paper-mache and corn syrup variety - are amusing in a Halloween Party sort of way. The acting never takes itself seriously ("Geez, are you in never ending pain or what?" "I... feel sorta' woozy."), but it gets the job done in the loving confines of a B-movie shot in what looks like unused attics and back yards. The opening scene, simulated Super8 footage of the Mafia torturing the hero's family and friends, is actually creative and just a bit chilling... a shame we can't really recognize any of the mafioso's involved so we can hate on 'em and then want to see them die horribly later on. The whole feature comes across as disjointed, like separate movies were thrown together to create an uberfilm, but said uberfilm has an arm for a leg and 3 ears but no nose. The good parts don't quite equal a good whole, try as it might. Still, I've got another 20-odd minutes to sit through and subtitle... maybe it'll magically come together and be the best damn shot on video horror film I ever saw.

Granted I'm being too hard on "Brutality". It's the first ever self described 'Party Splatter Film'. Thinking (or writing) were never meant for a movie that features successful chainsaw-and-hot-glue brain surgery. It's a gory as fuck B-movie, and compared to the last B-movie my studio released (an American feature) this film is Citizen Motherfucking Kane in comparison. While I'm taking for-fucking-ever to finish this film out of a combination of apathy, a head-cold of somekind and other random bullshit, I am very, very grateful that I'm not subtitling that English language crime against humanity into German.

On the upside, as soon as I'm done with this pile on undercooked insanity I get to jump right back into unpleasant-as-hell nihilism from the guy who directed the last 2 Japanese movies I translated. Will I get chastised again for my lack of intermediate Japanese vocabulary, or can the rape of a girl covered in bandages inspire me to speak Japanese like a native?

Find out... sometime next year? Yeah. Next year sounds about right.

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