Are They Worth It? The DVDs of the Internet #5 - Cinemassacre's Cinematic Catastrophes
So yes this feature has taken a bit of a back seat but with all the video game releases coming out lately (I would likely cry if I knew just how much money I’ve spent in November) I’ve been struggling to even keep up there, and I’m still about 5 reviews behind with those. Not to mention the newly acquired means to produce video content, something I’m working on in the hopes of having a glut of content to upload. All this to say, the DVD review feature has indeed taken an unfortunate back seat.
BUT NO LONGER! Starting now we’re going to get this thing right back on track. I have a huge backlog of stuff to check out and, thanks to Black Friday, more on the way. We’re going to kick off this second round with a DVD I actually just received in the mail a few days ago. This is Cinemassacre’s Cinematic Catastrophes.
I would definitely count myself as a Cinemassacre fan. Not just the Angry Video Game Nerd content, though I will admit that is indeed what initially brought me to the site, but many of the other videos as well, both past and present. I don’t watch everything that is posted, but I usually enjoy the ones that I do choose to watch. It makes perfect sense to release some of the older films on DVD and here we have what is the first of three planned releases. This is Cinematic Catastrophes and it contains six films across 2 DVDs. Most of them are horror themed and date as far back as 2001. I guess the best way to do this is to break it down film by film.
Cinemassacre 200 (22 minutes) – This is the first movie and also one of only two in the set that I had seen previously. It’s a chronicle of James Rolfe’s journey as a filmmaker and a look back at the 199 films he has made to date. I find this to be a pretty fascinating look at the filmmaking process in general. You get to hear about things such as the primitive editing techniques he once had to use, the way audio was done and some of the insane effort that had to go into some of the shots and I found it all really really interesting. The man is clearly passionate and that is no more evident than right here. I dare just about anyone to watch this and not immediately want to start making their own movies. Hell I even went back and watched one of the movies my friends and I made. It is of poor quality and I never should have done that, but still. It’s quite inspiring and a great look at a man doing what he loves.
Kung Fu Werewolf from Outer Space (26 minutes) – This is the oldest movie here as it was filmed in 2001. First thing of note, it’s basically a silent movie. There is no dialogue here, only music and sound effects, the latter of which is much more enjoyable once you see how this was accomplished in Cinemassacre 200. It does start out pretty slow with the two main characters just…looking at things…but the latter half is enjoyable due primarily to some surprisingly complex fight choreography. For a group of guys shooting a movie in their backyard, they do some pretty good-looking stuff here. That does make the movie worth a watch, even just a single viewing.
It Came From the Toilet (2 minutes) – This is the other movie from this collection that I had already seen. There really isn’t too much to say about this one. It’s pretty short and is basically a one-joke premise – a shit monster. Again I feel this one is helped by seeing the sheer amount of time that went into making it. That does give me a great amount of respect for it. The movie itself is fairly amusing, but it’s the bonus features that make it, and we’ll get to those.
The Dragon in my Dreams (9 minutes) – This is a newer movie, having just been posted last year. This one goes back to the documentary format as it follows James’ visit back to a childhood playground that contains a decorative dragon he vividly remembers from when he was a kid. It does get a little overdramatic (I’m not completely convinced those tears are genuine) but it’s a nice piece. There is one key plot point that happened beyond their control, and I really can’t see how this movie would work nearly as well without it. I’m sure they would have figured out a way but as it stands, this really worked out well for them and it does add some poignancy to the whole thing. There’s layers here that you can get into about never being able to go back and such, but on a pure surface level, it’s a nice quick bit about revisiting childhood memories and the things that make us who we are when we grow-up.
Cinemaphobia (10/15 minutes) – James calls this his experimental phase and that is a very apt description. This is the closet movie in this set to being what could be called an art house project. There are two versions – a 10-minute and a 15-minute. The 10-minute is definitely the more artful of the two, trading in dialogue scenes for pure imagery. The 15-minute version fleshes everything out a little more and although James states his preference as being the 10-minute, I can’t help but enjoy the 15-minute version just a little bit more. The 10-minute version is well done and is certainly the more interpretive version, but I felt the longer version worked better as a movie. This is also I would say the biggest leap I’ve seen James take in terms of acting, and he does quite well. A little over the top in the opening scene, but solid for sure. There are lots of neat camera tricks and special effects here and considering the limitations I’m sure they had, they did a damn fine job with this one. Throw in an intriguing plot and you have yourself a solid entry.
Curse of the Cat Lover’s Grave (10 minutes) – This one is a horror film that is divided into three acts – the chiller, the shocker and the slasher. The plot involves a man digging up a cat statue that is reported to be cursed. Again, I have to say, considering the limited resources on hand here (a budget list is included as a bonus and it reveals they spent just over 400 dollars on this project, 100 of which was a loss due to a roll of film turning out completely black) this is quite well done. The effects are of course low-end, but they’re charming as hell, and a couple of the jump scares work far better than you would ever expect. I wasn’t a big fan of the conclusion, but felt everything leading up to it was damn entertaining.
And that’s all of them. If I had to rank them from favourite to least favourite I would have to go with the following order:
Curse of the Cat Lover’s Grave
The Dragon in my Dreams
It Came From The Toilet
Kung-Fu Werewolf from Outer Space (like I said it, the first half is really slow and is a bit of a slog)
You have to keep in mind when going into these movies, especially if you’re not terribly familiar with Cinemassacre (though if you’re not, it’s strange that you’re debating this purchase I must say), that you aren’t going to be watching high-budget blockbusters. No this is one passionate guy with a camera, shooting movies however he can with a next to nothing budget. But this is not a slight against them in any way. There’s soul here, something you might say is missing from a lot of Hollywood productions. It’s great to see someone who is willing to go to such lengths to get his ideas out there, and you can’t help but root for him. It makes for fun watching and like I said, it just makes you want to grab a video camera, gather up your friends, and start shooting. That’s not a feeling that a lot of movies can bring out in me anymore (ok Super 8 totally did it, have you guys seen Super 8? Cuz you should totally go watch Super 8) so a huge kudos to this DVD for that.
You know I’m realizing more and more how little I have to say for this section but I’m hanging on to it purely because of a few upcoming releases where this will need to be discussed. The ScrewAttack stuff is always well put together and this is no exception. You got yourself a well-designed package and I especially like the volume number on the side. If there’s one thing I love with my DVDs its consistency (seriously am I the only one who hates it when season sets change their look a few seasons in? Everyone should follow South Park’s example. Those 14 sets look fucking amaaaazing on my shelf) and these sons of bitches are going to look great lined up on my shelf once the other volumes are out.
I mean a lot of what you’re watching here is many years old and filmed with earlier model cameras, so of course you can’t expect a bang-up visual feast here. You can’t be a dick and judge it based on “hey I can see VCR lines in that shot! BWAAAA!”. It all is part of the charm and either you’re into it, or you’re not. You wouldn’t want for all of these to be cleaned up and presented all shiny new, it would take away from the overall effect.
Once again, let’s do this movie by movie.
Cinemassacre 200 – No bonus features for this one but really, what else would there be to say here?
Kung-Fu Werewolf From Outer Space – You get a commentary for this movie that was recorded in 2001 when the movie was first shot. It’s a pretty good commentary, finding a solid balance between information and joking around with one another. Between this and Cinemassacre 200, you will be untouchable in the realm of Kung-Fu Werewolf From Outer Space knowledge.
It Came from the Toilet – You get a whole bunch of bonus content for this one. You get a commentary that is actually done over an extended version of the movie, which is strangely not viewable on its own. On top of that you get no less than 4 behind the scenes pieces about the movie, most of them done when the movie was being shot. This stuff was entertaining as hell. Seeing the elaborate work done to pull off the effects is insane and the ultimate proof of how committed these guys really are if they are willing to devote this many hours to making a 2 minute long movie about shit look good. There are a couple of weaker pieces, such as the interview with the guy who poured the shit and storyboards are never the most interesting thing for me, but for the most part what’s here is easily worth a watch.
The Dragon in my Dreams – Just a quick one here – a sort of behind the scenes/deleted scene that delves a big further into the plot twist I mentioned earlier. I’ll admit this revelation does take a tiny bit away from the movie since it turns out things weren’t quite as dramatic as you thought. If anything it may have worked even better if this piece wasn’t included, but that’s just my opinion.
Cinemaphobia – On top of the two versions of the movie, you get a newly recorded commentary and a batch of outtakes. The outtakes are decent, mostly flubbed lines but there’s a few good bits in there. The commentary though is really interesting and full of fun tidbits and information. The story involving the fire engine is definitely a highlight, but there’s a lot of good stuff here.
Curse of the Cat Lover’s Grave – Again there’s quite a bit here. First up you get a commentary track recorded when the movie was made. This is maybe the weakest commentary here, as it tends to focus a bit much on what is happening on screen. You get the occasional bit of info, but mostly it’s a group of friends watching the movie together and joking around, which is all well and good but doesn’t always make for the most entertaining listen. The rest of the bonus content fares better. You get some decent outtakes, a 2-minute montage of them building the graveyard set and setting up some of the effects/make-up, and what is probably the highlight here, the animatics. Normally I don’t care for these, as I said earlier, but it’s entertaining here because this is actually what was used to recruit people for the movie. There’s narration the whole time and it’s neat to see just how close the final product ended up to its initial concept.
Is It Worth It?
Overall I had a really good time watching this DVD. As I said I hadn’t seen a lot of these movies before so it was interesting to see some of Cinemassacre’s early work. However it was the behind the scenes stuff that I found the most interesting and almost wish there had been even more of it. My one gripe? The length. As you can see by the running times, you can get through all the movies in just over an hour, and the special features are about another hour on top of that. I burned through the whole thing in one sitting and I’m sure I won’t be alone in that. As a result the 18-dollar asking price (plus shipping) may be a bit much for some. But you get a lot of entertainment in those hours and there’s at least a couple of pieces here that I’ll go back to down the road I’m sure. So if you’re a fan of Cinemassacre, or if you’re a fan of AVGN but still aren’t familiar with the other works on the site, I would say it’s worth it. I’m definitely on board for Volumes 2 and 3.
Also as a side note, I did indeed get the bundle that comes with the You Know What’s Bullshit poster. It’s cool, but I wouldn’t say essential. All of the quotes are lifted directly from the video so there’s nothing new. It’s a cool thing to have but again, not essential.
For each of these reviews I will be showing at least a part of it to my wife in order to get a quick perspective from someone who is not that familiar (if at all familiar) with the material.
What did my wife think? - "It's really interesting seeing how he does everything".