DVD Reviews 

Equinox, Suicide Club, Daughter of Keltoum


Back one summer in 1965, very young, dorky horror movie fan Dennis Muren decided to make a B-movie. Knowing nothing about filmmaking except for some stop motion experiments he had conducted, he gathered a few of his suburban California buddies and shot a picture about monsters from another dimension using some of the most innovative special effects ever seen. In 1970 Jack Harris, Sci-Fi producing legend (The Blob) bought the film, reshot some scenes and released it to cultish acclaim in 1970. Muren would later gain fame as the effects genius at Industrial Light and Magic who worked on Star Wars.

Muren’s original film Equinox: A Journey into the Supernatural is a curious beast. On the surface it looks like familiar B-movie absurdity, complete with stilted dialogue, anti-logic and gaping plot holes. But wait
there’s more! The combination of scale models, matte paintings and some really remarkable 2D effects have probably never shared the same screen before or since. The four kids who stray into the supernatural world of Equinox battle a not-so jolly green giant, Kong-like ape and the devil himself in the guise of flying red beast.

If Criterion’s other recent release Dazed and Confused was a case of making a critical mountain out of a creative molehill, this release honors a more worthy cult phenomenon. The commentary by Muren and his writer is an exercise in charming self-effacement, while producer Jack Harris on the other hand spins tells of Old Hollywood in his gravely macho baritone. There’s also some shorts, silent outtakes and interviews with cast members including Frank Bonner who was WKRP’s Herb Tarlek.

A journey into the supernatural you won’t soon forget.

Jason Bogdaneris

Suicide Club

Somewhat infamous J-horror gore-fest, with copious fake blood coating writer-director Sion Sono’s satiric aspirations.

The notoriety stems from the opening, in which the bustle of a Tokyo subway station is interrupted by 54 schoolgirls linking hands and jumping off the platform into the path of an oncoming train. As a squad of police detectives troll chat rooms to investigate the nation’s metastizing suicide epidemic, Sono pulls off one sustained bit of tension — high schoolers idling on a rooftop start joking about the new fad, with nobody sure how seriously to take it until it’s time to jump  — but Suicide Club is essentially the lemming metaphor taken to  its logical dead end. Everything traces back to the subliminal malevolence of an omnipresent, omnicatchy tween-pop group; the rest of Sono’s narrative-by-non-sequitur (including Mysterious Phone Calls waxing ominous on “connections,” and their gross-out metaphorical counterpart: strips of the suicides’ skin stitched together in a huge coil) just pads a generalized critique done better, faster, in a previous movie about teen angst with a body count. Remember Big Fun?

Trailer and stills; released as part of TLA’s three-disc “Danger After Dark” box.

Teenage suicide… don’t do it.

Mark Asch

Daughter of Keltoum
First Run Features
$ 24.99

Mehdi Charef, who was sent to live in France as a young boy was inspired by his first trip to his native Algeria in about 35 years.

Charef’s protagonist is a 19-year-old Swiss woman who has returned to a small, primitive Berber settlement at the edge of civilization to search for the mother who had abandoned her. Instead she finds her Aunt  — an almost comically simple woman whose entire being is stooped in perpetual submission. The two of them go on a pilgrimage in search of her roots across a parched landscape where women seem to have little more value than the donkeys who carry their water. Bareheaded modern Rallia and cowering, slightly hysterical Nedjma are partners in a sort of humorless road movie as the story creeps beautifully at times, to its conclusion.

Production Notes

A bit too slow and melodramatic for its own
good but has its moments.

Jason Bogdaneris


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