German Horror Movies – Directors Who Shaped Underground Cinema

As a nation, Germany has gone through many difficult times and survived two of the largest wars ever to take place on our planet. Understandably, after having endured so much real life terrors, the horror movie genre didn’t exactly flourish there following World War II. In fact, it wouldn’t be until the 1980’s that filmmakers would begin to emerge from the German underground film scene and begin making their mark on our favorite genre.

Today I’d like to introduce you to five influential German directors who’ve made the German horror genre what it is today. While you may not recognize them all, I bet you’ll know at least one name from this list.

We begin our journey with a man by the name of Andreas Schnaas, said to be the pioneer of Germany’s ultra-violent underground film scene. Herr Schnaas was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1968 and fell in love with cinema at a very young age. Since his local theaters were lax in their exclusion of young people from more horrific films, Schaas grew up on a steady diet of high caliber martial arts movies and zombie flicks. While his parents didn’t necessarily approve of his cinematic tastes, they did recognize his artistic leanings and by age twelve

he’d shot his first amateur horror film in which he and a friend starred.

It wouldn’t be until 1989 that Herr Schnaas would work up the funds needed to shoot his own movie (5,000 German Marks, roughly $2,000 USD), but when he did his first film he made quite a splash. Violent Sh*t, his initial full length film was so named because it’s precisely what Schnaas’ friend accused him of making. The story involved Karl the Butcher and obviously the movie itself was heavily gore-oriented. Fans loved it and it instantly became a cult hit inspiring many a midnight showing. The German government, on the other hand, banned it once it hit video as the country’s very first straight-to-video release. It’s gone on to spawn three sequels: Mother Hold My Hand, Infantry of Doom (known as Zombie Doom in the United States) and Nikos. Even

though the band never sued for the copyright infringement, the first film did include an unauthorized use of the W.A.S.P. song ‘The Torture Never Stops‘.

That same year, writer director Jörg Buttgereit of Berlin, would bring the world yet another controversial film. Nekromantik was described by famous filmmaker John Waters as the world’s “first erotic film for necrophiliacs”. The story in Nekromantik involves a sort of tragic “hero” who’s job it is to remove bodies from public places. This gives him the perfect opportunity to pursue his favorite fetish: romancing the dead. As you can imagine, due to its

subject matter, the film found itself banned in several countries. However, unlike the Schnaas films, Nekromantik intends to be a social commentary. The basic gist of the story shows the main character as abused and tormented by society at large, thus triggering his withdrawl into the sick fantasy world he’s built to hide within. In his fantasies he can exercise ultimate control over the world and essentially ‘puppet’ the dead the same way that he perceives society to be the all-controlling master of his existence.

While Herr Buttgereit’s film can be defined as horror since that’s clearly a strong element in the film, many viewers find it to be more clearly classified as a transgressive film which is in itself a genre of avant garde filmmaking. The film itself contains many scenes that will be difficult for any audience to swallow, but hard truths about life often are. For stark symbolism, Buttgereit’s cinematic debut certainly pushes all boundaries.

Shortly before the 1990’s, one more force arose in the German movie landscape: Olaf Ittenbach. Black Past, Herr Ittenbach’s first film, proves to be not only his directorial debut, but also his introduction as an actor. He plays a teenage metalhead who’s a heavy drinker and obsessed with death, tortured by nightmarish visions. Of course, from there it’s a total spiral down into madness. Many consider Ittenbach to be the first German ‘splatterpunk’ filmmaker and have compared his works to Resident Evil, Toxic Avengers and other more recognized films. He certainly pushed German horror further into the public spotlight, but not as much as our final director featured in this article.

You may’ve guessed what’s coming: Uwe Boll. Herr Boll is a filmmaker whom critics love to hate. He’s a man who seemingly single-handedly took dark German films to the true international level. He’s not only a director, but also screen writer and perhaps most notably a producer of his own work. Unlike many Hollywood directors who receive outside funding, Herr Boll tends to fund his own work. He studied at both the University of Siegen and the

University of Cologne and holds a doctorate in literature.

So it may come as a surprise to many that he’s so despised in the film world. While there are as many potential reasons as there are minds to think them up, critics often take aim at what they see as his emphasis of style over substance. The films of Uwe Boll often take direct inspiration from videos games like Alone in the Dark, Postal, BloodRayne and House of the Dead. While they may not boast the finest acting or most realistic effects in movies today, Herr Boll’s films most certainly offer up a solid fun factor and that’s made him something of a cult hero among fans of both horror movies and video games in general.

In true maverick style, Uwe Boll rarely stands down when criticized. He’s notorious for publicly insulting his critics and even challenging them to get into a ring and box him! This compliments his legendary ability to raise funds for his films as opposed to seeking funding from established studios. Most of his investors are German because in his native country he enjoys a tax shelter that helps him be able to finance the films more easily. Despite all the

harsh criticism and downright mean things said about his films, he continues to produce them and they arguably improve. While he may remain a magnet for media spite, Uwe Boll stands proud for his fans and refuses to give up his passion.

That’s a wrap on this look at four influential directors on the German horror movie scene. I hope I’ve opened your eyes to what the land that brought us Volkswagens and Dachshunds has to offer when it comes to dark cinema. It may take some work to find the titles featured here, but you certainly won’t fail to be shocked if you choose to pick a few up for your own viewing pleasure!

“The Hills Have Eyes” Movie Review

Plot:

An updated version of Wes Craven’s 1977 film of the same name,”The Hills Have Eyes” is the story of a family road trip that goes terrifyingly awry when the travelers become stranded in a government atomic zone. Miles from nowhere, the Carters soon realize the seemingly uninhabited wasteland is actually the breeding ground of a blood-thirsty mutant family…and they are the prey.

Cast: Ezra Buzzington, Aaron Stanford, Emilie de Ravin, Kathleen Quinlan, Ted Levine, Vinessa Shaw, Dan Byrd, Robert Joy.

My Thoughts:

Gritty and realistic just like the original.

Review:

“The Hills Have Eyes” is a remake of Wes Cravens original 1977 movie where a road tripping family winds up stranded in a government atomic zone, which is inhabited by a very nasty mutant family. The 2006 remake really captures the spirit of the original and in a way is way more twisted also. This film revolves around the Carter family Brenda, Bob, Bobby, Ethel, their oldest daughter Lynne, her husband Doug, and their baby daughter. Prior to introducing us to the Carter’s, the beginning of the movie quickly laments the idea that the Hills do have eyes when 3 CDC agents are made short work of by someone weilding a pick axe. It’s a very entertaining and gory scene which sets the mood and tone of the movie nicely, before the opening credits roll. The Carter’s are driving to San Diego for a good old fashioned family vacation.

Now before the rationalists step in and say huh? Doug brings up the million dollar question early in the film, of why couldn’t they have just “flown” like normal people? As if trekking through the desert heat wasn’t bad enough, the trailer they’re pulling behind them has a busted air conditioner much to Doug’s dismay. The early impression of the Carter family is your typical american red state american family. While Doug comes off as more of the liberal democrat type, despite being married to their oldest daughter.

This culture clash is set up nicely and works to enhance the films early dialogue which keeps the movie interesting early on. Because of their differing beliefs, Bob Carter does not particularly care for Lynne’s husband Doug, and they spend a lot of the early moments of the movie taking snipes at each other which are sure to extract some giggles and laughs from the viewer. Taking a page out of the “Wrong Turn” book, we are introduced to a desert yokel who may or may not be leading people into those “Hills”. It isn’t necessarily said that he’s doing this, but it is strongly hinted at and he does definitely know about the Hill people.

After the Carters fill up the gas tank, this man hips them to a short cut which according to him will save them a couple hours. The Hill people meanwhile are watching and taking yet another page out of “Wrong Turn”, they set up a spike trap to blow out the tires of the Carter family SUV, stranding them in the desert. Alex Aja does an excellent job building suspense in this movie because after the opening scene, we don’t see the hill people anymore until about 35 minutes into the movie. But Alex keeps us on the edge of our seat with scenes that strongly suggest they are out there, lurking, watching, and waiting for the perfect time to strike. Aja also keeps the Hill folks hidden most of the time. The only one we really get a full look at early in the movie is Ruby, who compared to the rest of the Hill people looks mostly normal. The Hill people themselves are a disturbing looking bunch, and the sounds they make along with their violent and perverse actions throughout the movie are equally disturbing. Why are they violent and perverse?

Well to make a long story short, the government wanted to test their “toys” on their land. The families refused to leave, so the government tested their “toys” there anyway. The radioactive effects caused severe deformities to all human life within the area, and when you mix years of festering anger over the matter, plus horrid deformities, you’ve got very fertile land for violent, anti social behavior. Once the Carter’s become stranded in this desolate wasteland…most of the scenes that follow are spent with their son Bobby chasing down their two german shepards “Beauty” and “Beast” who continually escape from the car and go running off into the hills, with one of the dogs having the unfortunate luck of crossing paths with one of the Hill people. Why someone would bring two adult dogs that size with them on family vacation I’ll never know. Bob the dad, and Doug decide to go seek out help for their dire situation, which is where the film begins it’s descent into madness as the Hill people seize this opportunity to attack the remaining members of the family.

Obviously…albeit deformed and borderline retarded…the Hill folk understand that these suburbanites…like in the case of most families, are at their most vulnerable when the two adult males of the group are gone. The trailer attack scene is the highlight of the movie as a lot of shocking events unfold during which include the loss of three main characters, and a very disturbing rape scene. Wes Craven and Alex Aja who wrote the script for “The Hills Have Eyes” really didn’t slink off on the graphic nature of the movie, staying true to the original. The deaths even though there aren’t very many, still carry a very big impact because of how the scenes are set up and written to take place. Craven and Aja also do a great job with the revenge angle of the story, as those who managed to survive the trailer attack, decide to take the fight to the people in the Hills who have not only taken the lives of their loved ones, but also have kidnapped Doug and Lynnes baby.

The final act of “The Hills Have Eyes” is outstanding in it’s franetic pace, and overall intensity. It carries a lot of suspense, awesome fight scenes, lots of blood, gore, loss of limbs, and carnage, and we get to fully see the Hill freaks which there are more of than at first thought. You’d be surprised to know that besides Aaron Standford who gives an awesome performance as Doug, one of the Carter family dogs carries the final act of the movie very nicely and at the screening I attended was certainly a crowd favorite. I am not sure which dog it was because both Beauty and Beast were the same breed, but whichever one it was, it…along with an unexpected ally, certainly did their fair share of helping to battle the films villains. “The Hills Have Eyes” while slow in a few early areas, does an excellent job of building suspense and containng all of the elements a true horror movie should. Backing all of that up with above average performances, a substantial amount of blood and gore, and boasting a very strong 80’s horror feel, it ranks right up there with Wes Cravens original.

Pros:

Good performances especially by Aaaron Stanford, even though the previews will have you believing Emilie De Ravin is the star of this movie, Stanford is the one who’s involved in more scenes than anyone else. Blood, gore, and horror elements were strongly present which is always a plus. Also gotta love that heroic dog which saved Doug’s ass more than once. The vacant desert and empty smalltown settings also worked to create a lot of suspense throughout the movie. The Hill folks as the villains of the movie were really good.

Cons:

I felt Emilie De Ravin should’ve had a few more scenes than she did. Other than that nothing major.

Overall:

A worthy remake, and a fun time at the movies. Definitely worth the price of admission.

LA Movie Studio Opens Door to Fans

Vist Los Angeles and you’re sure to come across movies being made — whether out in the street by your hotel or in one of several studios that are open for studio tours.

Today most of the studios are closed to the public except when audiences are needed for live shows or when the call goes out for extras to populate various movie scenes. But there are several that do allow tours, including some where the chances are good you’ll see a real movie star.

The granddaddy of movie studio tours has to be Universal Studios Hollywood, which now includes its movie studio tour as just one small part of a Disneyland-like theme park with elaborate rides and attractions all having something to do with the movies. Built along a hillside in Universal City, the theme park has grown over the years incorporating new attractions that match up with some of the hottest movies produced at Universal.

We first visited Universal more than 30 years ago so, on our recent visit to the park, the overall experience seemed much more of a complete entertainment package than when the tour was just a movie studio tour with few additional attractions. We had been back to the park in the 90’s but, even since then, this theme park has seemed to grow dramatically, adding new attractions on a regular basis to encourage visitors to return.

Visitors to the park are now greeted with a choice of parking, lower priced parking that requires a little walking and premium parking that is closer to the park. We chose the former because we need the exercise – but, alas, the park has installed an elaborate 21st Century system of escalators to whisk visitors all over the hilly terrain both from the parking lot, and from the theme park down to the actual movie lot.

One of the highlights of our Universal visit was a discovery we made: the Front of the Line Pass. It is a bit pricey – at $99.95 it’s about double what you’ll pay if you buy a regular pass online – but it totally changes the experience. Instead of waiting in long, hot lines all day (typical of most Southern California theme parks) we were quickly zipping between the best attractions, never standing in line more than five minutes. We felt we saw everything we wanted to see in one day, but were not nearly as exhausted as we might have been standing in lines that each appeared to be 45 minutes to an hour long.

The Front of the Line Pass is a great invention and is perfect for middle-agers who no longer want to spend hours in theme park lines.

Most rides at Universal are relatively tame – not quite the kiddie-land variety, but something less than the roller coasters at Six Flags. Hydraulic rides like Back to the Future have been popular for many years, and guests also really like the moderate thrill rides and roller coaster in the Revenge of the Mummy as well as the Jurassic Park ride, which includes an 85-foot drop.

We were especially impressed with the Waterworld show, which apparently is doing a lot better than the movie ever did. A group of actors and stunt persons puts on a show filled with acrobatic feats and pyrotechnics climaxed by an almost full-scale airplane startling spectators by landing in the water right in front of their seats.

There are numerous rides, attractions, top-notch shows – everything to keep you busy for much longer than a day. But don’t forget to take the studio tour – the thing that got all of this started decades ago. The tour is still conducted on the famous trams that snake their way through the Universal back lot. The trams have been updated to offer TV commentary by stars like Whoopi Goldberg, but the experience was much the same as it was back in the 70’s – only the TV shows and movies have changed. Longtime attractions like the original Psycho house are still there, but now the tour includes a stop on Wysteria Lane to see the Desperate Housewives. You can still see where Spartacus was filmed, but now you also drive right through the plane crash scene from War of the Worlds. A new Fast and Furious demonstration adds another thrill with two race cars hurtling toward the tram through the magic of hydraulics.

Universal Studios is one of the best and easiest ways to get a close-up view of L.A. movie-making, but there are many other fascinating locations around town. For example, the Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills was home to productions like Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, the Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas and numerous TV series. And, did you know that you can visit a Culver City industrial area that was once the “Forty Acre Back lot,” the former location of Mayberry where all the outdoor scenes on the Andy Griffith Show were filmed?

In addition, there are still other interesting studio tours you can take:

Warner Brothers Studios, Burbank – We enjoyed this two-hour tour which we took a few years back. Visitors are escorted in groups of 12 through the Warner Brothers lot, with stops along the way at television and movie sets. All of the sets and props here are real and not just for the benefit of the tourists. Visitors get to see the costume department as well as the mill that creates the sets. Since numerous productions are ongoing at any given time, you may have a better chance here of seeing a star – we didn’t, but it was fun seeing the actual sets for shows like Friends. Phone 818-972-TOUR.

Sony Pictures Studios, Culver City — this is the home of amazing Hollywood history, and was the place where they made the Wizard of Oz. It’s the former MGM Studios and offers a walking tour of the studio’s back lot, sets, sound stages and historic scenery. In more recent years, the studio is where Men in Black and Spiderman were filmed, and where shows like Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are taped. Phone 323-520-TOUR.

NBC TV Studio Tour, Burbank – These studios are where many a live television show has been taped, including the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The guided walking tour takes you into the warehouses where costumes and props are stored, control room areas and the tour gives you a great overview of how network television is produced. Phone 818-840-3537.

AT A GLANCE

WHERE: Universal Studios Hollywood is located in Universal City, just north of downtown Los Angeles. The theme park is easily accessed using Highway 101 North. General parking will cost you $10, while you’ll pay twice that for preferred parking.

WHAT: Universal Studios Hollywood offers the most complete experience of any movie studio tour – a major theme park and a tour through the actual working areas of Universal Studios.

WHEN: Year-round. Wear sunscreen and be prepared for summertime temperatures to be quite warm in the California sun.

WHY: While the Universal Studios tour is the most slickly produced of the movie studio tours – which is not necessarily an advantage – it offers a major theme park right next door. Any trip to Universal Studios Hollywood is as much about visiting the theme park as the movie studio.

HOW: For more information on Universal Studios Hollywood, phone 1-800-UNIVERSAL or visit http://www.universalstudioshollywood.com.