Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Thai action superstar Tony Jaa is back with Ong Bak 3, a continuation of the storyline from the previous Ong Bak, which moved the action from modern-day Bangkok to 15th-century rural Thailand. Many action fans were disappointed, as these two sequels focus less on action and more on spiritual rebirth and epic storytelling — which, for me, is just fine. Jaa is Tien, who after being captured and brutally beaten, is rescued by local villagers and nursed back to health. While he bones heal, his mental health deteriorates, so he focuses his energies on meditation and understanding the concept of karma, which, eventually, he does use to defeat his former captors. The story mirrors Jaa's own struggles, which resulted in a total nervous breakdown during filming and joining a monastery and becoming a Buddhist monk. Come to think of it, that might be a great idea for Ong Bak 4!
In 2006, upstart genre director Adam Green crated a new American slasher, Victor Crowley, a deformed maniac brutally wiping out anyone who dares wander into his reclusive bayou home. It was a terrifying triumph, a return to true old-school horror. The belated sequel, Hatchet II, starts up right where the first one left off, with lone survivor Marybeth (fan-fave Danielle Harris) returning to New Orleans to mount a search party and seek revenge. While the action doesn't really happen until the last 30 or so minutes, it's almost unnecessary, as Reverend Zombie (horror icon Tony Todd) fills in the bloody, tragic history of the Crowley family, as well as introducing us to the colorful backwoods characters that join the posse. It's no surprise that Green's flick was pulled from theaters upon original release: This thing is loaded with imaginative and potentially offensive kills, with the blood flowing and spurting and spraying into over-the-top comic territory.
The original 1978 scuzzy exploitation revenger I Spit on Your Grave was (and still is) highly reviled by most critics, mostly for its depiction of the rape of the main character, Jennifer Hills, a woman on vacation in a secluded summer rental. I think this is a bit of a self-serving lie, as most male critics were so focused on the rapist's castration that they completely missed that this is actually a feminist take on the whole Death Wish genre. Is the brutality a bit hard to take? Sure, but the sweet revenge is worth the whole ride and is totally unflinching in its vengeful wish-fulfillment. The 2010 remake is a far slicker affair, toning down the rape angle (just a bit) to focus on Jennifer's clever, Saw-like traps — which, yes, still include a castration or two. It's not as disturbing, but still equally entertaining with an even stronger female character. A perfect, sleazy Saturday night double-feature.