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Movies For Metalheads: New York Ripper, Clay, Witchmaster General, X Men Origins: Wolverine, Blood Ties: Season 2

One of Italian splatter film director Lucio Fulci’s most disturbing giallos, ‘New York Ripper’ (Blue Underground) is about a serial killer who wanders the streets of Manhattan, hunting down and sadistically butchering unsuspecting women, and the police’s belabored quest to find the ripper. Shot in 1982, the movie captures the Big Apple as a playground of deviance and degeneracy and maintains a seedy and disturbing atmosphere throughout.

The slayings are graphic and humorless (hello eye, meet straight razor), and the way the killer taunts the police in a voice that sounds like Donald Duck is bizarre and deeply disturbing. There’s a reason many critics branded Fulci a misogynist after viewing ‘New York Ripper.’ The director clearly conveys how much enjoyment the killer gets from disfiguring and humiliating his victims, and the camera seems to revel in the carnage, lingering over every slash, stab and rip. But blame not the late Fulci’s for his unrepentant renderings of brutality. True, the director delved into the killer’s mind with gusto, but he wasn’t identifying with the woman-hating beast. Rather, he was fearlessly and flawlessly revealing the sadistic arrogance and demented confidence of the killer. And after an increasingly grim and grueling series of scenes that makes Dario Argento look like Ron Howard, the film ends and sleazy normalcy of New York is restored.

There’s no question that Fulci’s last giallo is haunting and savage. It’s not for the weak of stomach, but it’s not sheer exploitation, either. The movie is filled with enough plot development and action to tell a valid story, and enough gratuitous savagery to please gore fans who couldn’t give a damn about plot. And once again, kudos to Blue Underground for restoring the original print and reviving the cult classic in all of its sickening, vivid color. ‘New York Ripper,’ welcome back, Fulci RIP.

‘Clay’ (SRS) — Independent filmmaker Ron Bonk takes an unconventional approach to the serial killer genre with ‘Clay,’ a movie about a deluded sociopath who views himself as a mythological character who holds the keys to life and death. The main character, Clay (Wes Reid), spends his days wandering around crowded areas with his arms outstretched until he touches someone, then he tracks them down to touch them with the hand of death. In the beginning, he gives his victims the chance to accept their fate and say farewell to loved ones before murdering them. Later, he gets tied up in the life of a woman whose son was killed in combat and assumes the role of her son until the woman’s husband intervenes and Clay is forced to return to his psychopathic ways.

While Bonk doesn’t exactly sympathize with Clay’s misdeeds, he does reveal the character as disturbed, tortured and thoroughly out of touch. As the result of lies he was told in his youth by his abusive father, Clay believes he was actually made from Clay and that his father created him for a greater purpose, and he keeps dozens of clay figurines in his room, mimicking the order of a functional society. ‘Clay’ works both as a study of insanity and a portrayal of sheer depravity, maximizing impact by pulling no punches and making no value judgments.

‘Witchmaster General’ (Yellow Ape) — The first real acting vehicle for L.A. Guns vocalist Phil Lewis, ‘Witchmaster General’ is a supernatural tale about a demon, Dr. Gorgon, who appears in human form to grant people the ability to eliminate their adversaries in exchange for their souls. The acting in this Jim Haggerty movie is, at best, inconsistent — though Lewis’ over-the-top presentation of evil is pretty priceless – and the plot is campy and gratuitous.

Yet ‘Witchmaster General’ entertains by never taking itself too seriously and knowing what past classics to steal from. The storyline and atmospherics are straight out of ’50s Hammer films, the gratuitous nudity is all Jess Franco, and the dopey characters and campy gore are reminiscent of Herschel Gordon Lewis. We’re not sure if this will earn Lewis any more star roles, but for our dollar, ‘Witchmaster General’ is better than anything Lewis did with his sucky band.

‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ (20th Century Fox) — Directed by Gavin Hood, ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ chronicles the tale of James Logan and pre-dated the rest of the X-Men saga. The film stars Hugh Jackman (‘Australia, ‘Deception’) as the tormented hero who escapes a devastating war, enters the experimental Weapon X program and is reborn as a curmudgeonly mutant with an adamantium core. The movie takes liberties with the comic book plot and falls short of any meaningful character development. But Jackson is pretty cool as the begrudging Wolverine and the cavalcade of mutants is pretty impressive. Enter with few expectations, suspend your disbelief for 90 minutes, and you’ll probably leave satisfied. But if you’re expecting another ‘Dark Knight’ or ‘Watchmen,’ you might want to hold off until ‘X-Men 4′ or ‘Deadpool.’

‘Blood Ties: Season 2′ (Vivendi) – In the wake of the mainstream movies like ‘Twilight,’ the HBO hit series ‘True Blood’ and young adult novels such as ‘Evernight,’ vampires are becoming as much generational icons as cold-blooded killers. In ‘Blood Ties,’ a Canadian TV series from 2007, the vampire retains the role of hunter, not for food, but for bad guys.

The series revolves around the life of a policewoman in Toronto, who starts to lose her sight, so she leaves the force and becomes a private investigator. Eventually, she joins forces with a nearly 500-year-old vampire, and a romantic triangle develops between the two work partners and the cop’s ex-boyfriend. In the three-disc second season, the characters delve further into the supernatural than they did in the first season, investigating a number of bizarre cases, including the murder of a man by a giant cat; a cryptic box that whisks the lady cop into a time warp; and a bunch of gnarly insect attacks.

Without having to explain the back story of the first season, the show is free to focus on the new cases, making it a lightly entertaining cross between ‘CSI’ and ‘Friday the 13th: The Series.’ If you relish the role of vampire as undead human helper, dig in, but if you prefer the bloodsuckers to leave a mark, avoid this like a clove of garlic.

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