• Limbo (AGFA) Blu-ray Review

    Released by: AGFA
    Released on: September 29th, 2020.
    Director: Tina Krause
    Cast: Tina Krause, Barron, Suze Daufler, Sean Farrell, Mike Gingold
    Year: 1999
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    Limbo – Movie Review:

    The first and only movie to have been written and directed by cult movie siren (and Queens native) Tina Krause, 1999’s Limbo is a trip. It isn’t always a pleasant trip, but it’s a trip nevertheless. It opens in a bar where a white dude in a Bob Marley t-shirt slings drinks to a gaggle of locals, one of whom is Mike Gingold from Fangoria magazine sporting a bitchin’ goatee. This is the late 90’s, and bitchin’ goatees and white guys in Bob Marley t-shirts were pretty commonplace.

    Into this bar walks a blonde woman named Elizabeth. Two of the bar flys in the joint remark on the size of her rack, and how impressive it is. There are a lot of guys in this bar that may or may not be vampires, some of them possibly Hispanic vampires. This is a multicultural vampire bar, and that’s okay with me. If it isn’t okay with you, well, fuck off. Anyway, the blonde woman talks to the waitress (played by Krause herself), who asks if she’s okay. From there, the movie zips around a fair bit, taking us to an abandoned warehouse where a woman gets a weird love note (“roses are dead, violets are gloom!”) and chases a guy who may or may not exist through a long corridor. A woman talks to a guy in a Big Apple martial arts tournament t-shirt while random guys who clearly did not give consent to be in this movie stare angrily into the lens of the camcorder on which this movie was shot.

    Before it’s all over, we get some weird Jacob’s Ladder ‘people moving their heads around really fast’ footage, mixed media inserts that may or may not be 16mm or 8mm film footage, a pseudo industrial-esque soundtrack, dudes at the bar will eat blood (even Mike Gingold!), the bartender will yell at a guy for touching the staff, a guy who may or may not be a vampire with really, really long hair will show up in an alleyway and a crazy person will write things on the wall of what may or may not be a cell but which is only a regular cell and not a padded cell.

    To be honest, Limbo doesn’t always make a whole lot of sense but to its credit, it is at least always interesting. Krause was clearly working with no real money here and relying more on creativity and the generosity of collaborators to get this done, but get it done she did and the end result is…. really fucking weird. Krause was clearly trying to do something different from the W.A.V.E. fetish videos that she’d been making around this time and you’ve got to admire her for saying to Hell with genre conventions and doing her own thing, even if it doesn’t always work. A little more coherency would have helped out here, but even with a lot of the plot points (presumably intentionally) left up in the air, this is watchable. It’s very much a product of its time, feeling much like a no-budget take on an angry nineties-era industrial music video, but the ambition on display is admirable, even when at times it seems misguided. If nothing else, it’s one of the most unique SOV productions from the 90’s that you’re ever likely to see. Krause might not always hit what she’s aiming at but she always takes the shot regardless, and she clearly had (has?) the talent to do something bigger and better than this. Limbo is a bit of a misfire, but damn it all if it isn’t a fascinating one.

    Limbo – Blu-ray Review:

    Limbo arrives on Blu-ray in an AVC encoded 1.33.1 fullframe transfer taken from the original S-VHS master tape. Taking up 11GBs of space on the 25GB disc, the fifty-five-minute feature looks like a tape sourced transfer of a late 90s title would look, which means it’s a bit rough and far from pristine. The transfer does what it can with the limited nature of the source material, but realistically speaking this can only look so good, and this is about as good as it is going to get. SOV fans will accept this was perfectly watchable, because by those standards it is just that, but keep your expectations in check if you don’t fall into that category.

    Audio is handled by an English language DTS-HD 1.0 Mono track, and the quality is less than ideal. Dialogue is frequently muffled and can be hard to understand. The score sounds pretty solid, however, the movie uses music quite well. Thankfully, English subtitles are provided, and they do a very nice job of ensuring that we can follow some of that dialogue that isn’t always so easy to understand.

    The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with Tina Krause and the Bleeding Skull! Team (they being Annie Choi and Joseph Ziemba). It’s a fun track, occasionally a bit on the rowdy side, as Krause pulls no punches whatsoever in detailing what it took to get this movie made. You’d think something like this was shot over a weekend or two, but no, this took up two years of her life and it really sounds like she ran into problem after problem trying to get this project finished. Her leads both split half way through production, she had financial problems, and really it sounds like a serious case of Murphy’s Law. But she’s a good sport about all of this, giving credit where it’s due and giving appreciation to those who helped out on it. She covers the sets and locations, having to build a lot of ‘stuff’ in general to get things right, some of the effects work, the editing, the music and more. We also learn where the idea for the ‘Fracture Films’ name came from and how it ties into Krause’s own history with injuries – this is an essential listen!

    Extras start off with a thirteen-minute archival behind-the-scenes documentary that features interviews with Krause who speaks about what she was trying to accomplish with this picture and coming up with the story. Mike Lisa is also interviewed here as is Sean Farrell, each speaking about their duties on set and their thoughts on the project. There's some footage shot on set during production included here as well as a few clips from the film.

    Up next is Answering Machine. This seven-minute piece starts off with an answering machine message. We then cut to a phone covered in blood for more messages! Then, more messages! It goes back and forth between the two answering machines and as a man and woman leave messages for one another, we're treated to a strange tale of murder. It's an interesting experimental short worth checking out, done with an obvious sense of humor and featuring some neat empty Yuengling beer bottles with a neat twist ending. Krause produced this and did the voice of the main female character.

    Also worth checking out is the Fantastic Fest Q&A session that took place after a screening of the movie that took place on September 25th, 2019. Hosted by Annie Choi, we learn here about how she got her start working for W.A.V.E., how she set out to make Limbo which she describes as a Nine Inch Nails video and a David Lynch movie having a baby, the film's distribution history, the mixed-media approach used for the movie, the locations used for the shoot, where the idea came from in the first place (drugs did play a part), wanting to do something different from the genre films of the time, scoring the film and plenty more. Krause comes across as a legitimate bad ass here, and this is definitely worth watching.

    The weirdest and most wonderful of the extras on the disc, however, is the inclusion of the thirty-five-minute Eaten Alive!: A Tasteful Revenge, which is a W.A.V.E. Productions short starring Tina Krause from 1999. This thing is pretty bonkers, as it tells the story of a woman named Stacey (played by the mysterious Debbie D) who works as an executive at a cosmetics company. She’s been doing time there for a while and is up for a promotion but loses that bump in pay and prestige to co-worker Lisa (who is played by Krause). Stacey is not happy with her boss Trish (Barbara Joyce). Not one to take things lying down, Stacey decides to get herself some sweet revenge. See, she got herself a pretty sweet ray-gun from one Dr. Baines (Dean Paul), a co-worker, which shrinks down the people she blasts with it to bite-sized mortal morsels. She shoots Lisa with said ray-gun just as the poor woman has gotten out of the shower and, once she’s been shrunk, Stacey eats her! Lisa isn’t her only victim though, because Stacey needs to make sure that no one can finger her for this heinous crime. As such, she gets rid of Baines and then a few others who just might stand in her way!

    W.A.V.E. Productions basically made fetish films, often times for a fee paid by various horny people with rather specific kinks who came up with a script and wanted to see their ideas brought to life, and it’s safe to assume that this entry was, like many of their other efforts, one such picture. It was clearly made for peanuts but it isn’t without its own specific type of really dumb charm. The ‘green screen effects’ featured in the picture are delightfully old school and the whole thing is done with an obvious sense of self awareness and humor. The acting is awful (Debbie D simply smiles her way through the movie even though her part calls for a much wider range than ‘grinning and shooting ray-guns) and the effects are hokey as hokey can be, but there’s something to this picture that makes it lovably weird. Sets seem to be made up of the filmmakers’ homes or offices, there was clearly no budget here but if nothing else it’s got character and you have to admire whatever qualities it is that the filmmakers had that inspired them to make something as utterly bizarre and completely goofy as this. We should probably get a W.A.V.E. boxed set at some point, if there’s any justice in this world. The movie itself only runs twenty-eight-minutes but once it’s over we get seven-minutes or so worth of bloopers from the shoot, which is pretty fucking rad.

    It’s also presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition framed at 1.33.1 with DTS-HD 1.0 Mono audio (and English subtitles) but as it is with the main feature, it is important to keep your expectations in check in regards to the quality as this is clearly tape sourced.

    Menus and chapter selection are also included. We do get some nice reversible cover sleeve art, however, and the first 1,500 units purchased directly from Vinegar Syndrome (who are distributing this release) get a very nice limited edition, slip cover with some cool spot varnish embossment on it.

    Limbo – The Final Word:

    Limbo doesn’t always work the way it should but the movie is a legitimately fascinating curio from the late nineties, and a bizarre time capsule of sorts. The Blu-ray release from AGFA looks as good as the master tape will allow, but those limitations are obvious. Still, the extras included here are as interesting as they are impressive. Those with an affection for obscure SOV oddities should consider this one essential, even if it isn’t at all a release that will appeal to the masses.

    Click on the images below for full sized Limbo Blu-ray screen caps!