Fun Homage to Sexploitation Flicks
Pervert! is a modern-day homage to the films of Sexploitation king Russ Meyer. I went into this not expecting much as I'm really not a big fan of the recent flood of "homage's" and "tribute's" being churned out by directors pathetically trying to cash-in on the current "retro" / "grindhouse" trend. Pervert! however, is a totally different beast.
Old Hezekiah (Darrell Sandeen) resides with his young, busty live-in whore Cheryl (Mary Carey) in Desert Range, an isolated stretch of desert in the south(?) where he indulges in his love for the art of meat sculpting. When his son James (Sean Andrews) comes to stay Cheryl gets a hankerin' for some younger meat and the two of them begin an affair behind the old man's back. Suddenly, Cheryl mysteriously disappears and James thinks his ol' man may be behind it. When Hezekiah comes home the next day with a new whore, James sets out to investigate his pops "studio" where he discovers Cheryl's temporarily re-animated corpse. But all is not as it seems, as later on when ol' pops is chained down, the bodies still keep a droppin'...
Writer/director team Jonathan Yudis and Mike Davis obviously have a Russ Meyer obsession. There are scenes and set-pieces here stolen directly from such Meyer films as Supervixens, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, Vixen and a few others but nevertheless Pervert! still manages not to come off as yet another feeble attempt at a cash-in. Like Meyers films, Pervert! is very comic bookish in style with dream bubbles, wacky in-your-face camera angles, cartoon sound effects and loadsa really silly humour. Aside from Darrell Sandeen's fantastic performance as the perverted old holy roller, the acting isn't all that good especially from porn star and one-time Governor of California candidate Mary Carey, although she still fulfils the role of the stereotypical Meyer chick: big, natural tits! (in fact I'm pretty sure there's no silicone in this flick at all).
So, being as this is a tribute to the spirit of Russ Meyer there's obviously a whole lotta gratuitous nudity, but there's also (mainly in the second half) a generous splattering of gore. From arterial blood sprays to ol' Hezekiah tearing his own heart out for one of his meat sculptures, Pervert! can be rather bloody at times. Also, to its credit, Pervert! never reveals its low-budget origins - it has excellent camera-work, razor sharp editing and its cartoonish colours are extra bright and bold.
Overall, for a low-budget modern-day attempt at a Sexploitation flick, Pervert! is pretty decent. Sure, some of the jokes fall flat, the acting ain't too hot, and its all been done better before but if you're lookin' for some mindless nudity and laughs, check it out.
Xue lian II (1995)
Highly Inspired Piece of Celluloid Filth
Trilogy of Lust II is the second instalment in this in-name-only trilogy. Aside from the fact that both I and II are written, co-directed and star Cat III regular Julie Lee, they have no other similarities, plot or otherwise. The first entry in the series is a XXX piece and is co-directed by TF Mous of Men Behind the Sun fame. The third entry is better known as The Imp and has no connection to Lee at all.
As a teenager Linda Li (Lee) was raped by her uncle and his drunken buddies. Due to that traumatic event she developed a venomous hatred for men and the only way for her to exorcize it is to don leather fetish gear, seduce random men then torture and kill them in the vilest ways possible. Although she works during the day as the uptight manager of a business, when night falls Linda begins her habitual man-hating murder sprees. After dispatching the men via some highly imaginative kill scenes, Linda then takes a souvenir (e.g. finger, nose, ear) home to add to her growing collection of male body parts.
Soon Linda learns she has contracted AIDS from one of her victims and flips out, she begins walking the streets naked until she eventually arrives at her favourite SM fetish boutique where she gears up and commences on her mission with renewed fury. After a few more nasty murders and sado-torture (one unlucky dude gets lashed to the bedposts, an octopus attached to his genitals, his chest stapled multiple times with a staple gun, then force-fed more octopus until he asphyxiates) Linda discovers the police are on her trail so she decides to skip town; but before she gets the chance is cornered in the back room of a club and brutally gang-raped by four masked men who during the act cover her head with glad wrap which causes her to suffocate to death, thus ending her life / mission spreadeagled on a cum-stained mattress.
I gotta say, Trilogy of Lust II is my new favourite Cat III flick - it shamelessly overflows with bucketloads of sleaze 'n' death: be it deviant sex acts, full frontal nudity, bizarre cosplay, or the bloody lust murder, this flick more than delivers the goods! Julie Lee is brilliant as ever as Linda the man-hating SM freak, decked out in studs, chains 'n' leather, f@cking, whipping & slashing her way through her victims.
Some of the more stand-out scenes include: one of Linda's underling's breaking into her house, discovering her private dungeon then proceeding to bang himself silly with one of her massive dildos, Linda serving a bound & gagged dude up as a fully garnished meal, the aforementioned octo-murder and the final set-piece where Linda first falls naked into buckets of multi-coloured paint then is gang-raped by four dudes wearing strange condom & monster masks, which makes for a rather cinematic rape scene.
All in all TOL II is a highly inspired piece of celluloid filth that pushes the Category III rating / sub-genre to some of it's most extreme limits. A definite must-see for Cat III & sleaze fans alike.
Sekkusu hantâ: Sei kariudo (1980)
Gleefully Sadistic Piece of Art
Amongst horror fans Toshiharu Ikeda is probably better known for his Argento-inspired masterpiece Evil Dead Trap, but before delving into the horror genre Ikeda was making pink films for Nikkatsu's Roman Porno line with Sex Hunter being the most stylish, breathtaking, and gloriously brutal of the bunch.
Sex Hunter opens with an exquisitely photographed performance of Swan Lake featuring Miki as the prima ballerina. After the recital she receives numerous bouquets, one of which is from Akiko, a renowned ballerina who runs an exclusive ballet school. On her way home after the show Miki is approached by Akiko who invites her to join her academy. Miki agrees and is brought to the isolated location at once to begin her training.
Once there Miki quickly discovers there is more to this school than meets the eye as she is thrown headfirst into a deviant cocktail of rape, incest, group sex, sadomasochism, and Coca Cola enemas.
Miki's transformation from shy, virginal ballerina to ravenous uber-slut is represented brilliantly as the film swiftly transitions from scenes of Miki gracefully practicing her ballet routines to being bound and suspended from the ceiling expelling Coke from her asshole as her SM trainer leeringly looks on.
As with most pink films, the theme of liberation via domination is the central focus here. Once Miki has become a masochistic f@ck-machine she discovers her estranged (and now crippled) boyfriend is being kept on the school grounds by his incestuous sister - who, incidentally, happens to be Akiko - and attempts to escape with him which ends in some aggressive wheelchair-sex / near-death fall that earns Miki a severe beating/rape combination courtesy of Akiko and her sadistic assistant.
In a magnificently lit, rain-drenched scene, the films conclusion shows Miki transcending Akiko's heights of perversion and taking her sexual liberation to the limit as she indulges in a depraved ménage à trois with her crippled & bleeding boyfriend and her SM mentor.
Like Evil Dead Trap, Ikeda's film once again brings to mind Argento's Suspiria with its corrupt girls school plot and often dizzying camera-work but the similarities end there. In total, a gleefully sadistic piece of art that deserves more attention.
In Depth Look at the Snuff Film Myth
Ever since Michael and Roberta Findlay made their low budget Manson family cash-in Slaughter, and producer extraordinaire Allan Shackleton breathed new life into it by tacking on the post-script death sequence and renaming it Snuff, the term has sparked controversy and debate wherever it appears. Whether it be over the top porn-lobbying feminists, reactionary journalists, or BBFC watchdogs, the (still unproven) phenomena known as the snuff film has been the trigger for many inflammatory headlines and public scandals over the past three decades and I'm sure will be for many to come.
Paul Von Stoetzel's documentary explores the history behind the snuff film myth and tries to discover if there's any reality behind it. Throughout the course of the film ex-FBI agents, policewomen, film producers, directors, cinephiles, and even an Iraqi war correspondent are interviewed and put forward their opinions on snuff films. Interwoven with the interviews are clips from many of the exploitation films that have at one time or another been considered "the real thing" and/or have snuff themes including; Snuff, Emanuelle in America, Flower of Flesh and Blood, Cannibal Holocaust, Faces of Death, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, etc.
The majority of the interviewees state that they consider a snuff film - i.e: the actual killing of a human being recorded on film for monetary or entertainment purposes - an urban legend. Although one subject, onetime Texas Chainsaw Massacre producer Mark L. Rosen relates a couple of emotional anecdotes that, depending on your point-of-view, are rather disturbing: the first is regarding the investigation of a Russian internet child pornography ring that supposedly produced made-to-order kiddie snuff porn in October, 2000. This was all over the internet when it happened and judging from the sensationalised anti-Semitic (they were Russian Jews) articles that are rather ambiguous about the facts, plus the reality that all but the leader of the group were released from prison due to overcrowding(?!), it sounds a little dubious to me but if it is indeed true then it must be the first documented case of an actual snuff film.
The second story is Rosen's account of how in the 70s when he was a porno distributor he was approached by some dudes from the Philippines who said they had an adult film they wondered if he'd be interested in, what he ends up witnessing is some authentic snuff-porn that traumatises him for life. Now, I gotta say I'm very sceptical about all this as there are plenty of stories floating around about people who've seen a "real" snuff film, but who am I to say if they're telling the truth or not? I mean sure, Rosen's story sounds realistic enough, but why didn't he contact the authorities immediately afterwards and have something done about this "horrific" snuff film? When it comes down to it, I think it's a lot to pin on one man's (melodramatic) words and I personally need more than that, like corroborated facts.
The second half of the film covers the misogynist serial killing duo of Leonard Lake and Charles Ng - the two men who built a torture chamber / snuff film studio in their remote Northern California ranch - and even shows some clips from their home videos which depict them verbally & sexually humiliating their victims for the camera. The duo did indeed kill women on film and this is probably the closest any footage has come to actual snuff film-making. The last segment focuses on the war in Iraq: specifically the Abu Ghraib prisoner torture case and the beheading / execution footage that is constantly leaking onto the internet. This section is intercut with many of the actual clips including the decapitation of US soldier Eugene Armstrong and scenes from Abu Ghraib.
All in all this is a competently put together doco that takes an in depth look at all the elements surrounding the snuff film myth and our societies ongoing obsession with death. It is obviously impossible to say whether snuff actually exists or not but Von Stoetzel presents all the possible situations, including one man's tearful testimony and leaves it up to you to decide.
Viva la muerte (1971)
Viva La Muerte is the first instalment in a trilogy of surrealistic / political films by Fernando Arrabal. Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Arrabal, Viva La Muerte follows ten-year-old Fando as he explores friendship, sexuality, betrayal and death in the midst of the Spanish civil war.
After Fando's father is arrested for treason, his mother tells him that he committed suicide in prison but Fando is suspicious and seeks to learn the truth. He soon discovers that his mother was responsible for his father's arrest and that he is alive and well.
When Fando is not making effigies for his disturbed little puppet theatre he is either sticking close to his mothers side, having gruesome hallucinations or hanging out with his little gal pal Therese, who is never without her pet turkey. The hallucination sequences are some of the best scenes in the film, they range from Arrabal's obsession with defiling religious iconography to Fando fantasising about flooding the town with his urine and his mother taking a dump on his incarcerated father's head. These scenes were shot on video then filtered through various abstract colour schemes which produces some very unsettling visuals.
La Muerte's opening credits sequence features some absolutely stunning and horrific Bosch-esquire illustrations by Roland Topor, co-founder of the Panic Movement along with Arrabal and Jodorowsky, accompanied by a sweet children's refrain that really sets the tone for what is about to come.
Fando's relationship with his mother and aunt both seem to have Oedipal / incestuous undertones, which are especially notable in the scene where his aunt forces him to flagellate her, during which she violently grabs & twists his scrotum. Although, scenes like this and another wherein a soldier shoots a "faggot" poet in the asshole seem like nothing compared to the closing sequence where a bull is graphically slaughtered and Fando's mother writhes ecstatically in the hot fountain of blood, smearing her face with it then she proceeds to sew an unknown man into the carcass of the bull. Later on the bull's cadaver is castrated and his testicle sac emptied onto the ground. If that isn't enough for all you PETA sympathisers there's also a bunch of lambs mercilessly butchered.
Undoubtedly the scenes of animal slaughter may turn a lot of viewers off, but they are not used in the way that a film like, say, Cannibal Holocaust uses them. There is also footage of open heart surgery, but in the hands of Arrabal all of these easily exploitable elements actually go toward the films credit and fit perfectly within the perverse, violent and fantastic world that is Viva La Muerte.
Sacred Flesh (2000)
Failed Nunsploitation Tribute
British imprint Redemption Films have been releasing obscure Eurotrash films since the early 90s. Their early VHS releases of films such as Tombs of the Blind Dead, The Living Dead Girl and Virgin Among the Living Dead were instrumental in triggering my love of cult cinema when I discovered them at my local video store. In 1989 Redemption founder Nigel Wingrove made a short film, Visions of Ecstasy, which was banned outright by the BBFC on grounds of blasphemy. Wingrove fought the BBFC in court - losing his home and many of his possessions in the process due to the hefty lawyer costs - but lost the case. To date, Visions of Ecstasy remains the only film banned in the UK for blasphemous libel. Now it seems Wingrove has decided to stage a "comeback" with another "blasphemous" film, again of the Nunsploitation variety.
The basic plot of Sacred Flesh centres around Mother Superior Elizabeth who is possessed by devils. The convent's Abbess is rightfully concerned about her and writes a letter to a local Abbot requesting him to come and check her out and maybe exorcise some demons. That's about all there is plotwise, the rest of the film's brief runtime is taken up with the Mother Superior's nightmarish visions, long monologues on sexual repression within the Catholic church, and the typical lesbo-nun action, flagellation, bondage-crucifixion, etc.
Mother Superior Elizabeth is torn by Catholic guilt, between the repression of lust she is taught, and the sexual abandon she craves, her hallucinogenic revelations involve: on the one hand Mary Magdalene condoning sexual freedom and condemning the Catholic church, and on the other the "Death Nun" extolling the virtues of chastity and threatening hellfire & damnation. I imagine in Nigel Wingrove's mind he is probably quite proud of himself for producing yet another artistic, highly controversial piece of blasphemous filth but in reality this chunk of shot-on-video junk is basically low budget soft porn masquerading as highbrow art. Mary's rambling, awkwardly worded anti-Catholic tirades come off as pseudo-intellectual bullshit, that's purely there as an attempt to add some class to this low budget tits 'n' ass show.
For a medieval piece set in the early 1900s I find it strange that the nuns sport copious amounts of whorish make-up and silicone, some even flaunt bellybutton & tongue piercings and freshly shaved pussies. I wasn't surprised then to discover that half of the cast are actually British porn stars moonlighting as "actresses".
Now, usually I'd really dig this (or any) kinda sleaze especially when there's the added bonus of skanky nuns, but I think what initially put me off here was the fact that Wingrove is trying so hard to emulate the spirit of 70s European exploitation and completely fails (although the horrendous acting and shitty script didn't help much either). Trying to hide your lack of budget behind some flashy editing and lighting then throwing in some didactic bullshit does not a good film make.
Las Vegas Bloodbath (1989)
Enjoyable Slice of 80s SOV Trash
Las Vegas Bloodbath is a zero-budget shot-on-video piece of crap
but damn, what an entertaining piece of crap it is!
In the films opening scenes Sam Butler returns home from a business trip to find his wife, Ruth, in bed with another man. He flips out and kills them both, taking his wife's mulleted head as a memento. From here he promptly develops the standard 'all women are whores' complex and goes on a ho killin' rampage. First he picks up a type of whore he especially dislikes - a "daytime whore" and takes her to a car park where he mutilates her face then ties her leg to his car and drives off, thus tearing the limb loose and dragging it along behind him.
Here is where the film takes a strange turn - suddenly a group of female oil wrestlers are thrown into the mix. Apparently they are throwing a belated baby shower for their pregnant friend Barbara . For the next twenty-something minutes the audience is subjected to the brainless bimbos' chit-chat as they have a feast of donuts 'n' beer, try on bikini's, play truth or dare, talk sh!t behind Barbara's back ("look how fat she is!"), then finally settle down to watch one of their matches on TV.
Eventually the tedium is cut short when psycho Sam bursts through the door and gets to killin'. Now is the time for this sh!t-nugget to shine: Sam performs an impromptu C-section on Barbara, smashing the fetus against the wall in a joyful conclusion. He dispatches the other women in a variety of creative ways using a combination of gun, knife, claw-hammer & electric drill - savouring the demise of his final victim (who "looks just like his Ruthie") by ripping her arm off and letting her bleed to death.
Las Vegas Bloodbath is really a monumental epic in bad film-making. Everything about it screams amateur - from the abysmal acting and horrible 'videotography' to the nonsensical dialog and hilarious special effects work. Although without a doubt this is an ultra-gory film, particularly the fetus-removal scene which actually utilises a pregnant actress. Some of the lame attempts at humour are utterly hysterical, for example: Sam is constantly talking to his wife's severed head and at one point tells her "don't lose your head over it". There's also the touching introduction of his 'wife' to one of his victims: "whore, this is my wife Ruth - Ruth, this is a whore.
Another thing that seems to fuel Sam's psychotic temper is that everything somehow relates back to his wife - when he asks the group of women what they do and they reply that they're oil wrestlers, he screams "my wife loved oil wrestling!!" and in another instance Sam decapitates a Jehovah's Witness, yelling "my wife was a Jehovah's Witness!". Inspired stuff.
All in all, a very enjoyable slice of 80s SOV trash. Admittedly the middle section slows things down a bit and is kinda mind-numbing, but the girls with their god-awful 80s hair and appalling fashion sense lighten it up, slightly.
Luther the Geek (1989)
Decent Semi-Slasher with Plenty of Grubby Ambiance"
As a child, little hillbilly Luther once witnessed a sideshow geek doin' his thing in a barn and was immediately transfixed by the man's bloody antics. Now Luther is grown and incarcerated on three counts of murder, but he is about to be granted parole...
Pretty much as soon as Luther hits the street he mauls an old lady (who for some reason is a young actress made-up to look old) with his razor sharp set of steel dentures, then while on the run from the police, he jumps into a parked car's backseat to hide. Shortly thereafter, the owner of the car, Hilary, hops in and drives home to her secluded farmhouse to prepare dinner for her daughter Beth, and her boyfriend who are soon to be returning home from college for the holidays. Luther's about to have a feast fit for a king! The first thing I noticed about this film is that it looks like it was made in the late 70s-early 80s; with the faded colours, grainy film stock, and overall atmosphere it really feels just like some grimy piece of trash discarded and forgotten about by the local grindhouse (though I loathe to use this now filthy word!). The other thing that immediately sticks out is that its almost a silent film - there is very little dialog aside from the constant clucks, squawks & crows that emit from Luther's mouth as he does his bizarre chicken act.
Now to the violence and nudity! There's definitely some bloody scenes here as we witness Luther gorily tear into necks, fingers and chests with his grill, but it's nowhere near as ultra-violent as its reputation / reviews suggest. The only nudity here is from Hilary's daughter, Beth, (TV star Stacy Haiduk who played Lana Lang in the Superboy TV series) who has a lengthy shower scene - of which there is a whole seven more minutes of in the outtakes section for all you sleazefiends - and a sex scene.
All in all, a decent semi-slasher flick with plenty of grubby ambiance. Luther is a total freak and it's fun to watch him gore people up and run around like a retarded chicken, especially when he does his wacky victory / death dance after a kill.
One major negative with this disc though, is the idiotic Troma extras: first off we have an utterly witless intro to the film with Troma head honcho Lloyd Kaufman introducing Troma's "freakshow" which consists of some fag that pretends to suck Kaufman's dick and another f@ckwit who tries to suck his own cock, but farts instead. These childish attempts at humour are really not funny and had me p!ssed off before the film even started. Aside from the brainless intro there's also Troma extras like a global warming awareness short and a twelve minute PETA propaganda film trying to convince us all to become vegetarians. I really don't think this kinda proselytizing bullshit should be on a DVD - yes, I understand that Kaufman is obviously worried about the environment and a vegetarian who wants to get the message out there, but I'm sure most of us know what goes on in a slaughterhouse and what the short life of a battery hen consists of, why force it onto the unsuspecting public who just wanna watch a campy horror film?
Manson Family Movies (1984)
Almost Feels Like the Real Thing
In the summer of '69 members of Charlie Manson's "family" stole an NBC-TV truck loaded with film equipment. Later on the truck was dumped and the majority of its contents given away, but Charlie kept one of the cameras. The Family also allegedly owned three Super-8 cameras which they used to produce amateur porn films. Based on this information and an interview with a one-time member of The Family which (rather vaguely) supports this, Ed Sanders speculates in his book The Family, that Charlie and his followers may have filmed their crimes and/or been involved in the production of "snuff films". This was the first recorded use of the term snuff.
With Manson Family Movies John Aes-Nihil has taken this material combined with the rumour that The Family also filmed re-enactments of their murders and produced a chillingly accurate portrayal of what these films may have been like.
The film opens with Charlie's introduction to, then seduction of Sadie-Mae then cuts to some authentic street scenes on Haight-Ashbury complete with half naked stoned hippies, blacks being arrested, crazed homeless folk with Charlie in the middle of it all rapping with / recruiting some of his girls. For the next forty or so minutes we are witnesses to The Family going about their everyday activities and the events leading up to the Tate / LaBianca murders: drug-fuelled orgies, naked fire dancing, mock crucifixions of Charlie, creepy crawl missions, group listenings of The White Album, an unsettling gangbang with ol' George Spahn and the drug-deal-gone-bad scenario.
The second half of the film covers the murders. It seems kind of pointless to go into details here as I'm sure the majority of you reading this are well aware of the grisly facts. Suffice to say Sharon's murder and subsequent "abortion" are particularly meaty.
Family Movies was shot on scratchy 8mm film stock and is silent aside from the soundtrack which is a combination of Charlie's music, Aes-Nihil's band Beyond Joy and Evil which is of a similar folksy tone to Charlie's, and avant-garde electronics, backward voice loops & squealing sax during the more atmospheric parts. The film was shot a mere few years after the murders and uses all of the exact locations where the events happened. Aes-Nihil's dedication and meticulous attention to detail here is beyond obsessive, right down to the precise spot where they dumped their bloody clothes after the Tate murders.
The gritty home movie quality coupled with the flawless soundtrack adds so much realism to the film that it almost looks and feels like the real thing. Part of this feeling of authenticity is also due to the fact that the cast is made up of a rag-tag bunch of Aes-Nihil's hippie friends and people literally pulled off the street, some of whom were acquaintances of The Family - one of the actresses playing Squeaky pulled out of the film after shooting a few scenes because her apartment burned down and she suspected it was retaliation from Family members for starring in the film.
Seeing as the film is shot from the point-of-view of The Family recreating their crimes there is a sense of comedy here too - some members play two or three characters which infrequently leads to them being in drag, oftentimes the cast struggle to keep a straight face, particularly during the murder scenes, there are recurring in-jokes like Sharon Tate's black maid constantly reading Nietzsche, an amusing nod to Valley of the Dolls and a hilarious moment during Tate's prolonged murder scene when a discordant punk song suddenly erupts on the soundtrack entitled Die Bitch (courtesy of the Sloppy Titty Freaks). Also, in the commentary track the director notes the "actor" playing George Spahn was a seventy-year-old ex-art critic who was tripping on LSD for the first time.
All in all I can honestly say Manson Family Movies is the most authentic-looking and therefore enjoyable film I've seen concerning the "legacy" of Charles Manson and his Family. It's obvious this was a highly personal project for John Aes-Nihil and all his care and attention to even the smallest of details definitely pays off.
Marquis de Sade: Justine (1969)
Tame de Sade Adaption
Here is yet another of the various exploitation flicks based on De Sade's Justine (the best of which are credited to the prolific Jess Franco). This one is an English production starring Koo Stark, onetime girlfriend of Prince Andrew.
Set sometime in 18th Century England, two sisters, 16-year-old Justine and 17-year-old Juliette, are expelled from their convent school after they are orphaned and can no longer afford the fees. Juliette comes up with the brilliant idea of going to the London whorehouse where their cousin works and learning the "tricks of the trade", regardless of the fact they are both still virgins.
At the whorehouse the older and more worldly Juliette gets on fine and embraces the brothel lifestyle while the naïve & innocent Justine can't handle it and runs away back to the convent, into Pastor John's welcoming arms. Although, after the good Pastor has had a few wines he can no longer contain his lecherous urges and attempts to rape poor, pure Justine. Luckily she escapes with her virginity intact but Pastor John ends up dead and she is now wanted for murder.
Whilst escaping through the church graveyard she encounters a gang of graverobbers who kidnap her and force her into their way of life - she becomes their bait for luring stagecoaches to a halt so the thieves can rob & murder the occupants. Meanwhile, Juliette has become concerned by the absence of her sister and sends her heroic aristocrat boyfriend, Lord Carlisle (Martin Potter of Fellini's Satyricon fame) out to search for her.
Lord Carlisle eventually catches up with the thieves as they use their ploy to rob his stagecoach and murder all the occupants, only sparing him after Justine's pleading. The two soon escape only to be hunted down by dogs and brutally slaughtered (and in Justine's case gang-raped).
Compared to De Sade's original story (and indeed even Jess Franco's adaptations) Justine is pretty tame, there's the odd splatter of blood, infrequent nudity and even some non-graphic rape & necrophilia but overall - even with those acts included - there's still not much for exploitation aficionados to get excited about. The film focuses more on Justine's plight and the eventual tarnishing of her innocence.
Strangely enough this film is included as part of Redemption's Nunsploitation box set but it's only really the first twenty to thirty minutes that are set in the convent - the rest is either in the countryside or the brothel - although, aside from the downbeat ending and Justine's surreal catholic guilt nightmare sequences, the convent scenes are the best & sleaziest parts of the film, with the usual forced lesbianism and debauched Mother Superior.
Papaya dei Caraibi (1978)
Mediocre D'amato Effort
It must be said that, alongside Jess Franco, Joe D'Amato is one of the undisputed kings of exploitation. His films such as Anthropophagous, Beyond the Darkness, Images in a Convent, Caligula: The Untold Story and his sleaze-filled Black Emanuelle sagas are bona fide classicks of the "genre". Papaya: Love Goddess of the Cannibals is one of his lesser known titles which has now been made available fully uncensored for the first time on DVD by the fine folks at Severin Films.
Maurice Poli (Rabid Dogs, Five Dolls for an August Moon) is part of a team of Geologists who, for reasons unexplained, are installing a nuclear reactor on a remote Caribbean island paradise. Before long Maurice unexpectedly bumps into his old reporter friend Sirpa Lane (La Bete) who just happens to be vacationing on the island. (Cue plenty of softcore sex as the old chums get reacquainted). When the couple picks up a hitchhiking native named Papaya, she tells them of an ancient annual ritual happening nearby and they decide to go along and check it out and end up getting much more than they bargained for.
Papaya opens with probably one of the best scenes in the film; island sexpot Papaya seduces a bearded Geologist in his hut by rubbing fruit on his body then castrates him with her teeth. This is the first of two scenes of cannibalism in the film. The rest of it is pretty much held together with an abundance of sex set against a picturesque tropical backdrop and a vague plot which involves the natives protesting against having a nuclear reactor built on their island by having Papaya seduce and kill all the Geologists involved.
The title of the film is very misleading and the name on the actual print is Caribbean Papaya which makes much more sense because as mentioned above there are only two very brief scenes of cannibalism, the aforementioned one and another which is during the cannibal ritual and involves the eating of a sacrificial victims heart and some dead pigs being graphically gutted.
One thing there is no lack of though is sex & nudity - Nordic sleaze princess Sirpa Lane gets her kit off plenty and so does Melissa Chimenti who plays local temptress Papaya and looks a little like transvestite actor/tress Ajita Wilson which can be either a good or bad thing I guess depending on your orientation. The sex can sometimes be pretty graphic for softcore and there's plenty of variety from interracial couplings to threesomes and even a full-blown "cannibal" orgy underscored with some irresistibly funky disco beats.
Ultimately I cant say this is a must-have D'Amato film; it's basically a mediocre softcore fare with some vague cannibalism themes thrown in for added shock value. For Sirpa Lane fan-boys and/or D'Amato completists only.
Ex Drummer (2007)
Surreal, Politically Incorrect Black Comedy
Based on a story by infamous Belgian novelist Herman Brusselmans, Ex Drummer is a dismal, nihilistic trip into the world of three handicapped gentlemen who want to start a rock band.
The local battle of the bands is coming up and Koen, Jan & Ivan want to participate, the only problem is they don't have a drummer. They soon decide to ask local author Dries to join their band, thinking his celebrity status may give them a better chance at winning. Seeing as all the members have their own particular handicaps, they ask Dries what his is - it seems he can't play the drums.
The band is a motley crew indeed; vocalist / guitarist Koen is a horny, skinhead rapist with a horrible lisp, bassist Jan is gay with a paralysed right arm and an obsessive mother complex, and rhythm guitarist Ivan is a deaf junkie who treats his wife and child like sh!t. Dries accepts the invitation to join their band purely for his own amusement and in the hope that he'll get a story idea from it. They name their band The Feminists.
Ex Drummer overflows with glorious politically incorrect offensiveness: rape, pedophilia, rampant misogyny, racism, homophobia, infant death, incest there's really something for everyone. Although with the misanthropic attitude and overall bleak atmosphere coexists a sense of the surreal and an undertone of pitch black comedy. For instance the scene where Big Dick, a member of a rival band with a horse-sized appendage, forces his wife to show her wrecked vagina to Dries, the two men literally walk around in her womb as Big Dick points out the tunnel he's carved out with his mammoth member. The film doesn't shy away from graphic violence either, particularly in the last quarter - there's some rather gruesome death scenes and an extremely bloody rape / castration.
Ex Drummer is quite technically accomplished and visually stunning at times too, bizarre sequences such as the one mentioned above don't really seem out of the ordinary when Koen the skinhead rapist lives upside down in his blood-splattered house, and some scenes are shot completely backwards. The camera-work and editing are utterly frenzied - especially during the final concert - with certain sequences being superimposed one on top of the another. The fantastic soundtrack deserves a mention here too, the film opens with the awesome Lighting Bolt track 2 Morro Morro Land and continues on with songs that complement the often harsh imagery on display. The bands in the film are actually quite decent also, they all have a similar lo-fi gutter-punk sound, and The Feminists do a wicked cover of DEVO's Mongoloid.
A highly impressive feature film debut from Koen Mortier and a must see for fans of transgressive cinema.
Bijo no harawata (1986)
Rape 'n' Gore!
Gaira's Entrails of a Beautiful Woman is an in-name-only sequel to his Entrails of a Virgin produced the same year. Basically what we have here is a Nikkatsu pink film merged with insane 80s J-splatter, ie: loadsa rape 'n' gore!
When Yoshimi's sister mysteriously disappears she decides to do some snooping about and discovers that the Ichiyama Yakuza Clan have sold her as a slave in Africa, although by the time she learns this she is being gang-raped by that same gang and shot up with "Angel Rain", a powerful drug that causes her to really dig being raped. After the lads fall asleep she manages to escape and goes straight to her psychiatrist, Hiromi. Yoshimi proceeds to tell Hiromi what has happened then promptly jumps off a bridge to her death.
Hiromi plots to get revenge for her patient and seduces one of the yakuza before placing him under hypnosis which compels him to kill the rest of his gang the next time they call him stupid (?!). He doesn't manage this and ends up mutilated and hacked to pieces. Then the clan track down Hiromi, gang-rape her then shoot her up with some Angel Rain which, instead of making her horny, transforms her into an inside-out-hermaphrodite-demon that goes on a killing spree, gorily butchering the yakuza that raped her (and the leaders girl too).
From all the wonderfully sleazy rapes to the inside-out-demon rippin' through a chicks stomach with his/her fanged cock in an obvious Alien homage and punchin' through a dudes head; Entrails of a Beautiful Woman is one helluva good time! I actually dug this one far more than Entrails of a Virgin - it's a lot less disjointed, faster paced and brings more gore to the table too.
Director Kazuo "Gaira" Komizu seems a really interesting & intelligent character also - in the interview on the Synapse disc, when asked what prompted him to make such a film he lurches into a long and rambling answer in which he touches on philosophers such as Descartes & Rousseau, as well as topics such as the duality of man, Japans lack of a focused religion, and many others that you wouldn't really expect from the man who created this sex 'n' gore epic.
Ai no bôrei (1978)
Arty Love/Ghost Story
Empire of Passion is Nagisa Oshima's follow up to his infamous 1976 film In the Realm of the Senses. Based on a novel by Itoko Namura, Empire details the love affair between a young soldier and an older woman.
Toyoji is becoming more and more obsessed with Seki, the wife of a rickshaw jockey. He begins by bringing her little treats and having tea with her while her husband is at work, then eventually works his way up to raping her. Of course, seeing as this is a Japanese film, Seki ends up enjoying the rape and falls head over heels for Toyoji.
The only problem facing the newfound couple's domestic bliss is Seki's husband, Gisaburo. Fortunately, Toyoji thinks of a solution - homicide. So the pair hatch a plan wherein Seki will ply her husband with sake, then when he is well and truly sloshed, Toyoji will pop in for a drive-by strangulation, thus leaving the two in peace.
Everything goes according to plan and the couple dump Gisaburo's body in a disused well. Now they are free to live happily ever after or are they? When the village-people begin to gossip about Gisaburo's death and his ghost starts appearing to Seki, her daughter and random townsfolk in their dreams and, finally, reality, Seki and Toyoji begin to get a little worried.
Intertwined with the doomed lovers scenario is a traditional Japanese ghost story. Gisaburo returns as a vengeful ghost and harasses Seki while having her serve him sake and gives her a ride in his rickshaw, but in the end gets his retribution.
Empire of Passion is an entirely different film than In the Realm of the Senses, for one it has none of the explicit sex, perverse fetishes or indeed the powerful emotional pull that Senses has (no penis-lopping here folks). It's true that both films portray fanatical love affairs and show the lengths two people bloated with love can go to but they do it in two completely different ways.
In contrast to In the Realm of the Senses, which had an obsessive/possessive female lead, Empire of Passion has a young male playing the role of the infatuated lover. But once Toyoji conquers Seki and has her all to himself he begins to loose interest and she becomes the insecure one. The couple of sex scenes that are shown are not shot from an intimate, candid angle like Senses but more from a voyeur's point-of-view.
All in all Empire of Passion is a decent portrayal of illicit love set against the gorgeous backdrop of the Japanese forest. See this if you have a fondness for arty love stories and/or vengeful ghost tales.
Mindless Softcore Fare
Emanuelle in Bangkok is the second entry in the Black Emanuelle series begun by Bitto Albertini then continued on into infamy by Joe D'Amato.
Laura Gemser returns as the intrepid globetrotting reporter Emanuelle who is sent on a mission to Bangkok to interview the King's nephew. She is accompanied to Bangkok by her on-again-off-again lover Roberto (Gemsers real-life husband Gabriele Tinti) who is on his way to begin an archaeology dig in Morocco.
Emanuelle never quite gets her interview as she has her passport & photography equipment stolen then is brutally gang-raped by a group of thugs employed by the government, so she decides to join Roberto in Morocco. Not having a passport isn't a problem, she just f@cks an airport official for a free pass.
Once in Morocco Emanuelle discovers Roberto is now engaged to an English woman, so they all decide to engage in some group sex, which seems to straighten everything out. Soon Emanuelle falls madly in love with the daughter of an American ambassador and spends the rest of her days either involved in some in lesbian bubble bath action or f@cking Roberto and/or any other man who crosses her path.
Being still early in the series, there is less of the sleaze and nastiness that some of the other films are so well known for, basically it's a sexy travelogue piece. Emanuelle is inhibition-free and generous with her body so pretty much every dude she meets gets to have a go.
A couple of notable scenes include: a sequence of 'natural' animal violence where a Shrew-like creature fights a cobra, and wins. The fully-clothed gang-rape where afterwards Emanuelle hangs out and chats cheerfully with her assailants, and a Bangkok stripper performing the notorious ping-pong ball trick.
Ultimately this isn't D'Amato's best Emanuelle film but if you're looking for some mindless (and often dull) softcore fare then check this out, otherwise I'd suggest going for either Emanuelle in America, Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals or Emanuelle Around the World (XXX version).
A Nice Sleazy Effort from Mr. D'amato
Emanuelle Around the World is Joe D'Amato's fourth Emanuelle outing starring insatiable Euro-slut Laura Gemser.
In this one Emanuelle is sent to India to do a story on a Guru who has supposedly discovered the ultimate climax, although once there Emanuelle is disappointed to find him to be a money-hungry con-artist. So, unsatisfied with her Guru story, she joins forces with her reporter pal Cora Norman who is doing a story on violence against woman.
Cora has been tracking a white slavery operation and Emanuelle is keen to help her uncover the people behind it. The pair go to France and Hong Kong along the way taking down smaller slavery rings until they eventually end up in the Middle East where they uncover the heart of the operation and successfully close it down.
Emanuelle Around the World was made the same year as Emanuelle in America and it shows. The brutal snuff-oriented plot of Emanuelle in America is traded in for a slightly less brutal white slave plot here that offers plenty of excuses for wanton sex and violence.
Being a Joe D'Amato film centred around an anti-violence against women plot, you just know you're gonna see some gratuitous violence against women! We have gang-rape, (non-graphic) forced bestiality, blowjob at gunpoint, murder, and a beauty queen being degraded by some US Senators then raped by a group of vagrants. Sadly the version reviewed here is the softcore edit, the XXX cut has around 15 extra minutes of hardcore action and longer, more explicit bestiality scenes.
All in all a nice sleazy effort from Mr. D'Amato, while not as vicious as Emanuelle in America or as gory as Emanuelle and the Last Cannibals, Emanuelle Around the World is definitely one of the top three Black Emanuelle films.
A Psycho-Sexual Voyage
Takashi Miike's Gozu is one helluva trip. A psychosexual voyage to a hellish underworld teeming with supernatural and mythological allegory.
The external plot line is as follows: low-level Yakuza Minami is told by his superiors to drive best friend & fellow Yakuza, Ozaki out to the 'Yakuza dumping grounds' because he has become a liability due to his increasingly psychotic behaviour. However, en route Ozaki kicks the bucket prematurely then his body goes mysteriously missing. It is up to Minami to find the body and deliver it to the dumping ground.
In spite of the deceivingly simple plot synopsis, Gozu is a surrealist headfuck of a film that never lets up. Gozu (literally translated: cow's head) is a demon in Japanese mythology - somewhat similar to the Minotaur in Greek mythology - who exists between evil and the human world. In addition to the title character, Gozu seems to have a lot of other similarities to mythology, namely the journey of self discovery Minami unwittingly embarks on in his search for Ozaki's body; he encounters an old man who says he must solve a riddle before he can help him, a lactating mother figure, a pseudo River Styx, latent homosexuality, and characters who become obstacles to overcome.
A large part of Gozu is pure improvisation, one scene in particular that surprisingly and comedically breaks the fourth wall is where an American woman is speaking to Minami in broken Japanese and then the camera zooms out to show the cue cards she is unsuccessfully trying to read off of taped to the wall. The odd characters that Minami meets on his journey make up a large part of the proceedings and add to the dreamlike feel. First and foremost there is Ozaki who in a hilarious pre-credit sequence is shown smashing a tiny defenceless Chihuahua to death because he said it was a "Yakuza attack dog, trained to kill made men". He attempts to do the same to a car that is behind him, claiming it is a "Yakuza attack car". Then there is the group of three transvestites that run the café in which Minami looses Ozaki, the middle-aged brother and sister that own the inn Minami stays in - the sister bottles and sells her breast milk and attempts to breastfeed Minami, the local who assists Minami in his search - one half of his face is white due being born without enough pigment in his skin, and many others.
Reincarnation and rebirth are important themes here too: when Minami finally meets up with Ozaki again he is now a woman (his original body was "pressed" at the Yakuza dump into a skin suit), now Minami's seemingly dormant homosexual attraction to Ozaki is able to be fulfilled, the act of which causes Ozaki to be reborn via his/her own vagina.
Ultimately, all of the above conjecture could be complete bullshit, maybe Miike just wanted to make a weird-ass film. If so, he definitely accomplished it, Gozu is one of the strangest, most out there Japanese films I've seen to date.
J'irai comme un cheval fou (1973)
Satirical and Confrontational Art
In this, the third entry in Arrabal's surrealist trilogy, he steers away from the socio-political aspects that were so dominant in his previous two films, and focuses more on satirizing the modern world, along with his habitual penchant for the degradation of all things religious and themes of incest.
The basic plot outline is as follows: Aden Rey is on the run from the police after instigating the death of his mother. He eventually finds himself in the desert where he meets a curious dwarf who can communicate with and control nature. In the desert Aden gets in touch with his inner-mystic with the help of Marvel the dwarf. After hanging out with goats and camels in the desert and ultimately becoming obsessed with Marvel, Aden decides to bring him back to civilisation and show him the world.
Marvel is some kind of messianic figure. He has lived for 10,000 years and can turn night into day, make blind people see and command bees and goats to do his bidding. When the pair return to Paris (along with Marvel's goat, Therese) Aden introduces Marvel to women, tea, fancy apartments and cigars, all of which he finds incomprehensible and hilarious - regarding an old man puffing on a cigar: "He is like an infant suckling at the breast!".
At one point during the film Marvel is tricked into joining the circus where his act consists of dancing to rock 'n' roll while the crowd points and laughs, but instead of feeling humiliated he enjoys himself to no end. Halfway through his act he climbs into the lion cage and plays with the beast, then innocently frees it into the audience.
Throughout their adventures Aden suffers from constant flashbacks of his childhood, which reveals his mother to be a domineering, abusive woman who allowed him no contact with the outside world and with whom he was unhealthily in love with. He visits her home and dresses in her lingerie, then, in a nightmarish sequence, messily gives birth to a skull.
Unlike Arrabal's two earlier features I Will Walk Like a Crazy Horse is not set during the Spanish Civil War but in Paris in the early 70s, so modernism is the subject of constant parody. We frequently see gasmasked people having sex and involved in bizarre rituals. Marvel's running commentary on the absurdity and pointlessness of things is more often than not on point.
As is to be expected all of Arrabal's grotesque imagery is present, from penis mutilation to some repulsive cannibalism at the end, Arrabal never fails to disgust with his particular brand of surrealism.
Gokudô sengokushi: Fudô (1996)
Fudoh: The Next Generation is another in a long line of Yakuza films helmed by Takashi Miike. The big difference here is that the principal Yakuza organisation in the film is made up of adolescents and 5-7 year old boys who are just as deadly as their adult rivals.
The reigning Nio Yakuza clan is made up of five different families, one of the five heads is Iwao Fudoh, and his first lieutenant his oldest son, Ryu. When Ryu orders one of the rival Yasha organisations hit men killed, thus triggering a full scale war between the Yasha and Nio clans, Iwao is asked to make up for his sons mistake and he does so by decapitating him and presenting the head as compensation to the Nio clan.
Upon hearing a noise Iwao's youngest son Riki, awakes and goes to investigate - he stumbles upon the grisly sight of his father beheading his older brother. Cut to ten years later, Riki is now in high school and running an organisation of his own made up of fellow students and a group of little boys. His anger over the death of his brother has not faded in the least and he has plans to wipe out the other four families in the Nio clan and become boss.
Fudoh is really a mindblowing spectacle, we are constantly battered with violent and non-PC imagery, beginning with the sight of two five year-old boys coldly assassinating an elderly Yakuza boss. To see young children effortlessly handling 9mm's is somewhat of a shock to our pre-conditioned minds to start with, but when they continue on to calmly blow an old man's brains out you start to get an idea of what is ahead.
The next slaying involves a poisoned cup of coffee and literally bucketloads of blood. Another features Riki's female friend and classmate Mika, who works on the side at a sleazy strip joint performing her unique act which consists of shooting sharpened darts out of a blowpipe inserted in her vagina and bursting balloons on the other side of the room, though this night, in-between balloons, she shoots a dart right through a Nio leaders head - in one ear and out the other - the dart sinks into the wall with a piece of brain tissue still attached.
Everything about Fudoh is so over-the-top and insanely exaggerated that you seem not to notice that the likelihood of a group of children being at war with the Yakuza is highly improbable. Midway through the film we are shown the children's training camp where we see the kids merrily playing soccer with their English teachers head, this serves again to reinforce the sense of unreality that's at play here. Although, all hyperbole aside, Fudoh also explores the dysfunctional relationship between father and son, a bond so broken down by betrayal and murder that as the two males sit opposite each other eating dinner in silence, each one is plotting a way to execute the other.
All in all, if you dig schoolgirl hermaphrodites, friendly giants, lesbian English teachers, vaginal darts and a large helping of blood and black comedy, this a must-see Miike film.
Faces of Death (1978)
Tired Shock Tactics
Faces of Death is one of the most well-known Mondo films out there. Over the years many a teenager has rented / downloaded this film or one of its sequels and sat down with some buddies, some beer 'n' weed and tried to gross themselves out. It's almost like a rite of passage for many horror fans and is often the catalyst in opening the door to the darker, more extreme side of cinema.
After an intro of graphic autopsy footage we are introduced to Dr. Francis Gross, who in his own words, has a "compulsion to understand death", he has travelled all around the world looking into the various faces of death in his attempts to comprehend it. Dr. Gross' introductory monologue and narration for the duration of the film is pseudo-intellectual bullshit extolling the value of life and how death should be looked in the face if we wish to understand and not be afraid of it. His dialogues true purpose is to serve as an acceptable excuse to show us some exploitive, gory, and mostly fake death scenes.
The first quarter of the film is mainly made up of animal violence / cruelty - we see pit-bulls fighting, tribesmen killing and eating cattle, slaughterhouse stock footage, some dude shooting seals with an M-16 (!), and the 'infamous' (and once again fake) monkey brain eating scene where at a restaurant some rich folks crack open a live monkey's skull and eat his brains which are supposedly a delicacy. Most of the animal stuff isn't shocking and is really nothing worse than what you'd see on the National Geographic channel.
The remaining three quarters of the film mostly involves humans: we witness a gator attack; an assassination and subsequent interview with the assassin, executions, suicides, death, religious & cannibal cults, a bear attack, concentration camp and holocaust images & stock footage, stunts gone wrong, car & train crashes, etc. etc. Pretty much all this footage is obviously simulated and the stuff that isn't is basically the kinda stuff you see on the news daily anyway (aside from the autopsies of course).
Overall I found Faces of Death has dated really badly and seems like nothing more than tired (and really boring) shock tactics, which is exactly what it is. The simulated scenes which make up 85% of the film are atrociously acted, the gore looks obviously fake and the "creepy" synth and sometimes jolly jazz score just add to the schlock. Purely for stoned teenagers looking for some cheap thrills but even then, they'll probably be disappointed when nowadays films like August Underground and the like are so easily accessible.
War Dog (1987)
Decent Low Budget Action Effort
Before Universal Soldier there was War Dog, a low budget Swedish action flick that shares a lot of similarities with the aforementioned Van Damme vehicle.
Charles Stewart is unwilling to accept that his brother Rick died in 'Nam, so with the help of a friend he begins to investigate the circumstances surrounding his brothers missing-in-action status. His buddy puts him in touch with journalist Dean Daniels who makes a living on the side helping people track down relatives presumed MIA.
Dean shows Charles a videotape documenting a political assassination, and amongst the hit men Charles recognizes his brother and his former commanding officer, Spacek. Now motivated by the fact that his brother is still alive, Charles sets out to discover what exactly was going on in that video and who is behind it all.
War Dog is a surprisingly bloody actioner that utilizes its limited budget to the fullest. The opening scenes depict an over-the-top massacre wherein assassins indiscriminately slaughter young children and senior citizens who get in their way. It's not often in an action film you get to see a child shot to pieces in slo-mo.
Some slight drawbacks to the film are where the beginning and ending are all-out action, the middle section slows things down a bit which gives it a somewhat uneven feel overall. In addition some of the acting is rather stilted and the horrendous dubbing - despite the fact the original language is English - can make for some unintentional comedy.
Minor shortcomings aside, I found War Dog to be a pretty decent low budget effort with enough blood, guns 'n' explosions to sate the average exploit/action lover's appetite.
Original & Inventive Take on the Zombie Genre
Canadian artist / pornographer Bruce LaBruce is known in underground circles for his transgressive and satirical no-budget contributions to Queer cinema. His films Raspberry Reich, Hustler White and Skin Flick, among others, endeavor to explore themes such as alienation, fascism, terrorism, persecution but are held together by Bruce's real "meat 'n' potatoes" - hardcore gay sex (and in one case, amputee sex).
Somewhere in the near future where zombies are the norm (particularly homosexual ones) and have somewhat evolved from mindless flesh-eaters into talking, rational-thinking corpses, Otto is rising from the grave. He doesn't remember anything about his past so he begins to wander the streets aimlessly, eating roadkill as he goes. Otto cant bring himself to kill & eat a human - he muses that maybe he was a vegetarian in his former life.
Otto is soon "discovered" by Medea Yarn, an avant-garde filmmaker. Medea is close to finishing her epic political-porno-zombie movie, Up with Dead People, and wants to begin on a docu-drama starring Otto. Medea's crew consists of her brother, Adolf and her lesbian partner Hella Bent, a silent screen siren who is always seen in scratchy black 'n' white.
Intermittently Otto has minor flashbacks to what he thinks was his life before he became one of the undead. When he eventually discovers his wallet in his back pocket, he finds in it little clues to who he once was, one being an ex-boyfriend's phone number. He arranges to meet up with this ex and through him learns some important details about his past.
"An original and inventive take on the zombie genre" Otto; or, Up with Dead People is a German/Canadian co-production predominantly shot in Germany with local actors. The majority of the dialogue in the film is presented as voice-over narration either by Otto or Medea, who we are introduced to, and who continues to address us via interview-type footage. The elements of satire are pretty blatant when it comes to Medea, the utterly pretentious filmmaker with her long indulgent diatribes against our capitalist, consumer-driven society. Then there's the queer-zombie bashing, Otto the mindless teen zombie (product of a consumerist society?) and the sense of disdain that the general public regard Otto with.
Sex 'n' gore-wise I didn't find the film too over-the-top; yes there are a few cocks and some gay sex but no XXX scenes. One of the more notable scenes is in Medea's film Up with Dead People where the lead zombie penetrates his partner's recently inflicted stomach wound. With regards to the typical gory zombie film though, I don't think Otto can really compete, there's very little grue, just the odd eating of roadkill.
One of the questions the film asks is - is Otto really a zombie? At the beginning it seems rather obvious that he is but as the film develops you discover that before he "died" he was committed to a psychiatric hospital after being diagnosed with schizophrenia and a severe eating disorder. Throughout the film people are constantly commenting that "he thinks he's a zombie" and wonder what is wrong with him.
Otto; or Up with Dead People is an original and inventive take on the zombie genre, although for some, the lack of typical genre staples may disappoint. Recommended for Bruce LaBruce fans and/or indiscriminate zombie film lovers.
La bête (1975)
An Utterly Surreal Piece of Avant-garde Film-making
The Beast is Polish filmmaker Walerian Borowczyk's most infamous work. Based on the story Lokis by Prosper Mérimée, its combination of anti-bourgeois satire, graphic pornography and heavy beastiality themes make for some shocking viewing.
American heiress Lucy Broadhurst and her aunt Virginia have travelled out to the French countryside as Lucy is to be married to Mathurin de l'Esperance, a French aristocrat. As the ladies wait to be introduced to Mathurin (he is in the midst of being baptised) they explore the old château and Lucy comes across some ancient artwork depicting women coupling with animal-like beings. Lucy is soon formally introduced to her groom-to-be and they sit down to dinner.
As night falls everyone retires to their respective chambers and Lucy falls into an ongoing erotic dream / fantasy wherein she witnesses a woman in the forest being stalked then raped by a wolf-man-horse hybrid, she awakes aroused and checks in on her husband to be. Finding him dead she panics, wakes her aunt and they disappear into the night.
The Beast is either a strangely erotic art-house masterpiece or a sickening display of bestiality worship scantily concealed by it's lofty pretensions. Straight off the mark the opening scenes of graphic horse copulation set the tone. It is also then that we are introduced to the leering Mathurin, who is intently "supervising" his horses mating. When the priest turns up to baptise Mathurin he has two little altar boys with him that are obviously his lovers, yet another of Borowczyk's stabs at organized religion (see Behind Convent Walls).
The underlying themes of the human animal and its primal urges are pretty blatant, especially in a scene where Sirpa Lane follows a cute, innocent lamb into the forest only to see it torn to shreds by the "evil" beast before he rapes her.
It could definitely be said that the first hour of the film is just a set-up for the notorious beast scenes as it does kinda drag (especially for those who already know what's about to follow) and very little happens aside from Mathurin and Lucy finally meeting and a running gag regarding Mathurin's sister and the black servant constantly being interrupted mid-coitus. Although for those who are bored by the first hour it is definitely worth the wait because once the beast is on the scene it's all go! As mentioned above the beast is some bizarre kinda wolf-man-horse hybrid, the horse part being his gargantuan member with which he attacks Sirpa Lane in the prolonged festishised rape sequence - this scene really has something for everyone: foot fetishists, tit-men, rape-men (hah!), bukkake fans, animal lovers, it's all in there.
The Beast is an utterly surreal piece of avant garde film-making that is a must-see for fans of Euro-cult cinema and boundary-pushing foreign films in general.
Dans ma peau (2002)
A Graphic Exploration of Addiction and Raw Human Desire
Marina de Van wrote, directed and starred in this, her feature film debut, which is a graphic exploration of addiction and raw human desire.
At a work-related party, ambitious businesswoman, Esther (de Van) trips on some metal in the backyard and tears a gaping wound in her leg. At first she doesn't notice, but as the night wears on she glimpses her own bloody footprints on the carpet and eventually though rather reluctantly, goes to the hospital to get herself stitched up.
Over the next few days she begins to pick at the wound and gouge new ones as things such as her demanding job, and over-protective boyfriend begin to stress her out; she finds that this practice relaxes her. Due to her work and worried loved ones, Esther tries to hide her self-harm and even goes so far as to fake a car crash to explain the lacerations on her arms. As the days and weeks progress, she begins to lose control and at one stage mutilates herself under the table at a dinner function whilst hallucinating. As her addiction reaches its peak she holes up in a hotel room and greedily cannibalizes herself while documenting her disfiguration with polaroids and saving chunks of her own skin to dry out like animal hide and stash in the safety of her purse for later.
In My Skin portrays a woman in the depths of an obsession very few (if any) of us can understand; she begins to lose her sense of feeling, both emotionally and physically, and to compensate for it she begins to fetishize her body by exploring it in the most visceral way possible: by revelling in her own flesh & blood, tearing and eating her skin and wallowing wildly in her blood. It seems Esther's addiction to excessive self-mutilation began as a coping mechanism, but soon transformed into an act of narcissism taken to the extreme. When we see her caressing her opened up body, and erotically nibbling at her limbs, she is the ultimate egomaniac lost inside herself.
At times the film can get quite graphic, especially in the last fifteen minutes when Esther is letting loose on herself in the hotel room: tearing chunks of flesh off with her teeth; cutting her face up with a kitchen knife, and further going to work on her leg. Yet some of the most teeth-gritting scenes for me were in the beginning of the film when she first cuts her leg up then opens the wound up further. The sound & gore effects are top-notch and make for some tense squirmin'-in-yer-seat moments.
In My Skin is another great piece of modern French film-making that's right up there with the best of Catherine Breillat and Gaspar Noé's work. Also recommended for fans of those other self-mutilation-themed films: Naked Blood and Cutting Moments
Ángel negro (2000)
Formulaic Chilean Slasher
Ángel Negro is a Chilean horror flick from writer / director Jorge Olguín - this is his first full length feature. The plot of this rather formulaic slasher tells the tale of a teen coming back from the dead to get revenge on all of those who played a role in her death.
The film opens with some black & white home video footage in which we see a group of teens drunkenly celebrating their graduation. As the night progresses things start to get out of hand as the kids turn against each other which eventually leads to the death of one of the girls, Angel, who was the outcast of the group. Cut to ten years later - one of the teens, Gabriel, who was deeply in love with Angel and is now a forensic pathologist, begins seeing his old school chums turning up as murder victims on his autopsy slab. As the murders continue, soon only Gabriel and Carolina - another old friend who was married to one of the murder victims - are left alive from the original group of friends that witnessed / contributed to the death of Angel and she is steadily tracking them down for a long awaited "reunion".
I really thought I was going to like Ángel Negro, its hyped status as being Chile's only horror film (which is obviously not true) combined with it being well received at Montréal's FanTasia film festival had me expecting an original Chilean slasher which was the exact opposite of what I got. First off, the killer wears a f@cking Michael Myers mask, for which the film immediately loses originality credits, secondly, it is very slow moving, almost to the point of dullness. In an extra feature interview, the director explains the blank mask is a metaphor for how in Chile's totalitarian society people who don't conform or agree with it's regime are outcasts and "disappear". That may be, but it sure didn't help the film any.
The violence overall is pretty low-key, there are stabbings, shootings, beatings and wire strangulation but none are very graphic aside from one prolonged stabbing scene. The scenes in the morgue are pretty realistic seeing as they were shot in an actual morgue, but any autopsies that are performed are done off camera. Slightly in the films defence, it does have kind of a giallo vibe going on, especially with it's "shocking" final twist that vaguely separates it from other slashers but still not enough to make it interesting. Another negative about the film is the awful subtitling - apart from the fact that the subs are white so are basically invisible in the B&W flashback scenes and any other light shots, they were obviously translated by a retarded primate as the grammar is almost indecipherable at times.