Tag Archives: Torture porn

1963 EXLPOITATION TRIPLE FEATURE: THE SADIST, BLOOD FEAST, & THE WHIP AND THE BODY

1963 was such a productive year for horror/exploitation that even was involved in a better than normal effort. The Sadist is the film Hall Jr. will most likely be remembered for (if he is remembered at all). Here, Junior pivots away from the low-rent Elvis Presley persona that daddy  was crafting for him to instead play a cartoon psychopath inspired by the real-life sadist Charles Starkweather (in the first of several films loosely based on Starkweather’s infamous 1958 killing spree—to make sure we get the reference, writer/director James Landis names the antagonist “Charlie”). The Sadist is easily the best film of both this actor and this director, which is not to say that it’s great cinema. Surprisingly, the best thing about it is Hall’s energetic performance. Away from daddy, Junior bounces through the entire film with a near-perfect trash performance.

Still from The Sadist (1963)While Landis wasn’t quite the hack that was, he still hampers the production with rusty pacing and ill-conceived narration (supplied by Hall, Sr). The headlines of murderous mayhem proved to be the inspiration for the Landis/Hall Jr. team. They worked together in two additional features: 1964’s The Nasty Rabbit, about Russian spies smuggling killer bunnies into the U.S.A., and 1965’s Deadwood 76, which features Junior as a singing Billy the Kid. Both were written by Daddy Hall and again reveal a lead who clearly wants to be elsewhere. Junior seemed to reserve all of his enthusiasm and hammy tricks for The Sadist. He giggles. He slaughters. Once The Sadist locates Hall as its steam, it transforms into a model of creaky relentlessness. The small cast is exceptional, with Helen Hovey  memorable as Doris, who is pushed to the verge of victimization and fights back. Mother Nature serves Charlie his sentence.

At one end of the 1963 genre pendulum were productions from class directors, such as (The Birds) and (The Haunting). got his feet wet directing Dementia 13 for , and second-tier director Don Sharp helmed one of Hammer’s better non- opuses, Kiss of the Vampire. At the opposite end of the taste and quality spectrum was Blood Feast. Alternately (and arguably) dubbed the first splatter film and the first notable example of torture porn, Blood Feast catapulted horror into the art form for America’s white trash masses. Not surprisingly, is among the filmmakers who Continue reading 1963 EXLPOITATION TRIPLE FEATURE: THE SADIST, BLOOD FEAST, & THE WHIP AND THE BODY

CAPSULE: GERMAN ANGST (2015)

DIRECTED BY: , Michal Kosakowski, Andreas Marschall

FEATURING: Lola Gave, Axel Holst, Michael Zenner

PLOT: In Berlin, a young girl who lives alone with her guinea pig commits a vile act of barbarism, a deaf couple is assaulted by racist hooligans, and a man descends into dangerous sexual depravity.

Still from German Angst (2015)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Adroit, repugnant, diverse, and surprisingly psychedelic, German Angst delivers some nasty weirdness, but its potential to earn a place on the List of the 366 Weirdest Movies Ever Made is hampered by inconsistency. The interconnected sections deliver brutal and heady gore/sci-fi combos, but only the final section of this three-part anthology produces the kind of potent, tantalizing content found in true weird contenders.

COMMENTS: Gutten Tag, Herr veirdos! Deutschland’s recent horror export, German Angst, is a powerful example of a radically uninhibited artistic endeavor. Served on three separate but interlocking platters, the third course surpasses the first two by offering genuine, hypnotic suspense to hammer home a message about unrealistic expectations of sexual pleasure. The hodgepodge of violence with brainy, supernatural exposition evokes strange emotions, but the shocks of the first two portions dampen the sociopolitical and spiritual undertones, rendering it an overbearing torture-fest.

Part one, “Final Girl,” directed by Jörg Buttgereit, is a straightforward shocker featuring a young girl (Lola Gave) who castrates her dad with shears. The plodding pace is unsettling and is heaviest during the loitering close-ups of feet and nostrils. The news broadcasts about global terrorism, while the girl pouts through her own pre-pubescent dissonance in her room filled with stuffed animals and teen magazines. Implications of telepathic soul-swapping accompany the torturous acts, as evidenced by the presence of a mystery man smoking a cigarette, as well as a guinea pig leg amputation that might have some connection to the defiled patriarch. The message (perhaps a statement about diminished human empathy) seems intentionally vague, but gets further diluted by the distraction of witnessing a bound-and-gagged man get his junk snipped off.

The focus on a lack of human empathy in the opening segment smoothly translates into the next movie, “Make a Wish” by Michal Kosakowski. In this act, fascist punks terrorize a deaf and mute Polish couple amidst the squalor of dilapidated German architecture. The terrorized victims transform into the aggressors through a kooky Freaky Friday-style soul-swap that occurs with help from a mysterious medallion. Once again, the graphic, hateful violence deliberately prevents it from being truly weird by invoking a sense of indifference about the characters, regardless of its peculiar supernatural twist. The racist savagery of the second piece feels especially trashy and mean, but some odd fun can be found in the cartoonish acting. The malicious stabbings and rage would be strengths in the torture porn genre, but here, presented with an exaggerated sense of nauseating discomfort, they end up dulling the more subtle ideas.  A prime example is the line: “Let’s waste them and grab a pint, yeah?” delivered by of one of the hooligans.  It’s primitive and crass. It’s a shame that more time wasn’t spent exploring the mystical talisman aspect.

Even less restraint is shown in the third and final act, “Alraune,” directed by Andreas Marschall, which features a genuinely intriguing premise involving a privileged photographer who can’t resist the pleasures of a creepy, drug-fueled sex club.  After hitting a bong load of strange herbs, the photographer (Milton Welsh) is blindfolded and experiences complete sexual elation (peep his rising nipple hairs)—the catch being he’s not allowed to see what’s happening. After curiosity gets the best of him, he descends into his own depravity in a truly horrifying way. With the ian suspense, a sprightly dance-club scene, and—just in case you haven’t had your fill—more genital chopping, this third section is a near-perfect example of List-candidate material and has a whopper of a finale that will induce sinister grins from weird movie lovers. The reason why “Alraune” is particularly tolerable in spite of its grossness is similar to the reason why rapper Danny Brown is tolerable in spite of his misogyny; the material is so cleverly absurd that it’s not even offensive.

During the course of German Angst, people’s faces get smashed in with blunt objects, babies are killed, genitals are severed, and a man gets raped by an alien. It’s quite an original horror film with some redemptive angles such as the mystery medallion concept, oddly penetrating guinea pig close-ups, and druggy alien sex-club. Unfortunately, overall these concepts can’t overcome the shocking, nihilistic carnage. It would be wise to consider the movie’s most vital message: don’t do ANY online dating in Europe.  Auf Wiedersehen!

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“This year, the International Film Festival Rotterdam has dedicated a section of its programme to surrealism, and questioning reality in cinema. The horror anthology German Angst is part of this section, and it’s a valid choice, as each of the three stories in the film deals with possible alternate explanations of a shown reality… [it] mostly works well, both as a set of individual episodes and as a whole film. You will need a tough stomach though, some patience, and possibly a thick skin as well.”–Ard Vijn, Screen Anarchy (festival screening)

CAPSULE: NECROMENTIA (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Pearry Reginald Teo

FEATURING: Layton Matthews, Chad Grimes, Santiago Craig

PLOT:Various characters lives entangle when the gateways to Hell open.  They seek lost loved ones or retribution, which can be granted by learning the mysteries of a Ouija board… carved into human flesh.  Of course there is a price to pay, and it isn’t pretty.

Still from Necromentia (2009)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It is an unoriginal and ho-hum horror movie. Once you get past the human Ouija board, all you are left with are uninteresting characters and standard “torture porn” clichés. Almost nothing is overtly weird, and nothing is exactly new either.

COMMENTS:  I keep waiting for a new horror movie that is going to knock me for a loop. “Torture porn” and the recent resurgence of vampire lore has overstayed its welcome.   For a genre that seemingly has unlimited weirdness potential, horror usually churns out the same old recycled thing.  I caught the trailers for Necromentia a year ago and it looked dark, exciting and new.  It should come as no surprise, but in fact, it was a huge let down.

The box cover declares this movie to be a cross between Saw and Hellraiser, but “better than both.”  Um, no.  During my younger years, I ate up Clive Barker’s twisted visions.  Barker was the more dangerous Stephen King, focusing on horrors of the flesh and demons straight from Hell.  Necromentia borrows heavily from Barker’s “Hellbound Heart” which eventually was adapted into Hellraiser (instead of using a puzzle box, the filmmakers decide to open up Hell by carving a Ouija board onto someone’s back).  The iconic villain Pinhead is poorly replaced by a dude wearing a gas mask and cranial-halo headgear screwed into place. Even a summoned demon is an updated Hellraiser Cenobite… it’s the Chatterer, on steroids!  Necromentia is a blatant rip-off in many regards.

We have four central characters: Hagen, who longs to bring his lover back from the dead; Travis, who wants to join his handicapped brother in the afterlife; Morbius, who is bent on revenge against those who have betrayed him; and Mr. Skinny, the mysterious figure who holds the secrets to the Ouija board.  Their stories come together by the end, but by that time I couldn’t have cared less about any of them.

There were obvious budgetary limitations.  The gateway to Hell is seen as a long corridor that could be any old building’s underground tunnel leading to the boiler room.  The props for torture are the usual mutilation tools:  hooks, chains, and primitive (but admittedly cool-looking) multi-bladed medical equipment.  It gets gory for sure.  Precise cuts penetrate skin.  There’s a realistic severed pinky.  At one point, we are supposed to be shocked that a female character is not being tortured against her will, but is actually paying for this pain.  Those crazy sadomasochists!  One character, who tortures while striking Christ-like poses, is trying to kick heroin (because that’s obviously worse than torturing people).  And you have scenes of disemboweling and intestines being paraded around.  Are you starting to get the idea?

If this movie has anything that remotely flirts with weirdness, it comes in the form of a character wearing a pig mask manically playing a piano while reciting a song to entice a handicapped boy to commit suicide.  It’s a weird little scene thrown in the mix with a hallucinatory atmosphere captured by warped camerawork.  But as far as suicide ditties go, it doesn’t hold a candle to the catchiness of Big Fun’s “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It)” in Heathers.

As much as I kind of liked this scene, I couldn’t help thinking how cool it would be if Pinhead came into the picture and began tearing this pigman apart, or maybe just dismembered the generic gas mask man.  I quote from Hellraiser: “The suffering…the sweet suffering.”  I suffered watching Necromentia, but it sure as hell wasn’t sweet.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…wastes no time in becoming very weird… Teo’s latest dark and twisted foray into the mad and macabre is a competent thinking man’s horror.”–Lee Griffiths, Total Sci-Fi Online (DVD)

(This movie was nominated for review by reader “dclxvi” [we’re pretty sure, although he called it “Necromania“]. Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) (2009)

DIRECTED BY: Tom Six

FEATURING: Dieter Laser, Ashley C. Williams, Ashlynn Yennie, Akihiro Kitamura

PLOT: A mad doctor turns three people into a human centipede.

Still from Human Centipede (First Sequence)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST:  Not weird, just gross.

COMMENTS:  There’s something in Hollywood that’s called a “high concept.”  It doesn’t mean what you probably think it means.  It refers to a plot hook that is so simple it can be compellingly summarized in a single sentence, like “a mad doctor turns three people into a human centipede.”  People will buy tickets to see the picture based on that easily digestible premise, so filmmakers can fill the remainder of the movie with whatever supporting crap they need to, just so long as it pads the film out to feature length.  The Human Centipede is a perfect example of a high concept horror film.  People are seduced into buying a ticket by the idea of seeing a human centipede, never minding the fact that they won’t see anything in the movie they didn’t already imagine when they heard the one sentence summary.  After watching the two minute trailer, it seemed like I knew everything that was going to happen in the film, so I was curious to see how director Tom Six would fill up the remaining 88 minutes.   The results of my study follow.  (Note: there aren’t really any spoilers in the following description, as there’s not enough plot to spoil).

  • HORROR MOVIE SETUP WE’VE SEEN 1,000 TIMES BEFORE:  Two hot, ditzy American tourists in Holland put on too much eye makeup, sensing that it will make them look cool, sexy and vulnerable when it smears in the rain after they’re caught in a downpour when their car breaks down late at night in a spooky woods and they have to walk to an isolated ranch-style home where a doctor who looks like a Dutch Christopher Walken with acne scars serves them a drugged drink.  There is actually one valuable lesson to be learned in this segment: if you’re on a deserted road and find you have to rush into the woods to use the bathroom, don’t do your business right in front of the parked car of the only homicidal maniac to be found in a twenty five kilometer radius. 20 minutes.
  • RECOGNITION OF THE HORROR THAT’S ABOUT TO BEFALL THEM:  The dastardly villain proves he’s willing to go to any lengths in his villainy.  Recapitulating the trailer in case the girls didn’t see it on YouTube, he then shows his helpless victims a helpful Continue reading CAPSULE: THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (FIRST SEQUENCE) (2009)