Tag Archives: Rape


AKA Deadly Lust

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DIRECTED BY: Michaël Vermaercke

FEATURING: Charlotte De Wulf, Felix Meyer, Karlien Van Cutsem, Aaron Roggeman, Bram Verrecas

PLOT: Fleur lies in a hospital bed recalling her splintered memories of a drunken revelry as she attempts to get a grip on her trauma.

Still from Memento Mori (2018)

COMMENTS: The clunky phrase “frenetic incoherence” is the best one that springs to mind to describe this feature debut from Michaël Vermaercke. Whether this frenetic incoherence results from accident or by design is a question only briefly worth pondering, however, because on the whole, with some caveats, this thing works. Memento Mori is jumpy, unreliably told, and a bit macabre—not unlike the literal translation of the title, “remember that you must die.” Vermaercke obviously has a particular story he wants to tell with this film, and whether you like that story (and style) or not, I’m inclined to believe he succeeded in so doing.

Skittering between past and present (and again within skitterings), we piece together a horrible evening alongside Fleur, the tragic protagonist. Jules, her boyfriend of over a year, is desperate to have sex with her, and it seems to be agreed that they would try (again) at a big blow out held for Jules’ birthday. Among the attending crew of underage drinkers is Jules’ sketchy buddy Alex, who also lusts after Fleur. Alex’s girlfriend Valerie gamefuly ignores her fellow’s roaming eye—up to a point. Laying down the tracks that night, and possibly dosing the partiers, is “DJ Wouten,” a macho toughie with a deep-seated fear. As the music blasts and the kids slam back impressive quantities of liquor, a Death-like figure increasingly looms in the corner of Fleur’s eye.

On a smaller scale, Vermaerke pursues an atmosphere similar to Climax, which was made around the same time. Among the odd cuts and close-ups is the devouring of a rather plain looking cake, and while other elements are in the mix (I mention, once again, the staggering quantities of booze), it is only after this confection-cramming that the story slips from shaky to downright difficult to follow. Alongside Noé-style noodlings, I detected traces of in the form of the shrouded figure delivering comeuppance to various revelers. Eventually this looming form (seen only by Fleur) removes its masque, and…

Eh, I dunno. Memento Mori is heavy without feeling impactful, featuring characters who feel realistic without invoking much sympathy. Even Fleur, suffering from something psychological before the whole party nonsense, is too withdrawn to latch on to. I lament her fate, and commend her survival, but it may have been better to place a crack on her surface to let the audience in. The film’s grisliness leaves a mental mark, but the surrounding chaos is too tame for you to get lost in the intended nightmare. If Vermaerke tilts further into psychosis-on-celluloid, however, we’ll have a promising light to follow into the darkness.


Memento Mori ist ein kurzer, schneller, farbintensiver Trip in die jugendliche Psyche seiner Protagonisten. Dabei verschmelzen Realität und Illusion, Traum und Wirklichkeit. Zwar nicht frei von Schwächen, aber spannend inszeniert.” -Stephan Lydike, Years of Terror (contemporaneous)

(Translation: “Memento Mori is a short, fast, colorful trip into the youthful psyche of its protagonists. Reality and illusion, dream and reality merge. Not free of weaknesses, but staged in an exciting way.”)


AKA Andy Warhol’s Blood for Dracula

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DIRECTED BY: Paul Morrissey

FEATURING: Joe Dallesandro, Udo Kier, Maxime McKendry

PLOT: Count Dracula is dying for want of a virgin’s blood, and so sallies forth to Italy in an attempt to take advantage of its selection of religious-minded young women.

Still from Blood for Dracula (1974)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: A treatise on class struggle and it’s a softcore Eurotrash vampire gore movie? Thank you kindly, Misters Morrissey and Warhol.

COMMENTS: Among many questions raised by Blood for Dracula are: what is to be done with the idle aristocracy now that it has served its purpose? Did it serve a purpose in the first place? What is a mid-’70s New York City tough guy doing as a handyman on a decayed Italian estate? And, what year is this movie set in, anyway? Paul Morrissey has a vision, I am certain, and it was put to screen in soothing verdigris, soft yellows, and spurts of crimson. The variegated colors emphasize the manifold oddities unspooling over the delicious palette, with performances one might politely describe as “eccentric” bringing to life the director’s singular vision of the vampire myth.

The opening shot unveils the chromatic motif as the camera lingers on Count Dracula (Udo Kier), forlornly applying makeup. His vampirehood is revealed in the mirror in front of him—a mirror devoid of reflection. This ailing man is in need of virgin blood to continue on, and so his manic servant has hatched a plan of questionable merit. Dracula wishes to die, it seems, but is convinced instead to shuffle into a car and trundle off to the Italian countryside. There, he hopes to find a virgin’s blood to rejuvenate him—e’er he dies, forever.

Udo Kier’s performance as the sickly Count is a standout among a number of unlikely choices. His two long stretches of vomiting impure blood, as well as his line delivery (which I suspect stem partly from an imperfect grip on the language), lay the groundwork for Nicolas Cage‘s own nuanced performance in Vampire’s Kiss. The patriarch of the Italian estate is a jolly old soul with a love for gambling matched only by his love for language (“Dracula? Drah-cule-ah. I like it!”). The lone servant on the grounds, Mario, is perhaps the only card-carrying member of the Communist party for miles around—at least I presume he’s card-carrying; what dialogue he has that doesn’t concern the overthrow of the aristos is typically, and unsettlingly, rape-y. And if you like sister-with-sister action, you’re in luck: this “art-house” rollick has got you covered.

Yes, yes: this is a sexploitation feature alternating titillation with shlock violence (by the end, I was reminded of the infamous Black Knight), and I have no right to expect haut cinéma. But the little touches, heavy-handed though some were, are evidence that Morrissey is a dab hand at capturing compelling visuals. And even in his moments of regurgitative bombast, there is a dancer’s alacrity to Kier’s performance, showing there is a grim, lively past to this melancholy invalid. Maxime McKendry (in her sole film appearance) exudes a beautiful subtlety as an obviously English noblewoman filtered through an incongruous Italian accent. Come to this film with no demands other than for angst and spectacle, and you will not leave disappointed. If you come demanding logic and internal consistency, then you should perhaps hone your title-reading skills.


“It’s a strange film—sometimes a beautiful one—but it’s also the textbook definition of ‘not for everyone.'”–Ken Hanke, Mountain XPress


Oranges Sanguines

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Bloody Oranges is currently available for VOD rental or purchase.

DIRECTED BY: Jean-Christophe Meurisse

FEATURING: Alexandre Steiger, Christophe Paou, Lillith Grasmug, Olivier Saladin, Fred Blin

PLOT: An elderly French couple enters a dance contest hoping to ease their debts, while a scandal-ridden politician schemes to rehabilitate his image, and a 16-year old girl hopes to lose her virginity.

Still from Bloody Oranges (2021)

COMMENTS: If you like movies about French pension reform with a side of torture porn, you’ll dig Bloody Oranges. There are lots of discussions of the French pension system (which, we learn, constitutes 13.5% of the annual budget) and the younger generation’s resentment towards funding it. Pension complaints are pillow talk, getting rid of pension fraud among the elderly is the centerpiece of a fiscal cabinet meeting, and pension reform is the subjet de tous les jours on ambient TV news broadcasts. Olivier and Laurence are deep in debt and their combined monthly checks can’t cover their expenses, so they’re hoping to win a rock n’ roll dance contest that would net them an SUV which they could resell and possibly cut their debts in half.

But perhaps the modern French have deeper problems than the pension system. In almost the dead middle of the film we get an epigram from Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci that ends with the line: “Now is the time of monsters.” And this is when the movie, which had been an ensemble comedy dry as a glass of Merlot, suddenly takes a turn for the bloody. The change in tone is jarring and won’t work for many, but you do have to say one thing: le patriarcat gets (by which I mean loses) theirs at the end.

Writer/director Jean-Christophe Meurisse has fashioned a well-written, if not necessarily pleasant or tonally coherent, third feature. Although the situations get a bit bizarre, the characters are generally believable. Much of the dialogue is delivered through complicated discussions full of counterpoint: the dance jury argues spiritedly about the role of diversity in the selection process, a family birthday party is full of subtle recriminations and resentments. Individual scenes are well-crafted: a lover takes little post-coital digs at her partner’s slight build, microagressive but delivered with such sweetness that taking offense would appear as a gauche overreaction; in another amusing incident, a gynecologist gives advice to a virgin (I like to believe all French gynecologists flippantly explain hand job techniques to their inexperienced teenage patients).

But the movie’s central shock scene, while perhaps cathartic, reveals none of the careful control or wit Meurisse displays throughout the rest of the movie. It makes narrative sense, sure, but its brutal over-explicitness makes it a mood-killer. Instead of sweet orange flesh, with are left with bitter pith.


“…a film with bizarre events strung up together with not real interest and barely any joy at all is what is presented here and unless one wants to watch something that is just blandly negative, this is not a film many will like watching.”–Emillee Black, Cinema Crazed (festival screening)


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Hatsujô kateikyôshi: Sensei no aijiru

DIRECTED BY: Mitsuru Meike


PLOT: A call girl survives a shot in the head and acquires the cloned finger of George Bush.

Still from the glamorous life of sachiko hanai (2003)

WHY IT MIGHT JOIN THE APOCRYPHA: Add George W. Bush saying “G-spot” in a Japanese accent to the list of things you never expected to see (or hear) in a movie. The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai might not be the most polished or profound flick out there, but left-field surprises like that are the reason we watch weird movies.

COMMENTS: Sex films sometimes give low budget directors the chance to innovate and experiment. So long as you deliver the anticipated dose of T&A every ten minutes, the thinking goes, you can fill up the interstices with whatever nonsense or profundity you like. Some frustrated auteurs have taken this opportunity to mix ambitious absurdism with sex: started in hardcore, decided to make an entire oddball career in , and mixed pornography with honest-to-God surrealism. The Glamorous Life of Sachiko Hanai stands firmly in this tradition, but with a typically Japanese panache.

The opening scene is a 6-minute soft sex scene with call girl Sachiko seducing a client while posing as his tutor. The clip is made for straight wanking, betraying no hint of the avant-garde pretensions to come. Afterwards, during a confrontation at a cafe between two secret agents, Sachiko is shot but inexplicably survives a bullet to the head, while her lipstick is accidentally switched with a container holding the finger of a clone of President George W. Bush. The accident leaves her with super-intelligence and psychic powers, and she soon seduces a famous professor who like to discuss Noam Chomsky while boning. He hires her as a tutor to his underachieving adult son who’s only interested in military history. Meanwhile, a North Korean spy is searching for Sakicho. Eventually, in the film’s strangest scene, the finger reveals its true nature, as a man in a paper George Bush mask delivers a deranged villain speech from a TV monitor (occasionally interrupted by footage of Iraqis pulling down Saddam Hussein’s statue) while Sachiko, penetrated by the detached digit, writhes on the ground in involuntary ecstasy. That plot is bizarre enough, but there are plenty of surreal embellishments along the way: a crude cartoon, psychedelic green screen compositions, peeks into the activity inside the hole in Sakicho’s head, and one brief scene acted out by G.I. Joe action figures.

Unfortunately, even if you’re up for the softcore interlude every ten minutes, all of this intriguing absurdity comes with a big downside: rape. Most reviews imply that there is one rape scene—and the one they are focusing on is icky and especially gratuitous—but there are technically more that that. There’s one where Sachicko is nearly comatose and unable to give consent, one that begins as an assault when a girl tries to break up with her paramour (but appears consensual thereafter), and of course the infamous “finger” scene (which, to be fair, is so absurdly conceived that it’s hardly disturbing). Even if you don’t find these bits nauseating, they’re completely at odds with the lighthearted, comic tone of the rest of the film. Lead Emi Kuroda is so and bodacious and spunky that, properly directed, Sachiko could have been a sex-positive goddess. The movie misses a great opportunity to be a vehicle promoting positive erotic energy as an antidote to the militaristic Thanatos drive, which would have been an absolutely winning formula. As it is, no one is going to fault you if you can’t get over the movie’s implicit and explicit misogyny; it’s a glaring flaw, and quite possibly a fatal one. On the other hand, even though the attempted political satire isn’t particularly trenchant, consisting as it does of a not-so-bold anti-nuclear annihilation stance, there’s something wholesome about plopping a prominent world leader into the middle of a smutty picture.

As a pink film, Sakicho Hanai originally ran just over an hour and was titled Horny Home Tutor: Teacher’s Love Juice (!) Director Mitsuru Meike expanded it by about 25 minutes and sold it to film festivals as a cult movie. The Japanese trailer shows Meike pitching the film to a politician, hoping to get a quote for the poster. He tells the functionary who answers the phone that he’s only been able to make soft porn movies so far and that Sachiko Hanai “may be the last chance for me.” The DVD includes that trailer, the US release trailer, the Horny Home Teacher cut of the film, and a short film sequel (“The Adventure of Sakicho Hanai”) that is, if anything, more offensive than the feature, with no nudity but featuring puppet rape and Sakicho wrestling a woman in blackface.


“…seems to exist in an uneasy limbo between avant-garde brilliance and completely inane abrasiveness… at times suggests Eraserhead reborn as a softcore Japanese porno flick…”–Rob Humanik, Slant

(This movie was nominated for review by “Frank.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)


 La sindrome di Stendhal

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FEATURING: , Marco Leonardi, Paolo Bonacelli,

PLOT: A female detective investigating a serial rapist finds herself stalked by her quarry, while intermittently experiencing hallucinations when she looks at works of fine art.

Still from The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)

COMMENTS: A little over halfway through The Stendhal Syndrome, Anna announces (slight spoiler) that she’s overcome the Stendhal Syndrome. She’s not kidding; she doesn’t hallucinate again (although her psychological struggles are far from over). Argento had used the Syndrome, a fanciful and dubious affliction in which viewers supposedly swoon into a fugue state when confronted with great works of art, as an excuse to stage a handful of hallucination sequences which, it turns out, were inessential to the plot.

The fact that syndrome supplying both the film’s title and its high concept would basically serve as a red herring indicates either a certain sloppiness, or an admirable disregard for conventional plotting by an auteur who’s always favored atmosphere over storytelling, depending on your point-of-view. Combined with the script’s predictable final twist and a number of superfluous scenes, I lean towards the confused execution opinion. There are other missteps, such as some clumsy and unnecessary CGI (pills down a throat, a bullet passing through a head), which comes across as the director playing with a new toy rather than as an element enhancing the story. All of which is not to say that The Stendhal Syndrome is a failure. It borders on the psychologically profound: Anna’s shifting identities and a recurring theme of gender confusion reflect a sympathetic, believable, and engaging view of a rape victim’s trauma. As always, Argento sniffs out poetic camera shots, e.g. Anna’s reflection trembling in a blood-red glass of wine. And the movie’s opening—a dialogue-free seven minute sequence of Anna wandering through Florence’s Uffizi, scored to Ennio Morricone’s deceptively simple, increasingly ominous theme, and ending with the heroine passing through the canvas surface of Bruegel’s “The Fall of Icarus,” then the diving under its painted water, where she eventually locks lips with a bulbous fish—is one of this director’s best standalone sequences. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie can’t live up to the mysterious promise here. The Stendhal Syndrome not quite the resurrection of the classic giallo form it might have been, but Argento fans will find enough spooky psychodrama to savor to make it worth a watch.

It’s awfully creepy to reflect on Dario directing his daughter Asia through the brutal rape scenes (though to be fair, she was only cast after a couple of other actresses, Bridget Fonda and , withdrew from the project). Asia’s acting here gets mixed reviews, but she has a classic beauty in three incarnations—regular Anna, tomboy Anna, and glamorous blonde Anna—and indulges in enough B-movie histrionics to carry the film. She positively shines compared to the rest of the blandly European cast. The English dubbing is atrocious, almost perfunctory like in a bottom-shelf vintage 1970s giallo, and the Italian soundtrack is recommended.

Blue Underground’s 2022 Blu-ray release is identical to their 2017 three disc limited edition, minus the DVD. Originally, this set shipped in a substandard video transfer; that issue was rectified and should not be a problem anymore. This version restores an additional two minutes of dialogue that were missing from previous U.S. releases.


“…as fans of the Italian horror director may have guessed, [the syndrome is] little more than a suitably arcane jumping-off point for another of the filmmaker’s bizarre examinations of madness, obsession, and bloodshed.”–Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle (1999 US release)