Torture Porn

February 10, 2015

Taboo Films: Martyrs

Martyrs – Sad

SAD

As I continue my masochistic voyage to find films that are so-called “taboo” this brings me to another film that I’ve seen bits and know the ultimate ending, but never took the time to watch it from beginning to end. That film is 2008’s “Martyrs.” While you could easily write the film off as a rip-off of Eli Roth’s “Hostel” unlike “Hostel” which dealt with douche-bag American tourists caught up in a clandestine human torture-for-pay ring, “Martyrs” examines deeper issues like child abuse, the fallout, and exploration into whether there is a life after death, however, this is done in a very disturbing and sad way.

This tale begins with a young girl running away from an undisclosed location seemingly injured. Cut to the same girl, named Lucie, who is living in an orphanage. Lucie eventually meets Anna, and the two become close friends. Cut to 15 years later and the home of a father, mother, and two children, the perfect family. Comes a knock on the door and boom, a shotgun blast to the chest ends the father’s life. Waiting in another location, Anna, is waiting in a car and receives a call from Lucie. As the story progresses we learn more about Lucie and Anna and their sordid histories. There are also hidden passageways, women with weird metal blindfolds, and of course a notorious third act that kind of flips the whole film on it’s head, and oh yeah, torture of the highest degree.

Now, I could just spoil the ending of “Martyrs” and spare you watching the film, but I really feel that would be an injustice. Despite the harrowing story and bleak ending, this film is rather interesting in the manner of subject it’s tackling. At it’s core, “Martyrs” is quite philosophical albeit very hard to watch some of the tougher scenes in the film.

The performances by both Morjana Alaoui (Anna) and Mylène Jampanoï (Lucie) are both strong and very believable. There is a lot of subtext to their relationship and while you might feel worse for Lucy, it’s really nothing compared to what Anna endures the third act of the film, but even that is unfair to saying since both women endure unmentionable horrors.

The final aspect of this film that really gets me is the ending. Now this might be slightly spoiler-y, it needs to be said. The fact that the main villains are old people is extremely disconcerting, not to mention they seem to be rich, well-off, old people. The fact that younger people continue to play victims to an older generation who think they have a right to knowledge that no one else has gained yet feel the need to discover this through the anguish of others, is a major concern, and rightfully so. The main villain of “Mademoiselle” is demonically evil, but at the same time lays out her plan and concerns in a way that both makes sense and is interesting. I’m not saying it’s right, but the idea of creating a “martyr” to obtain knowledge from another realm of existence is an interesting, and terrifying, idea.

At the end of the day, “Martyrs” is a thought-provoking film that could be mistaken for a “Hostel” rip-off, but there is a lot more going on in this film. It shows not only the horror of abuse, but the lengths that some will go in order to obtain, and protect, knowledge. It’s a difficult sit for those adverse to, dare I say it, “torture-porn,” but it’s a film worth your attention and time.

Fun Fact: As this review is being written, Hollywood has decided it’s time for a remake. The Goetz Brothers and “wonderful” Blumhouse Pictures will be helming the remake that will hopefully be released…..never.

January 19, 2015

Taboo Films: A Serbian Film

SERBIAN

A Serbian Film – Serbian

Since we are in a bit of a swoon when it comes to new films to start 2015, I felt it only appropriate to start a new series of films covering some of the more notorious and taboo films to be released. I tried to do something like this about a year ago, sometime around Christmas, but the idea lost steam, mainly because watching a lot of these types of films is a grueling and not all around pleasant experience. So here I am again, trying this again, and I figured if I was going to go all in I might as well start with one of the more notorious film in recent years, 2010’s “A Serbian Film,” a film that is so Serbian it might turn you Serbian.

So, “A Serbian Film” stars Milos, a former porn star who now has a wife and a young son. As money is slowly dwindling away, Milos decides to take a mysterious offer from a man named Vukmir. With the deal sealed, Milos begins his work with Vukmir which starts “innocently”with standard porno fare, but things begin to take a dark turn as the days progress, including a two-day period where Milos must re-track his steps after passing out and waking up in his own bed covered in blood.

Let me put this out there; “Serbian” is sick, disgusting, and extremely exploitative, but while it is a pretty reprehensible film, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a point. According to director, Srdjan Spasojevic, the film is supposed to represent the way that the Serbian government has fu*ked it’s people over for decades. and Spasojevic means fu*ked. “Serbian” goes beyond what most people, even with the worst of taste, would be in a film. There is murder, necrophilia, pedophilia, incest, and literal skull fu*king throughout the film’s “edited” 99 minute run time. I mention edited because the film needed to be edited down an extra 19 minutes just to be suited for an NC-17 rating. Not many directors have to cut that much just to make a film barely viewable for a super select audience.

In the vein of films like “Salo,” “Martyrs” “Irreversible” and “Cannibal Holocaust,” “Serbian” is a shock to the system. However, what I will say about it, is that similar to “Irreversible” and other films of that ilk, it’s shot very expertly and looks incredibly sharp. While the imagery will surely disturb you, that isn’t to stay that the film looks bad.  Aside from the photography, the acting is also fairly decent. Srdjan Todorovic, who plays Milos, gives a convincing performance as a man who is still living in his own shadow while trying to provide for a family under extremely harsh conditions.

I wish there was more to write about this film, but it really just boils down to the fact that people will either seek this film out to watch, or avoid it entirely. I believe that any part of a well-rounded film diet consists of equal parts film and trash. And again, I’m not calling “A Serbian Film” trash, even though I’m sure many people will see it that way, and yes, duly noted, its an extreme film and features very graphic imagery that will put a lot of people off, but so did “The Passion of the Christ.” While I don’t whole-heartedly recommend “A Serbian Film” I do think it’s a film experience that might make you “Hmm, why are films like this being made if not just for exploitation purposes. There has to be another reason.” Whether there is another reason of not, it’s still a film worthy of your time, either for sick curiosity, film experience, or just that challenge of watching “rough cinema.”

“Fun” Fact: “A Serbian Film” was in fact shot in Serbia, over the course of 61 days.

October 25, 2012

31 Nights of Halloween, Halloween (1978)

Halloween (1978) – Classic

Thinking about the history of horror films there have been five distinct eras that I can think of; The early 1900s brought us the classic monsters like Dracula and Frankenstein.  Post World War II films brought us atomic age monsters that ranged from giant ants to komodo dragons.  The Vietnam War introduced zombies and class war horror.  The late 1970s started the slasher trend, and most recently (from about 1999 to now) we’ve had an epidemic of remakes, torture porn, and found footage.  While I appreciate all eras for what they’ve done for the genre, the most lasting of impressions on me were the 1970s and 80s slasher genre, and the cornerstone of that era was John Carpenter’s 1978 classic “Halloween.”

For my money, if you re-released “Halloween” right now, it would still bank, which theaters are actually doing this year.  It’s a simple concept; a young boy, named Michael Myers, brutally murders his sister on Halloween night and is locked away in a sanitarium.  On one fateful Halloween Eve, during a routine prison transfer, Myers escapes Smith’s Grove Warren County Sanitarium.  Myers’ doctor, Sam Loomis (sound familiar) pushes the panic alarm as he fears that Myers will be heading back to his hometown, Haddonfield, also the scene of his original crime.  We meet three teenagers, including a very young Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays Laurie Strode, looking forward to a fun Halloween night, which of course turns into “The Night He Comes Home.”  I’ll try not to give too much away, but considering “Halloween” is 35 years old, it might be time for you to get off your ass and finally watch the most influential horror movie in the past 50 years.

“Halloween” is what really kicked off the modern slasher genre in the early 1980s, and created the so-called “formula.” However, if you watch the movie now, it’s surprisingly tame, with very little blood, just a little bit of boob-age  and a relatively low body count.  The blood and gore is more implied than splashed all over the screen.  Take this for an example; “Halloween” was rated R in 1978, but a movie like “Tourist Trap” from 1979, a year after “Halloween” was only rated PG, and I find “Tourist Trap”, while very cheesy, extremely creepy, and at times, harrowing.  If “Halloween” was put out today the same way it was shot by John Carpenter 35 years ago, it wouldn’t be anymore then a PG-13 film.

Enough politics of course, and we’ll continue with this question; What’s so good about “Halloween?”  Damn near everything!  From the opening theme and titles, to the camera work, to the acting, which isn’t perfect, but when you have teenagers talking about bullshit it will have to do.  Everyone in the film is believable, with Sam Loomis, played by the late Donald Pleasence, the stand-out.  What I credit Pleasence for the most is that fact that he stuck around for four sequels, and while he got hammier and hammier, he always added a touch of class.

What makes this film a classic is what it inspired.  While I would credit both “Night of the Living Dead” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” with jump-starting the independent horror movie movement, “Halloween” made the most with what it didn’t have; money. For a movie made for less then $350,000 it looks great, has a good cast, and considering the fact that getting Pleasence to appear in the film was a decent part of the budget ($20,000) it doesn’t take away from the mood the film conveyed or compromise the quality.  “Halloween,” along with it’s predecessors proved that you didn’t need a ton of money to make a suspenseful and wildly entertaining film.

As far as Rob Zombie’s remake, or re-imagining, of “Halloween” in 2007 goes, while it’s not perfect, the more I think about it, its it’s own movie and can act as a stand alone film.  I almost take it as the “Henry:  Portrait of a Serial Killer” version of “Halloween.” What makes Michael Myers so scary is the fact that you really don’t know what drove him to kill his sister when he was a boy, or why he insists on always returning to Haddonfield to kill.  You find out later that he dabbles in the occult and celebrates Samhain, but in Zombie’s version he shows you Myers’ bad home environment and gives reason.  Once you do that the “magic” of Michael Myers is gone and he just becomes another John Wayne Gacy or Ted Bundy.  Once the mystery behind his actions are revealed he just becomes another serial murderer and it takes the luster off what you thought was just an unstoppable killing machine with no motive, which I find more frightening.

There really isn’t anything else to say about “Halloween” that hasn’t been said.  It’s a classic film, not just in the horror genre, but film in general.  It not only set a standard for the genre, but single-handedly created a sub-genre that is often duplicated, but never really reaches the standard of its predecessor.  It’s October people, pop “Halloween” into your DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS, Betamax, Laser Disc, or Reel-to-Reel and enjoy greatness.

Fun Fact:  An inside-out William Shatner mask was used for the iconic mask that the Michael Myers wore.

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