ReGOREgitated Sacrifice (2008) Dir. Lucifer Valentine, Canada, 65 minutes
It's very rare that there's a movie that I truly put off watching. Those of you who have followed Film Gutter since 2015 will probably sense I'm fairly hard to shock and where it comes to extreme gore and violence, I think I'm made of fairly stern stuff. But having virtually back-to-backed two installments of Lucifer Valentine's luridly titled Vomit Gore Trilogy, I was anything but keen to complete that repellent triptych. Still, I think I would be doing myself, the director and all my fellow gutter dwellers a disservice to ignore it. Welcome back to the disturbed mind of Lucifer Valentine for ReGOREgitated Sacrifice.
First off, the eagle-eyed among you will notice this is the second movie of the trilogy and that I have somewhat made a mess of the order. So here there's no Hope Likens, with the focus (to some extent) on Ameara Lavey and even more so on The Soska Sisters. Yes, those Soska Sisters – Dead Hooker in a Trunk, American Mary etc. That's not to suggest that any of the content here is softened at all – what we have is actually even more sexualised than either of the other installments, and the vomit comes thick and fast yet again. If you seriously can't stand to hear people retching and gagging, do yourself a favour and duck these movies.
If anything, this movie is probably the hardest of the three to make sense of – no mean feat in and of itself. We see the feature character of the series, Angela Aberdeen, very little as we focus on 'The Black Angels of Hell' (depicted by the Soskas) as they go on a grotesque rampage of murder, physical abuse and sexual depravity. Even more this one begged the question of 'how did you get people to agree to that?' because this one has a larger cast, with a wide range of victims seen and debased in all sorts of ways. There's golden showers, people puking on each other, lashings of blood and gore and – most strangely – a man vomiting into a hollowed-out head whilst wearing an octopus on his own head. Feel free to take a moment to take that in. That, of course, is the repulsive Hank Skinny – somebody who strikes a little note of fear into me every time he appears on the screen. In fact, I struggle to think of anyone I less want to see on a screen that him, because it's a cue that what follows is going to be truly horrible.
The plot is practically non-existent, eschewing anything traditional in favour of the kind of montage that you might get to enjoy if you end up actually going to hell. The sound effects are crunching and unpleasant, the visuals are unremittingly extreme and upsetting and basically the whole thing is just there to make you feel bad as a viewer. It's one of those movies which it's kind of hard to go back to real life after. Even at an hour and five minutes it feels too long, because a part of you just wants it to be over. The whole trilogy is a unique endurance test that makes no concession to watchability, to decency, to traditional filmmaking or indeed to traditional morality. I dread to think what it would be like to watch the whole set back to back – you might never get over it...
For all that, and as I said of the previous, there is something compelling and fascinating here. Part of you wonders what's next, what can be next, what boundary will be crossed in the next few minutes. And part of the fascination is trying to find the meaning beneath the madness – something I'm not sure I was really able to do this time, despite my best efforts. That doesn't mean it's not there, but I'm not quite sure I can come back any time soon to delve deeper.
Still, that's the full Vomit Gore Trilogy watched and survived! Achievement Unlocked!
Wait, what? There's a fourth movie...?
RATING: 7/10. It's likely these movies will always hold a place in extreme horror folklore, and are probably the bellweather against which so many other disturbing movies are judged against. 'You thought that was disturbing? Well, you should check these out...' Literally nothing here is made easy to watch, either visually or aurally, and brief moments of candid talks from characters feel like glimpses of precious respite in the maelstrom of abuse, murder, violence and bodily fluid. Nobody has ever dared go here since, which is possibly some sort of indication of the dent these movies have made in the horror consciousness. It was still hard to turn away from, despite it all, and all three are grimly fascinating in a way I still can't quite pin down. This one felt more disjointed, and lacked some of the rawer emotional punch of the other two, so it falls a bit short of its bookends with 7/10.
And yes, I will come to Black Mass of the Nazi Sex Wizard at some point...
German Angst (2015)
Dir. Jorg Buttgereit/Michal Kosakowski/Andreas Marschall, Germany, 112 mins
Any of our regular readers will know just how much German cinema we've enjoyed in these pages, and how many very good extreme horror movies the nation has produced. So as soon as I heard about this one I was really excited to catch it – the return of Jorg Buttgereit to directing was obviously a key hook for me personally, as having emerged as a leading light in the field in the 80s 90s there's been very little forthcoming since. And although it's taken a while to get round to this film, it was well and truly worth waiting for.
German Angst is a three-part movie, with a section delivered by each of the directors involved which are basically unrelated apart from the fact that they seek to explore something uniquely German. We begin with Buttgereit's entry, Final Girl, which is a grisly tale of revenge taken out by a young girl. I could have told you this was Buttgereit's work without even being told – the visual panache is still there, and it's certainly a grim tale which is weirdly – but effectively – peppered with information about guinea pigs. It all ties together beautifully and the gore – whilst not ducking the issue entirely – isn't as gratuitous as might be expected.
The second of the trilogy comes from Michal Kosakowski, a relatively new name on the cinema scene, and his Make a Wish plays with the concept of Nazism and wider German racism. The story begins with a deaf couple in love, exploring an empty house in the middle of nowhere, when they are interrupted by a group of thugs – three men and one woman. Obviously communication in the first instance is difficult, but the intention of the group to hurt the interlopers is delivered in a pretty universal language. Make a Wish as a title refers to a strange amulet that the deaf man gives to his partner, which can enable people to switch bodies – something that proves a critical weapon in their dangerous situation. This one is very tense and uncomfortable to watch, and while some of the acting is a bit over the top overall it's a likeable entry into the movie.
The third piece of this triptych was the one that really worked best for me, director Andreas Marschall's Alraune. In fact I'd have loved to see this as a feature film in its own right, I enjoyed it so much. We follow a charismatic male lead in the shape of Eden, who meets a young girl after a falling out with his wife and is immediately and almost uncontrollably drawn to her. What follows from there is part nightmare, part erotica and part fairy tale and Eden is drawn deep into a secret society he simply has no understanding of and that will impact his life in ways that he cannot imagine. The confessional tone works well throughout, and the acting is very good all around in this piece. A little dig around and you can find this one is based on an old German myth (and subsequently a 1911 German novel) and it has that feel to it, with a more extreme edge, which is fairly little seen.
RATING: 9.5/10. To be honest, if you don't like these sort of montage or portmanteau type pieces, then German Angst is probably not going to be for you. For me, as someone who rather enjoys a short film, this one was something of a treat. Each is different in its own way, and as per the advertising does have its own uniquely German feel or connection. The veteran Jorg Buttgeriet kicks things off in solid fashion, but Andreas Marschall is the star of the show in closing the movie – I feel like Alraune will stay with me for a long time. I'd happily welcome a sequel, or even a TV series (Netflix, could you get on that for me? Thanks!) to see more of this sort of thing – there are still plenty of hugely talented directors in Germany to consider getting involved. Overall, this one is very nicely produced and offers plenty of variety throughout for a very strong 9.5/10.
EAT THE SCHOOLGIRL: OSAKA TELEPHONE CLUB (1997) Dir. Naoyuki Tomomatsu, Japan, 60 mins
Welcome back to Film Gutter, and today's movie came with the sort of bonkers title that I simply couldn't resist checking out. Japanese cinema can have a propensity for being fairly on the nose with the names of its films, but the significance of this one is simply lost on me. There was some phone sex, which I suppose explains the latter part of the moniker, and maybe one of the girls featured was a schoolgirl, although if that was the case it certainly passed me by. But if the sole function of a title is to grab a viewer, then I suppose it was job done...
RAMPAGE: PRESIDENT DOWN (2016) Dir. Uwe Boll,Canada, 99 mins
Last year I had the pleasure of interviewing Uwe Boll, shortly after the release of Anger of the Dead, and one of the things that I was very keen to talk about were the two Rampage movies to date. Both were pretty good, in my opinion – I felt that both had a certain charged political power and energy that came through in the lead character, Bill Williamson, ably played by Brendan Fletcher. In fact having by choice dodged Boll's video game adaptations (as I would anybody's video game adaptations – the medium does not have a good record) I have a pretty decent impression of his work as a director. Given all of the above, it was hard not to already be fascinated with a third part to a trilogy about a man trying to bring down the established world order by any means necessary. But the plot thickened in this one for two reasons – first up, Boll announced this would be his final film as a director, in part fuelled by an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign and of course that video... you know, the one in which he told Hollywood and film viewers to basically go f*** themselves?
As a reviewer, there are of course movies that you’ve seen before that you have to revisit in order to provide a proper review. Many reviewers would probably look forward to that, but when you dive into extreme cinema there are less fond memories and sense of nostalgia than I expect would be the case elsewhere. Often you actively dread coming back. Admittedly, some lose their impact a second time around – A Serbian Film felt like a very notable example, coming off a little silly once that initial shock value has worn off. Some are not quite as bad as you recall, but still have an effect on the rewatch. A handful literally lose nothing in the intervening time – and Irreversible has lost nothing of its crunch fifteen years on from its initial release.
FILM GUTTER Come on in, the water's just lovely...
Dir. Diego Cohen, Mexico, 96 mins
Ah, Valentine's Day. The perfect time for romance. Of course I type this sitting at home on my own (all together... aaahhhhh....) having just taken on Film Gutter's Valentine's viewing, Luna De Miel. This is a movie I remember spying the trailer for a while back, and liking the look of, but I do have rather a bad habit of losing track of release dates and so forth. Plus I watch a great number of trailers. Anyway, cut a long story short, this one suddenly popped up on Netflix and, inspired by the love in the air, I thought this one would be a good shout for this week's Film Gutter....
H6: Diary of a Serial Killer (Diario de un asesino) (2005)
Dir. Martin Garrido Baron, Spain, 92 mins
Ah, Christmas. That time of year when everyone exchanges fabulous gifts to warm the heart and brighten the spirit. Hmm. Well, in the Davis household that may not be 100% true, because Santa decided to bring me a copy of the Spanish horror movie H6: Diary of a Serial Killer. And there was not a lot of joy or goodwill contained in that particular gift, even for someone who absolutely loves Spanish cinema. Maybe I was on the naughty list after all?
Anyway, festive ramblings aside, H6 follows the story of Antonio Frau who, as a young man, in a very voyeuristic opening, kills his girlfriend. It really looks like we are watching the whole thing unfold through a spyhole and it's a pretty uncomfortable first five minutes for sure. However, the main thread of the story takes place 25 years later, when Antonio is released back into the wider world from prison to discover he has inherited a run-down old guesthouse from a distant aunt. It's a pretty valuable piece of real estate, despite its decrepit state, but he has no intention of selling it on – oh no, his plans are entirely different. Inspired by a long-dead French serial killer who made a detailed diary of all his victims, Antonio decides to turn the guesthouse into his own paradise of murder and mayhem.
There's not really much of an explanation of his motive beyond that – something fairly unclear about cleansing the women of the street that inhabit the area around the guesthouse – and if there's a thing that holds this movie it's that real paucity of plot. Antonio is married, but there never seems to be any genuine threat of her finding out about his nefarious activities – he carries out most of his grisly misdeeds while she is working night shifts as a nurse – and it's only in the last half-hour that we even introduce a police character who might actually find him out. For the most part it's a slightly drifty tale of a lunatic loner who brings in the prostitutes of the area with grand promises before tying them down, raping them and then starving them before carving them to pieces with a chainsaw. There are plenty of sinister moments and, although it's not as graphic or as hard to watch as some of the entries we have watched over the last two years of the series, there's plenty of unpleasantness implied alongside what is seen.
What does go a long way towards redeeming the movie is the performances, which all around are very good. Fernando Acaso is brilliantly sinister in the lead role, and even the performances from is victims – of which we only really encounter three in any depth – are also very good, lifting them from the usual cardboard cut-outs we see in horror. The visuals are interesting, and the diary concept is nicely delivered – although was done better in Eric Stanze's hypnotic Scrapbook. The ending is also a little frustrating, which I am knocking off another mark for.
So, H6 is a movie with a somewhat familiar concept, and a somewhat slim plot, but it is certainly lifted up by some good direction and strong central performances. It's very watchable, and will keep you watching keenly for its 90 minute runtime, but it's hard to say it treads new ground or breaks down any cinematic boundaries. Ultimately, what this movie does is provide a good example of this particular subgenre, and is ultimately worth a look for those of you that enjoy serial killer movies.
RATING: 7/10. There was potential for this one to rank a bit higher, particularly if we had a better motive to our killer or a bit more threat of him actually getting caught, but there's certainly that sheen of quality to it in terms of production and acting that Spanish cinema so often has that makes it a worthwhile entry into the pantheon of serial killer movies. All told, it's a very solid 7/10 for this one.
The Corpse of Anna Fritz (El Cadaver de Anna Fritz) (2015) Dir. Hector Hernandez Vicens, Spain, 76 mins
Make no mistakes – Spain is absolutely one of my absolute favourite patches of cinema. Some of my very favourite films – including the likes of The Orphanage and In a Glass Cage – have emerged from the nation. So having just signed up as a member at Shudder I was pretty pleased to see a few new and newish Spanish films, among them The Corpse of Anna Fritz. In my mind I had this a little confused with The Body – another movie well worth a look – but once I had finally established that this was a different film entirely, I thought this one was well worth a look. It had the Film Gutter feel from the title alone – and lived up to that, at least to some extent.
So, we begin our story in the morgue of a hospital with the cadaver of the aforementioned Anna Fritz being rolled in. As a huge international film star, her whereabouts in death are kept secret – but one of the morgue attendants, Pau, simply can't help telling (nay, bragging) to his friends about the body's presence there. So much so that he does down to show his mates – one of whom, Ivan, insists on taking his chance to have sex with the dead body. Pau even goes on to admit that he's done it before – pretty remarkable scenes all round. The third friend, Javi, is horrified by this particular discussion, which leads to a disagreement and his unfortunate death. To further complicate matters, as Pau takes his 'turn' after Ivan, Anna Fritz wakes up – still barely able to move or speak, but umistakably alive all of a sudden.
Now, I would say that, for me, that set-up was kind of a stretch – for two of three men to take the decision to have sex with a dead body, albeit a very famous one, is something you might just have to live with as an idea if you want to enjoy this movie. The necrophilia itself is not shown in the same detail as Aftermath – another Spanish film – but it's pretty clear what's going on. The question that comes after that central conceit is what to do with the body of Javi, and also the slowly awakening Anna Fritz – who could ruin both their lives with her testimonies of the murder and the abuse of her corpse. What follows is a taut and tense thriller, probably aided by its relatively short running time of 76 minutes in keeping things sharp and to the point. The unease between friends Ivan and Pau is very much evident throughout, threatening to explode on many occasions, and the plight of Anna herself – able to move only very barely – looks increasingly desperate as the movie wears on. The ending is simple but clever enough, the performances are generally pretty good and it did keep my attention all the way through. With all that said, the very idea at the heart of the movie requires a certain amount of suspension if disbelief, and it doesn't truly have the disturbingness or real impact of many of its cinematic compatriots.
RATING: 7/10. Probably unfair to expect this one to live up to some of the very best of Spanish cinema – the bar is set pretty damn high – but this was certainly a decent enough thriller that kept me wrapped up and brought some distinctly uncomfortable moment all the way through. If you're a fan of cinema from the area, or just like a slightly unsettling thriller, then The Corpse of Anna Fritz could be worth a look for you. Not unmissable but a worthwhile viewing experience.
Now, regular readers round these parts will know that if there's one patch of horror that affects me more than anything, it's body horror. Thanatomorphose remains one of Film Gutter's hardest watches on a personal level, and movies the likes of Contracted were no picnic either. Which brings us to Bite, a more recent entry in that subgenre that first came to my attention with reports of people fainting in the cinema at first festival screenings. That's not something entirely unheard of – it's no doubt a great marketing ploy, and something the laughable Green Inferno also tried to employ in the lead-up to the movie's release. But even taking that sort of thing with a pinch of salt – I mean, has anyone ever fainted just watching a movie, really? – I was excited if not a little nervous to be checking out Bite.
We Are The Flesh (Tenemos Le Carne) Dir. Emiliano Rocha Minter, Mexico/France, 79 mins
Having seen the trailer for this independent Mexican production some time back, I was very curious to get around to watching it. Even better, I was able to go and see this one at QUAD in my home town of Derby on the big screen to get the full impact of this artistic, psychedelic and disturbing production. Mexican cinema is something I have always enjoyed a great deal, so I was certainly approaching this one with high expectations. Honestly, after watching the trailer I couldn't really have told you what it was all about, and I must admit I can still say the same having watched the movie.