The Enigmatic Cinema Enema
I’ve come to accept that most of what I like is due to bad, albeit discriminating, taste. People often don’t understand this. It would seem that as natural for me as it is to peer, fascinated, at the dark side of the human condition this is a trait that most people don’t share. I listen to foreboding music, watch horrible movies, read sickening books and some days I can barely fathom the reasons why.
Other days, I can.
Some people like to be shocked, because in that one moment where you’re fearing for your life you know that you’re alive. Looking back over history, it becomes evident that maybe this isn’t so rare. Thrill seekers and adventurers have long taken the high road. Was it because they wanted to savour the rush of cheating death or was it simply because they enjoyed staring into the abyss?
We’ll start you off slow, kids. If you haven’t already seen it, then head down to your video store and pick up Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”. Hell, snag it even if you’ve already seen it. Being alone in space, millions of miles from the nearest person has to be one of the bleakest ways to die, but if you paint it with that much eloquence it almost slips past the casual observer. Still, Dave’s at peace with himself and the universe demonstrating that overcoming your fear can take you to the next level… You know, “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Yeah… You should probably grab “Runaway Train” while you’re at it. Jon Voight gives us one the best bad ass performances of his career as convict who would rather die than go back to the hole, and this is where the descent into dark territory begins. Eric Roberts and a clothed Rebecca DeMornay are dragged along on an out of control journey that can only end badly. Film noir without the coffee and cigarettes.
Of course, if your film noir needs require coffee, cigarettes, actors named Eric and exotic blondes then check out “Killing Zoe.” It’s one of the best nihilist films of recent years, and it’ll meet your cravings for all of the above. It’s got deluded drug binges, foiled bank robberies, and on a rave related note the score includes tracks mixed by Jimmy Crash and Keoki… and no shit, they’re actually good. Some people have criticized this film for being overly superficial, but they’re obviously missing something subtle that slipped past me the first time I saw it. When you see the wasp and Zed finds out what the needle has given his friend, remember that and it throws the rest of the film into a different, hopeless context.
Using bleak not only as a mental perspective, but also as a geographic setting Oliver Stone’s “U-Turn” is an mesmerizing tale of roadkill on the highway of life. The entire film has the feel of that “mushrooms in the desert – killing the old man” scene in “Natural Born Killers” Using a similar environment “Truth Of Consequences, NM” tells a different story about a group of similarly fucked characters. Both of these should be easy scores on the rental shelves. To add some historical context try these two together as a triple feature with “Deliverance,” “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or something else that portrays the potential horrors of rural America.
“Texas Chainsaw Massacre” gives us a reason to step back into the real world and let y’all know that it’s based upon the atrocities of Mr. Ed Gein of Wisconsin. Seems Ed never learned a lot about what’s right and what’s wrong. Seems Ed kept a collection of human remains in his home. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “Psycho” and “Deranged” are all loosely based upon his grave robbing, murdering and cannibalizing exploits.
Sometimes I think about the fact that Gein, Dahmer and John Wayne Gacy all lived so close together… People can say all they want about guys like Cunanan, but he wasn’t eating people or trying to turn them into zombie love slaves.
Speaking of which… if any of you find any zombie porn films hit me back.
And now we begin to take stairs two at a time.
While there may not be much in the way of kinky sex in zombie flicks there’s still a bunch worth checking out. Romero’s “Dead” trilogy is an obvious starting point. The original black and white “Night Of The Living Dead” is justifiably classic, littered with shocking imagery and as well as being politically conscious. The second installment (“Dawn Of The Dead”) takes things into color and beyond. With the assistance of Dario Argento Romero was able to make “Dawn Of The Dead” into a film which is simply kick ass while expanding upon the valuable social commentary of the first film. Lucio Fulci’s film “Zombi” (recently released in a wide-screen, collector’s edition) was one of the first films to jump out of the box attempting to exploit the success of “Dawn Of The Dead,” it was even marketed as a sequel in Italy. While it may not be one of the genre’s best films (neither is “Dr. Butcher, MD”, but you should check that one out, too) it does work as a stepping stone over to one of exploitation cinema’s more prolific figures.
Lucio Fulci, the man behind “Zombi”, is also the man responsible for such wonderful crap as “Gates Of Hell” and “New York Ripper” (both personal favourites). They’ll never be confused with great films, but there’s always a few scenes that make the flicks worthwhile…
If you’re searching for something with some degree of intelligence and/or art then the films of Dario Argento are worth checking out. “Suspiria” is oft considered his best work, but I’m more inclined towards his less supernatural tales “Opera,” “Deep Red” and “Tenebrae” are all highly recommended.
As are the films of Jorg Buttgereit. “Nekromantik 2” was a bit of dud, but the original is ‘corpse fucking art.’ My personal pick is “Der Todes King” (The Death King) which chronicles the last moments of various people’s lives in an effort to tell the tale of a week in the life of the grim reaper although I must admit that I have yet to see the more recent “Schram,” which I’ve heard really good things about.
Looking for other artful films bound to disturb you? “In A Glass Cage” is the story of a Nazi doctor trapped in an iron lung. His wife hires a home care worker to take care of him, not knowing that it’s one of the young boys he abused during the war.
In a more artistic vein there’s always the surreal classic “Eraserhead.” Complete with a grating soundtrack there simply isn’t much that challenges the mood of this film, or so I thought. I was recently treated to a film called “The Begotten” which takes the grainy, black and white style of “Eraserhead” to a new level of rorschach testing and combines it with some completely fucked up religious symbolism. Five minutes into the film you’re watching Mother Earth performing fellatio on God’s disemboweled corpse.
Of course, there’s always a bunch of folks out there screaming “fuck art.. more gore”. To please them I’ll drag up some of the most morally reprehensible films I’ve experienced. “I Spit On Your Grave,” “Bloodsucking Freaks” and “Maniac” are all classics in this field, but there are some lesser known gems.
The whole “Ilsa” series is great, but Jess Franco’s “Ilsa The Wicked Warden” is simply rude. Franco (sometimes known as Jesus Franco) is also the person responsible for those “Vampyros Lesbos” films we’ve all heard so much about. Nine Inch Nails’ “Broken” movie is also worth checking out (and no, I’m not talking about the commercially released “Closure” video. The genuine article is out there and impressive). Last, but certainly not least, is a genuinely evil film by Joe D’Amato called “Anthropophagous” (aka: “The Grim Reaper,” “Horrible”). Most of D’Amato’s work is somewhat sickening (a la the snuff sequences in “Emmanuelle In America”), but this film takes the cake by featuring some of the most loathsome images I’ve ever come across. If this film doesn’t fuck you up then it’s been drastically cut.
Approaching the bottom, we begin to slow.
While there are films out there like “Flower Of Flesh And Blood” from the “Guinea Pig” series that bombard you with hideous images, there are an elite group of films that step beyond that barrier and tear into more than just people. Pasolini’s “Salo” is a film so completely blasphemous that he was assassinated soon after its release. “Salo” is a somewhat faithful adaptation of Marquis deSade’s “120 Days Of Sodom” and is considered by many to be the most disturbing film of all time. As much as I respect those opinions I have to give my vote for that honour to T. F. Mous’ “Man Behind The Sun,” the only film in recent memory that’s made me sick to my stomach.
That should be enough to keep you busy until the next issue. Have fun, and remember… if it looks sick and sounds sick, then it very well may be sick… so check it out.