Thursday, March 28, 2013


It figures that the last movie I watch for this year's Plumbing the Depths shindig is the one that's going to be the hardest to write about. That's because this is a real live Art Film. Not only that, it's accomplished and unique in addition to being extremely graphic and weird to boot.

Before watching this I had never seen a movie made by Lars von Trier. There are a few titles of his that come up when discussing disturbing cinema, so I knew it was a matter of time. As far as I can tell, though, this is the only one he's made that is considered to be a horror movie. Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg play a father and mother whose son falls out of an upstairs window while they're busy humping away. Overwhelming grief and pain ensue. The husband is a psychotherapist of some sort who pulls the wife out of the hospital and convinces her to throw her medication away. They then venture to Eden, aka the woods where they have a cabin, in order to help her through her grieving process and banish overwhelming fear from her life. Things do not turn out the way he plans.

I liked a lot of things about this movie. The music is moody and permeates everything with a creepy bad vibe feel. When the woman is stressed, the camera gets kind of wavy in an unsettling fashion. Best of all, there are some morbid and bizarre scenes with animals that have to be seen to be believed, in particular the one in which chaos reigns with a fox. I suppose the bizarre things von Trier lards this film with could be considered precious or overly quirky, but if you just take it all in like, say, a Cisco-enhanced fever dream, it's successfully upsetting.

Where things get really unpleasant is in the realm of sexual conduct and graphic abuse. Considering the couples' kid died as a result of fuck-related inattention, these themes play a major role throughout. This movie features some of the most squirm-inducing scenes I have ever seen. I found myself assuming that the camera would cut away (pardon the pun) and cursing the fact that it didn't.

An added bonus is that this is a film that will stay in your mind for a time - at least, longer than some plotless shock-value-and-nothing-else production will. I'm finding myself rethinking things said and done in Antichrist and spinning theories as to what it all means, which (as you might guess) isn't always the case with the more lowbrow disturbing fare. If you like films that are about passing on a mood via cinematic osmosis, then you are definitely going to find this interesting.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Serbian Film

I'm not sure that I know what the people who made this film were trying to prove. Apparently it's an allegory for the way people are treated in Serbia, as in the government forces people to do awful things. Sadly, I'm ignorant to the current state of affairs there, so I have to assume things must be pretty damn bad in order for there to be the things there are in this movie.

From the very start, this movie tries very hard to make the viewer uncomfortable. It begins with a cheesy porno flick, which as it turns out is being watched by the 6 year old son of the man starring in it. While it's presented as an opportunity to show that the dad, protagonist Milos, and his wife are not hung-up on porno and sex like the average 'merican schlub is, being a typical American prude I found it to be gross. If you knew my dad and then pictured him in a porno you wouldn't much like it either, to be fair. As it turns out, most everything that happens in this movie is related to sex, and while it's quasi-pornographic it's even more violent and completely intent on being as shocking as possible.

Milos needs money, and takes a lead from a former co-star to join a producer/director looking for his legendary stamina and weighty gristle to be put to their use in an artistic porno being made for a private client. The compensation being offered is exceedingly generous. While he's dismayed to learn that there is no script for him to read and that no one will tell him what the film is actually about, he's tempted by the lure of the money and his wife is on board once she hears the figure too. Naturally, as people who have seen any movie ever will tell you, it's going to turn out that acting in this movie was a super bad idea.

I get that Milos' family could use some cash, because money can be used for goods and services and all that. On the other hand, their house is pretty nice. I suppose the economy is weak there, but I also wonder if Milos might be able to get a job doing something other than sticking his dick into various things and people if he was no longer that into being a porn star. But in any case, he is given an earbud to stick in his ear to take direction and is whisked away to the movie set. When he starts to balk at where the movie is going in terms of theme and method acting and the like, he tries to quit and finds that breaking his contract isn't going to be particularly easy.

This is far from the worst movie I've watched lately. There are appreciable production values, and the acting is not bad. It's not great, either. The level of soullessness of the characters in this film is what ends up being impressive. If humans evolved to end up doing the things they do to one another in A Serbian Film, we might have been better off being shit-chucking apes. Yes, this is the movie famous for showing a newborn baby being raped. I'm sure there was a point to that other than classic "what's the worst thing I can think of", at least if you were to ask the filmmakers. Maybe that it's the government trying to ruin a country that's still in its infancy? Huh. But the really disgusting thing is that, arguably of course, that scene isn't even the worst one in the movie. This is a movie so intent on bringing the viewer down into the morass of a profane and meaningless existence that even at the end, when one assumes there isn't any further indignity that could be visited on the protagonist's family, they find a way to shoehorn in just one more.

Ultimately, this is a bizarre, depressing and unsettling flick. It's hyped for good reason. I wouldn't put it on a list of Great Films or anything, but it certainly deserves a place on the list of "dare you to watch it" movies.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

August Underground's Mordum

I've seen many movies that are more disturbing than this one, but few (if any) that are more offensive. I can't decide whether I should be impressed with the filmmakers' abilities to create something that so perfectly encapsulates the psychoses of worthless and inhuman pieces of shit, or whether I should be perturbed that  someone would want to expend any effort on bothering to do something like create this movie in the first place.

Calling this a movie is kind of a stretch. It's an effort to imitate home video taken by a group of people who enjoy torturing and killing other people. Given that it looks like refried shit, the verite aspect of it is locked down. The shoddy video quality, combined with surprisingly competent makeup and effects, make for unpleasant viewing. If you imagine that you're seeing a video diary taken by bad people in real life, this could scar for for some time.

However, this being the age of mass communication and the Internet and such, it's at the same time obvious that this is not a real document. This is underscored by the fact that the killers are terrible actors. Either that or they're the most insipid and wretched pieces of unwanted afterbirth ever to ham it up in front of a handheld video camera. You've got the fat guy - he fights with his girlfriend constantly, most often over his desire to see other dudes' penises and the fact that his girlfriend has sex with her brother. Fat guy looks about as intimidating as the average video store clerk and in candid moments in the film when he gets tipsy and talks silly, or mugs it up while victims are being assaulted, he has a perfectly punchable face. Then there's fat craaazy girl. She's the most verbally abusive of the trio. She has a penchant for vocalizing how their victims must feel, and is most prone to eye-rolling theatrics. Fat craaazy girl has a scene with two victims where she vomits on them for at least 8 or 9 minutes and another one where she violates a captive woman with the severed penis of another victim. I'd say she's the epitome of banal TOTALLY EXTREEEME PSYCHO but that honor goes to her sibling/sexual partner. Hair farmer guy looks just like beardo Josh from Blair Witch Project and is a walking, gibbering stereotype of what you imagine a way out there scary serial killer dude would be like. He has the lion's share of repulsive moments here, among them raping the exposed internal organs of a victim and raping the corpse of a preteen girl in a bathtub while covered in shit.

The dialogue in this film is, in all honesty, over 50% the word "fuck". It's like they're reading a mad lib where every blank was filled with that word. Also, all three of them NEVER SHUT UP. They're goading, teasing, shouting, cursing, spitting and above all laughing nonstop. It's annoying as shit. To be honest, the aural cacophony is bad-trip-on-cheap-psychedelics unpleasant, so if you assume that the filmmakers were just trying to provide as nasty and debased an experience as they could, I guess it works in that regard.

So there you have it. If you've always wanted to see what it would be like if someone took the "Henry and Otis film their exploits" scene from Henry:Portrait of a Serial Killer and made an entire movie (or 3 of them, for that matter) out of it, only worse, then here you go. It's not good, and it's an awful experience to sit all the way through it. In fact, it's honestly more disturbing to consider the motives of those behind this than to take the events shown in the video at face value. So there's that.

Tomorrow: A Serbian Film

Monday, March 25, 2013

In a Glass Cage

I had never heard of this movie until about a month ago. You would think it was the most horrifying and upsetting thing you could ever watch if you went by the average opinion on, say, imdb. It certainly deals with horrifying subject matter. It goes places most movies won't, especially artsy types of film such as this. However, it ultimately wasn't particularly compelling.

I was pretty freaked out by the Stephen King novella Apt Pupil. I was no older than 12 when I read it. It's about a teenager who discovers there to be a Nazi in his neighborhood, living under a false identity. The kid blackmails the war criminal into telling him all about the atrocities he perpetrated and breaks his brain and soul in the process, ending up committing suicide by cop. A relatively crappy movie was made in the late 90's that isn't worth going into.

This movie has a very similar plot - the German is in Spain, though, and he's incapacitated from a suicide attempt and left in an iron lung. The young man in this story is hired as a nurse. It turns out he found the German's scrapbook, full of details about his work and pastime of killing and molesting young boys, and has become inspired to emulate the Nazi. He abuses the old man in the same way the old man abused children and arranges murders so as to involve the old man in the recreations of his previous handiwork.

Where Apt Pupil is superior is in having the characters express their motivations and emotions about what is happening in their lives due to their mutually parasitic relationship. I suppose you could argue that King spoonfeeds this to the reader, but it's still more effective than In a Glass Cage was. While it may be petty to expect a half-dead old man in an iron lung to emote more, he's practically lifeless. He just does what the young man tells him to do. And while it's made crystal-clear at the end of the movie that the young man was abused as a child by the old man, until that point there's no reason given for his insistence on joining forces with the Nazi - except maybe that finding the scrapbook is reason enough. The other characters at the periphery are practically ciphers as well. There's no emotional heft when no one is acting like actual people act in fucked-up situations like these.

This is not a bad movie. It's remarkably restrained considering what it shows happening, and the subject matter is disturbing. Maybe having watched Salo not 24 hours before skewed my perception of this film, considering they share central themes, most notably the cycle of abuses perpetrated on the weak by the powerful. It's too uneven to give it my unreserved recommendation...not that anyone was waiting with bated breath for that.

Tomorrow:August Underground's Mordum

Sunday, March 24, 2013


This might be the great grandaddy of them all when it comes to disturbing cinema. Sure, Un Chien Andalou is way older, but it's shorter, and this has a multitude of profane and revolting images and scenes in comparison. It's hard to believe it, but considering this takes place around 1945 and was filmed in 1975, more time has passed between when it was released and today than from the time it's portraying and when it was filmed. That makes me feel old. Actually, life does that just fine on its own but seeing this doesn't help.

Based on a book by de Sade and updated to show fascist Italy in place of revolutionary France, this movie is about a group of powerful politicians/libertines who kidnap 18 young men and women and retire to a country villa in order to explore the depths of their collective depravity. They have aged whores tell stories about nasty things they've seen and experienced to the group of them in order to stoke their libidos. They institute rules forbidding heterosexual coupling and any expressions of religion. And as the movie progresses and the men become more and more debased, things get way messier, more disgusting, and violent.

It's taken me a long time to watch this movie in its entirety. For one thing, this used to be scarce as hell. A video store in SF that carried it required an additional deposit in order to rent it. Copies on eBay used to sell in the triple digits. A great friend of mine saw it a couple of decades ago and if you ask him about it he'll start shouting MANGIA! MANGIA! at you. Now that I've seen it, I bet it'll make a goose walk over my stomach (so to speak) when I hear it. To say this movie is offensive or gross is to say that the Rolling Stones used to be better than they are now. Also, it's pretty long. Not like a Cremaster movie long, but almost 2 hours. No, I didn't fall asleep or anything, but considering things get sick as fuck not much over an hour into it and you start to realize they're not going to get any better before it's over, I think it's fair to say that watching this is an ordeal.

Sure, the makeup effects are somewhat janky. In lots of ways, this movie is just weird. One of the four libertines has a lazy eye and insists on having a dopey grin on his mug throughout. The endless nasty stories from the old whores, and the overly theatrical way in which they're delivered, grew tiresome. But it says a lot that this movie is almost 40 years old and easily one of the most disturbing things I've watched this Lent. It may have started out being infamous given the paucity of anything else like it in the world of cinema, but its pitch black nihilism and the strong evil vibe it gives off make it shocking even today.

Tomorrow:In a Glass Cage

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Forced Entry

When I was a teenager, a friend of my mom and dad's gave me a box full of Penthouse and Playboy magazines from the mid 70's and early 80's. I figure his wife was sick of them being in their house, so they were passed on. As you might imagine, I read every one of them from cover to cover, and I used to see ads for video tapes of this movie. Now, the 70's and early 80's were pretty disgusting. Clothes were butt ugly, bell bottoms were de rigeur, perms were considered hot, greasy hair was a fashion statement, and pornography was something that played at the Bijou Theater off Pacific Avenue in my hometown of Stockton, CA and was advertised in the local paper. As nasty-ass as those times were, though, I had no idea how low it could go until I watched this movie.

Forced Entry tells the story of a gas station attendant (and maybe owner, considering he's free to leave whenever he wants) who has recently returned from Vietnam. We know this because everything reminds him of Vietnamese people, places and things. This is shown in black and white footage that appears to be newsreels from the Vietnam Conflict. Really, he just looks like Harry Reems without the mustache he wore in Deep Throat. Anyway, dude follows women home, rapes them, and kills them. Since this is a straight-up hardcore porno film, that makes this an unusually disturbing entry in the genre. I'm sure with the advent of the Internet and digital video etc that movies that combine porno with any multitude of other topics are commonplace, but I hadn't seen anything like this from that era before. It's completely repugnant.

There are layers of disgusting aspects to this movie. First off, it's filmed in 1973. While it's impressive that this is supposedly about a veteran suffering from PTSD before it even had that name, I couldn't help but feel that that was a plotline slapped onto a movie that was made to show someone explicitly raping women and then murdering them. The constantly interspersed war footage is just more heinous shit on the pile. 1973 also means that aside from Reems' lack of mustache, there's a whole lot of hair on display here. While I'm not much of a fan of the current trend towards shaving and waxing anything and everything, this is the opposite extreme and it's pretty ugly at times. Furthermore, I suppose it's dumb to criticize bizarre music in a damn porno, but it really is absurd. Perhaps most revolting of all is Reems' relentless talking during the rape scenes. It's creepy, repetitive and, again, disgusting as shit.

At least the end offers something slightly different when it features what could well be the most retarded pair of hippie chicks I've ever seen in cinema. It's easily the worst acting in a (not surprisingly) movie full of bad acting. The scene where the killer meets his demise is wholly disjointed and thoroughly stupid. Overall, this is one nasty, ugly and sick piece of work. Almost unbelievable.


Friday, March 22, 2013

Ex Drummer

Maybe I've just seen too many grotty and unpleasant movies in a row at this point, but I thought this film was a pretty good time. While the dialogue and events that transpire are undoubtedly most foul, it had a strong undercurrent of good humor that kept it from getting particularly bleak.

Ex Drummer is the story of a famous writer who is approached by 3 local losers in a garage band and asked to drum for them. He agrees under the condition that they will only perform for one show and that they all understand that they are scum and he is awesome and is only joining up with them to soak up their shittiness and make literary hay. If that sounds random, you're right.

No one in this movie is a good person, with the possible exception of the baby of the deaf guitarist, and she dies after being neglected to the point where it's implied that she has been left to eat her own shit out of her diapers while her rotten-fish-smelling mother is zonked out on the couch. The viewer is also treated to a singer whose favorite pastime is beating women to death, a bassist who regales his invalid father (strapped to his bed) of his predilection for fellatio and who can't move his strumming arm due to his mother walking in on him masturbating and a singer for a rival band who has a wang the size of a Clydesdale's and isn't afraid to put it just about anywhere.

The writer is perhaps the most offensive character of all. He goads everyone else at all opportunities and seems intent on insulting all races, creeds, genders and sexual orientations. At least he's funny.

This is a movie that throws a lot of cinematic trickery at the viewer. The credits are in reverse, some scenes feature a character who is upside down, corpses sit as though being interviewed after they're killed, etc. It is the kind of stuff that would come off as precious to some, but while some things worked better than others, I found it to be interesting and certainly felt that it kept the movie from getting too dark and disturbing. Also, overall, the music is fantastic. There are a couple of tracks that are as good as anything I've heard in a movie, and the band's songs are excellent. This is definitely a fucked up movie, but in a good way.

OK, we're getting down to it.  Only 6 movies left in this year's edition of Plumbing the Depths!

Tomorrow:Forced Entry