Morituris: Legions of the Dead (2011)



If nothing else, the idea of combining Last House on the Left with Tombs of the Blind Dead is one of the nuttier "It's ______ meets ______!" combos I've come across in quite a long time, but ultimately I have to put Morituris in the "not for me" section of my mental video store. It's technically proficient, the actors are fine, it features some really nice (if a bit hard to make out due to the underlit photography) FX by none other than Sergio Stivaletti, so it's not a candidate for "Worst movie ever!" or anything like that. And - for what it's worth - the "twist" (which I'll spoil, by necessity) is well executed in that it's as big of a shock to us as the characters it's happening to, but it's also needlessly unpleasant to the nth degree and ultimately somewhat pointless. Some may love it for that very reason, but that's just not my bag, man.

Now, when I say "twist" I assume it's something people might not know going in, but with the "Banned in Italy!" blurb splashed on the Blu-ray cover and their admittedly Last House-ian story actually taken from a true life crime (known as the Circeo Massacre), I don't think they're exactly hiding the fact that our two female protagonists are about to have a very grim and unpleasant evening. But the film starts out like any number of slashers, with a carload of college-aged friends (three guys and the two girls they just met) heading out to a rave in the middle of the woods. You know something bad will happen to them, likely at the hands of whatever has been watching them once they stop for a break and a little "romance" (we see a red tinted POV accompanied by some metal clanking sounds), but the fact that their would-be new boyfriends suddenly turn on a dime and begin assaulting them is probably not what anyone would expect.

I mean it's really brutal; both of them are punched and kicked repeatedly before they are raped, and their total shock makes it all the worse (one of them even heartbreakingly pleads with the guy who isn't currently raping her to help, as if her attacker was acting alone). To the filmmaker's credit, the rape scenes aren't explicit, with the camera lingering more on reactions than, well, you know - but since the "Legions" have been established already (via the POV), it makes the scene feel endless. You know that at any moment a zombie gladiator could come lumbering through and inadvertently save the girls, but they're apparently OK with just standing there and watching, as their first attack comes long after the girls have been victimized and the guys are seemingly getting ready to kill them and leave their bodies in the middle of the woods.

On that note, even if I was fully satisfied with what happens next I'd still have issue with the movie taking forever to get to the damn title characters. Again, they're already there, it's not like they had to be resurrected first or whatever, so the fact that they're just standing around doing nothing is baffling to me. It's only an 83 minute movie with slow ass credits (and a horrible prologue where a little girl is nearly molested by her uncle before a zombie gladiator kills them both), so when it takes nearly an hour for the things to show up we're definitely in "too little too late" territory, even if the rapey stuff hadn't already put the movie at a disadvantage. Worse (spoilers), it's not that all five characters die that bummed me out - it's that they do so without a single moment of victory. Like, if you want to kill the girls off, fine - but let one of them triumph, even slightly, before that happens, so we're not just being assaulted by unpleasantness nonstop. Let one of them toss a rapist into the gladiator's path (the opposite happens, of course), or even subdue one of the things. Or let the guys get it worse than the girls, if nothing else - alas, this is not what the filmmakers wanted to do.

And again, that's their prerogative, but I've long past the point (roughly 13 years old) that I could find any entertainment value in seeing everyone die and zero victories, even temporarily. I like mean-spirited stuff like Silent Night Deadly Night, sure, but you can feel the filmmakers having fun making such a mockery out of a beloved holiday, and for every deaf priest dressed as Santa getting shot to death in front of children, there's a killer Santa letting a little girl live because she wasn't naughty nice. In this movie she'd be gutted and possibly raped, in either order. There needs to be a balance to secure that BC stamp of approval, is what I'm saying, and this movie doesn't have it. It just wants to let evil triumph at every turn, so much that the only surviving character is a friend of the guys who spends the whole movie torturing a woman in his apartment (including letting a mouse crawl up her vagina) waiting for them to show up. Maybe he'll star in the sequel.

Kind of curious how folks at large will like this. I mean, there have already been several Last House ripoffs (and two remakes, one official and one Chaos) over the past 40 years - is anyone really clamoring for another one, even with zombie gladiators thrown into the mix? And will they be OK with something so endlessly grim? I mean, I've certainly liked movies where everyone dies (the Texas Chainsaw prequel, for example), but that gave the girl a brief victory before offing her too - without that "win", will people be able to stomach this one? I kind of want to dare you to find out, but a dare is something fun and this is a movie with rape and hints of child molestation, so let's leave fun out. Instead, let's just say I've sufficiently warned you, and if you're still interested, have at it. Synapse's Blu-ray looks nice, for what it's worth, and it should be noted that it's uncut - apparently up to 18 minutes have been removed in some countries, and I kind of doubt it was taken from the endless car ride padding. The rape scene FEELS that long, but it's not - so I am guessing they have also excised some of Stivaletti's gore, which is one of the few things the movie had going for it.

What say you?


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