FTP: Antibirth (2016)

FEBRUARY 26, 2023


At some point I will try to go back through all of the posts tagged "Weird" and change them (when appropriate, some are just weird!) to "Body Horror", a term I didn't really know when I started this site all those moons ago. I'll kick things off with Antibirth, because it's a fitting place to start being that it's a David Cronenberg wannabe from the '10s, a point when the sub-genre made a comeback of sorts, with Cronenberg's own son even diving into these relatively rare waters. It's probably very easy for someone smarter to me to draw a correlation to people not feeling in control of their bodies in horror movies and people (women) being told what to do with their bodies in the real world thanks to the rise of a certain political party at that time, if they haven't already, but I'll just stick to the movie for now.

I actually saw this one before, right around when it hit Blu-ray, thanks to my now former job as a Netflix tagger (a job I got thanks to this very site! They were looking for someone who wouldn't mind watching a lot of horror movies and... well, duh). Since my own memory is far too poor to remember much*, I looked at my old tweets from the time and saw that I basically hated it except for the last ten minutes, so it's easy to see why I didn't bother reviewing it at the time. But as is often the case with any movie I have that kind of reaction to, I wanted to give it another chance (I very rarely hate a movie, especially nowadays as I'm usually just happy to have the time to watch one), and kept the Blu-ray when it arrived for review from Scream Factory, back when they used to send me things unprompted. Ah, the good old days...

Anyway, I'm sure I didn't think it'd take six years to finally give it that second chance, but it worked out in the movie's favor. I still didn't LIKE it all that much, but it wasn't hateable - just more of a "not for me" kind of thing. I know people absolutely worship the ground Natasha Lyonne walks on, but - with all due respect to whatever I may have missed - she always seems to be playing a variation on the same character to me, and it gets a little boring, even when she's (spoiler) impregnated with an alien fetus, as is the case here. There's actually a pretty funny/inventive explanation for why she's chosen by the villains to be the host, but that's in the movie's literal final scene, and until that point it's just 80 minutes of her being sardonic and dirtbaggy.

And that'd be fine if she was the outlier, but everyone in the movie is sardonic and dirtbaggy, so it gets very tiresome. The lone exception is Meg Tilly (hi!) as a mysterious woman who doesn't always make a lot of sense but seems to be protective of her, providing the movie with its fleeting moments of genuine humanity. Again, I'm not saying any of this automatically makes it a BAD MOVIE - it's well made, doles out the body horror stuff when required, etc. - it's just not my cuppa. I suppose I could offer the genuine criticism that the ending of the movie feels like what could have been the end of act two, as I was never more engaged by what might happen next than I was in the film's final moments, but it's hard to judge that sort of thing when it's just not been doing it for me throughout. It'd be like if the bonus hidden track on an album was my favorite one, or something like that - it's very possible/likely that the target audience for this stuff (presumably, Lyonne's fans who want a nearly unbroken 90 minutes of her doing her thing) found it perfect.

So I'm glad I gave it another shot, because I softened a bit on it and now if someone says they love Poker Face and want to see her in something else, I can be like "Oh hey watch this weird movie, she's in almost every scene" instead of "Well, definitely avoid this thing!" And it was mildly amusing to have flashbacks to that Netflix job, where I had to track things like profanity, smoking, drugs, etc and all of them are in abundance here, which means it was probably one of the more colorful forms I filled out over those few years. Sometimes I'd watch a "slow burn" kind of movie with almost absolutely nothing worth noting, and I'd worry that my form would look incomplete, so these ones where I was checking off "Yes, extremely" for so many categories were kind of a blessing. I miss that weird job!

What say you?

*Last week I watched The Booth, which was one of my cheap Big Lots acquisitions, and started planning a FTP review. As I often do, I looked at the film's IMDb page as part of the prep, and saw the director also made the original Dark Water, which got me thinking that I knew I saw/reviewed the remake, but couldn't remember if I had ever seen the original. So I looked it up on here, and couldn't find a review, but I DID find one for... The Booth. Watched the entire movie, even had some of the same observations in mind to write (that it would have been a better Tales from the Crypt episode), and never once did it jog my memory that I had seen it before. Scary stuff, man.


Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (2020)

FEBRUARY 23, 2023


A while back I tried to imagine someone who was born in say, 1986 or so, and then in 1995 their dad or whoever took them to see Waterworld as one of their first big blockbuster experiences. They were probably blown away by the adventure, the stunts, the relationship between the hero and the little kid (about their age!), etc, and it became this kind of formative movie for them, right? And then one day they saw Road Warrior, and realized that their beloved movie was just aping another one beat for beat. Would that bum them out, or would they even care much? It's something that came to mind during Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (Polish: W lesie dzis nie zasnie nikt), which is billed as Poland's first slasher movie, so it stands to reason that, for a younger viewer living in Poland, it might in turn be the first slasher movie they ever saw.

If so, then they might be into it! Alas, I - and presumably many others who have seen lots of these things - found it to be bordering on obnoxious with its blatant thefts from other (and better) films, made worse by the fact that these stolen kills were the relative relief from a painfully slow pace that botches a promising setup. Our group of teens are the new arrivals at a camp their parents have sent them to in order to wean them off of their addiction to technology (cell phones mostly, though there are a couple of influencers and gamers too), which is a pretty novel excuse to send a bunch of kids into the woods. As a bonus, it's a solid way to get around the usual "why are these people friends?" problem that a lot of modern slashers have (they're NOT friends!) but also keeps them relatable, as opposed to the other "motley crew" setups that we see a lot, i.e. "a group of delinquent teens on community service", which automatically has the viewer feeling they're "bad kids". Hell, assuming he isn't murdered by a backwoods mutant, I might end up sending my own kid to a camp like this if he doesn't stop looking at his damn iPad all day.

It also offers a decent alternative for the "no service" thing since all their phones are confiscated, but when we see overhead shots of the woods I don't think anyone would roll their eyes at the idea that they can't get a signal, so it's kind of moot. But it's far more troubling that we meet a dozen or so kids - by name! - and then most of them are never seen again as we only focus on five of them (plus their guide) who go off to do some orienteering/real camping kinda stuff. I kept hoping that the movie was building toward one or two of our heroes finding their way back to the camp, only for the killers to lay waste to everyone else in one big, The Burning-esque bloodbath, but nah. The movie's final kill is of a character who is (slowly/dully) introduced only moments before, and like pretty much every other kill in the movie it's a direct swipe from an earlier movie (Wrong Turn 2 in that case, but we also get direct "nods" to the likes of F13 New Blood, Freddy vs Jason, and Halloween 4). The half dozen or so perfectly suitable victims are never seen again, which is fine in a movie like Friday the 13th Part 2 when there's still a healthy body count and a legitimate explanation for their disappearance (they go into town to party, leaving six others at the camp), but here it just feels like an unnecessary tease. Even if they couldn't afford to do x number of more kills, they could at least just have the Final Girl stumble on the camp after its already been decimated (which would take all of 20 minutes to splash some blood around and film a reaction shot of her finding it).

This also wastes the two killer concept (very Just Before Dawn, which is also a bit slow but at least still comes in 10-12 minutes shorter), as they give that much away fairly early but never really do anything with it. They literally take turns - there's a scene where one comes home and goes to bed, prompting the other to pick up an axe and continue the job. Both are giant brutes (one kind of Victor Crowley-looking with his overalls, but even bigger) so there's clearly a physical advantage over any of the other characters, but it seems having two working side by side could have yielded some solid carnage, not to mention reduced how often I felt I was just watching a fan remake of another movie. Instead we get a pointless, pace-breaking flashback to explain how they came to be deformed and strong, as if a line or two of dialogue wouldn't suffice for all it mattered (if you want a hint, click the movie's title in the first paragraph). And it doesn't help that most of their actions are off screen; on occasion it's intentional (a guy is (metaphorically) spilling his guts to a girl, only to look over and see she's been impaled at some point), but for the most part it feels like the result of an effects team not actually knowing how to do things like "show a weapon making impact", which gets tiresome after a while - especially when there are relatively few kills over 102 minutes.

Also (this isn't the movie's fault, but worth noting) those who are hard of hearing are getting a different idea of certain characters, because the dub track and the subtitles almost never match up. The basic idea is the same, usually, but the devil's in the details and all, and here the subtitle person dropped the ball. For example, there's a character who loves making movie references, because of course there is, and after witnessing an attack he goes into Bill Paxton Aliens mode, shouting "Game over man, GAME OVER!" until he's quieted down, showing that he doesn't even drop the shtick when faced with danger, and therefore is a coping mechanism of some sort. The subs, however, just put "It's f---ing over!", which is just a generic whatever line. Later, there's a scene where a cop is seen meeting with a prostitute, and when she leaves she says "See you next week?" The dub track has him reply with her name ("Yes, Tessa") but the subs have him call her "sweetie", which reads as condescending as opposed to affectionate. I've been told in the past that the reason a dub and sub track often don't match up is because the dub is trying to match the actor's mouth and the sub is closer to the language, but in both of these cases, and many others, we can't even see the speaker's mouth, so it's a baffling discrepancy to me. Plus, you'd think that the original language with subtitles would be preferable, but more often than not, the dub track is the one with those character details.

And I know, it's a slasher so who cares about character, right? Sure, if the body count was in the 20-25 range and thus the movie was action packed enough to not even notice such things, but when it's this slow paced and derivative, the movie needs all the help it can get. I found it amusing that it was the rare modern slasher where the characters were sympathetic and even well rounded (one of them is gay and his dad pretends not to notice, another found himself getting more confidence thanks to his gaming prowess only for his parents to shut it down), but they botched pretty much everything else. Well, I take that back - the score is actually quite good, with one cue sounding like Riz Ortolani's lovely theme from Cannibal Holocaust, but with a dash of - of all things - "You Were Always on My Mind"? There's a sequel that sounds kind of interesting (it's supposedly told from the killer's perspective? Per Netflix synopsis anyway) but the reviews are pretty bad so I can't say I'll be rushing to check it out if it's somehow not even as "good" as this. I'll just go listen to the soundtrack or something.

What say you?

P.S. They do in fact sleep in the woods.


Strays (1991)

FEBRUARY 21, 2023


I've wanted to see Strays for a while now, because there are so few killer cat movies (due in part to the fact that they're nearly impossible to train like dog actors) and as a cat owner who has been scratched a time or two, I figure I might find them "scary" (relatively speaking). But the reason I ended up *owning* a copy is laughably depressing: Scream Factory was having a sale and if I spent over $50 I'd get free shipping, so after adding the two things I wanted (which totaled around $40), I poked around for a relatively cheap movie that wouldn't be all that much more than the shipping charge. After twenty minutes of clicking I decided on Strays, and then... the other two items (Space Truckers and a Carpenter vinyl) got canceled because they ran out of their stock. So all I got was this, the movie I didn't really want to own and only found because I enjoy seeing the words "free" somewhere.

Anyway, as expected, it was fine. It was a basic cable movie in 1991 (USA if memory serves), and I'm sure it served its purpose of giving someone like me a breezy way to kill two hours and maybe be inspired to buy a new kind of soap, or that double disc collection of the best '80s power ballads. But it has no real use as a standalone blu-ray (even one you buy to get free shipping!), because not only is it completely featureless save the trailer, but who in their right mind would want to watch this movie a second time? It's barely even a movie, and you can tell because it's bookended by padding scenes and it's still only 84 minutes long with credits. In fact there are TWO generic "maybe a sequel?" setups at the end: one in which we see one of the titular strays has survived (dun dun DUNNNN) and another in which another family moves into the house (dun dun DUNNNNN... DUNNNN!!!).

The overlong opening is about an old lady who feeds the strays and is killed for her trouble, and no one ever mentions her again. Granted, it's how we establish that the house our hero family will move into is both available and relatively cheap, but it goes on much longer than it should, setting the tone for this awkwardly paced (but not without entertainment) movie. Hell the family doesn't even move in right away; they come check it out and debate for a few minutes over whether or not they'll take it, which is the sort of scene I hate because there's no real value to it: the conversation can only go one way (if they don't take it, there's no movie) and the concerns could have been explained in a line of dialogue from someone begrudgingly carrying a box into their new/not really wanted home. It takes about 40 minutes for the damn cats to finally do something, and while it's amusing (they pee all over the owners' bed and clothes), by which point I'm sure most of those old USA viewers had probably nodded off (as I did; it took two sittings for me) or changed the channel, only checking in when whenever they landed on instead went to commercial.

Weirdly, the movie generates more suspense from a love triangle than the damn cats. Our hero couple is played by Timothy Busfield (at his most Dreyfuss-y, which doesn't help when you mentally track back to what likely led to the movie's existence in the first place) and Kathleen Quinlan, and they score the house from Quinlan's sister, Claudia Christian. In exchange, Busfield's lawyer character is helping Christian with her divorce, which seems to be the end result of her infidelities - a habit that seemingly doesn't stop with her brother-in-law. At one point she full on kisses him on the mouth right in front of her sister (not a quick peck, either), and makes innuendos throughout. Meanwhile, Busfield is constantly defending her against Quinlan, who being her sister has been putting up with her crap all their lives, so it seems like there's a real possibility the two of them end up in bed, maybe with a cat lashing out on Quinlan's behalf. Hell, it's almost kind of set up that way: Busfield is allergic to cats and wants them gone, but Quinlan and their daughter take a liking to two of them (they think it's just the two; there are like a dozen that seem like normal cats but are led by a Church-like jerk cat).

Beyond giving the movie some tension the cat scenes rarely managed, the temptation stuff only served to remind me of Of Unknown Origin, in which Peter Weller faced off against an angry rat that spent some time psychologically torturing him before stepping up its game (and when his wife was out of town, his secretary put some moves on him, but he rebuked them). That movie worked by contrasting Weller's home life with his office life, where his coworkers seemed baffled about his newfound rat obsession and we see how this once fastitidious, detail-oriented man sort of went to hell. We don't get anything like that here; Busfield and Quinlan don't even stay mad at each other for long; the cats attack their dog (off-screen, and the pooch lives, thankfully) and they basically forget all about her sister trying to usurp him for herself. And there's precious little of the outside world; beyond the four principals I think there are only four other people in the movie: a vet, a phone repairman, the old lady at the beginning, and Busfield's secretary (who we only hear over the phone anyway).

Things finally pick up in the last 20 minutes or so, when it basically becomes a realtime account of Quinlan and the daughter trying to escape the cats around the house as Busfield races home. There's some pretty hilarious stuff here (Quinlan, god bless her, keeps a straight face while wrestling with a cat puppet), with most of the sequence revolving around different ways she can get the cats wet (because cats hate water, the vet told us earlier), kind of destroying the house and reminding me yet again of Origin. And we get the long awaited payoff of the family's broken microwave cord (which is the most blatant safety hazard this side of Clark Griswold, despite having a kid, a dog, and two cats!) when Busfield holds the frayed part between his hands and basically Jaws 2's the attacking feline. Honestly I assumed it would just start a fire and give them another obstacle to avoid as they made their climactic escape, but this was better. Kept the house standing for Strays 2: Still Strayin', which I assume is probably actually in the works somewhere since TV networks can't let a damn thing go anymore.

Anyway, it's sadly among the weaker killer cat movies I've seen, reminding me why the best examples either use them as one of several threats (Pet Sematary) or use them in shorter tales (The Uncanny, the "Cat from Hell" segment of Tales from the Darkside). The fact that they can't really be trained to do much means there's little believable action (drink every time the soundtrack utilizes a screeching hiss when the onscreen cats are clearly just running around doing their thing) and too much padding things out with other things that, no matter how well the writer and director (in this case Shaun Cassidy (!) and Jaws 4 DP John McPherson) excecute them, will never be as entertaining as the promise of legit actors pretending a cat can do anything besides give you a few scratches or generally annoy you.

What say you?


Knock at the Cabin (2023)

FEBRUARY 2, 2023


I hadn't gotten ten feet from my seat on the way out of Knock at the Cabin before hearing someone complaining about what it changed from the book (Paul Tremblay's The Cabin at the End of the World; another thing people have been whining about since it's not mentioned in the marketing*), a conversation I made sure not to overhear by speedwalking away. Because I haven't read it yet, and I'm sure it's probably a better version of the story and would like to experience it for myself - with the added bonus of having a memory of enjoying a 90 minute movie. I rarely find my memories retroactively ruined by this sort of thing; I've read lots of books after seeing their adaptations and never once decided that the movie was no longer appealing to me.

It's something that's bugged me for years, why people will go to movies based on books they loved as if there was some possibility that they would be word for word adaptations and then get angry when things are changed or omitted. There are very few examples of a movie IMPROVING on a book (Jaws, Godfather... uh... maybe Fletch since Chevy's version doesn't have sex with an underage hooker?), but there's also a subconscious element that may explain why people get so offended at changes: a book is something you have a longer connection to. You carry it around to multiple locations, you spend weeks with it, you re-read passages when you're nearly dozing off or skim paragraphs that are describing something like the character's dinner (shoutout to Game of Thrones readers there). There's a bond of sorts, one you don't really make with a movie (especially in a theater) that you just sit down and watch in one go, without rewind or fast forward capabilities at your disposal. That lack of connection is why it's easier to criticize a movie than a book, I think - the movie is changing something you've had this sort of HISTORY with.

All that's a long way of explaining that because I haven't read the book, I don't know (and at this point, don't care) what it changed. All I know is that it was a very tight and effective little thriller from M. Night Shyamalan, thankfully free of his sometimes crippling flaws as a filmmaker (OK, he still makes a little cameo, but it's fine) and - spoiler of sorts? - devoid of twists, too. The plot is almost unnervingly simple and devastating in equal measures: a group of seemingly normal people, led by Leonard (Dave Bautista) show up at the rented cabin of two men named Andrew and Eric and their adopted daughter Wen, and tell them that they've had visions of the end of the world, visions which so far have all become true, and the only way to stop it from getting worse will be if one of them chooses to kill one of their other family members.

Naturally, they all refuse and think Leonard to be crazy, but each time they refuse he puts on the TV and shows them that the world does indeed seem to be ending, with the news showing breaking reports of fast-acting viruses, earthquakes (and subsequent tsunamis), plane crashes... there's no proof that going through with his request will actually stop anything, but as time goes on they have more and more trouble chalking things up to coincidence or fakery. So it comes down to faith, and a "simple" idea: if you thought doing something drastic would save your child's life, wouldn't you take it, no matter what? I know I would, and I know my wife would too - hell she'd barely even hesitate, if her reaction to similar scenarios in other movies is any indication (whenever there's a zombie movie where someone is bit and asks for their friend/loved one to shoot them before they turn, she is angry that there's any kind of delay on the shooter's part).

Anyway, that's pretty much it for the movie's narrative. A few flashbacks tell us the love story of Andrew and Eric, and there's a kind of beautiful strategy to them, as nearly all of them feature some kind of "this is what gay men have to deal with" moment: a disapproving parent, a lie to help the adoption process (Eric tells the lady that Andrew is his "wife's brother"), a hate crime... with the one exception being the trio's trip to the cabin itself, which is full of love and happiness and (obviously) acceptance. So without leaving the cabin and its tense situation for long (and also, without delaying their arrival there - the movie begins with Leonard approaching Wen), we get some backstory and an easy reminder of why the choice is so hard: the three of them have only really known happiness when they're together, and why should they put that at risk for a world that doesn't accept them? (Wen has a cleft lip and is Asian, so while neither is explored much, we can easily guess she's had her own experiences with being "the other".)

Shyamalan and his writers (including Tremblay; I do own the book and read the first few pages after seeing the movie, and it's nearly identical so far) do a fine job of balancing everything out: the character work, the suspense, and the end of the world scenarios that we see on TV (though I'm kind of confused how we saw footage of someone filming the tidal wave and then getting swamped by it - I guess it was a livestream? There was no tell-tale overlay of emojis and "Friendbook" kind of fake social media header to signify it as such). Jonathan Groff and Ben Aldridge give excellent performances while spending 75% of the movie tied to chairs, and the script never distracts away from the situation with dumb things we know won't go anywhere (like a neighbor showing up and forcing them to act natural, a hallmark of the home invasion genre that is blissfully absent here). There's a bit of a contrivance involving one of Leonard's team (I know the plot point originated in the book, though I'm not sure if the conclusion is the same) that seems to exist only to stretch Andrew's disbelief in the entire thing (Eric starts to believe Leonard is right at around the halfway point, while Andrew is more stubborn), but I'll allow it if it was the lesser of two evils (the other being one of the aforementioned distractions that such stories almost always have).

Unlike The Happening, where it was part of the marketing (!), not much has been made of the film's R rating, and honestly I don't think it needed it, as it's pretty much entirely for language. Most of the film's violent moments occur off-screen, and while they are grim/tense moments, I feel they could have gotten a PG-13 if not for the F-bombs making it impossible. But regarding the dialogue, I'm happy to report that the foul language just adds to my happy surprise that this is among the least alien-sounding of Shyamalan's films. I've said many times in the past that the filmmaker needed to share scripting duties with someone, because while his direction is always top notch he doesn't always have the best ear for dialogue, which can result in some howlers that derail an otherwise solid scene (or the entire film in Happening's case, but Old had some howlers too). But I can't think of a single line here that sounded like it was being delivered by someone who never spoke to another human being before, so good on you, gents.

Long story short, if you're a die-hard fan of the book who can't accept changes, you should probably steer clear (while looking up the thing about Leonard's teammate I inadvertently caught wind of another major plot point that definitely does not happen in the movie). But if you haven't read it or you're just fine with seeing a different interpretation of the plot, I think you'll enjoy it on the strength of its intriguing scenario and nailbiter suspense alone. Perhaps it doesn't have much rewatchability (beyond appreciating the performances; Bautista is terrific and hopefully continues having the interesting career we once thought Dwayne Johnson would have before he appointed himself the biggest star in the world and stopped making anything good) since so much of it revolves around the question of whether or not the men will believe Leonard (and if Leonard's belief turns out to be correct), but that's fine. Not every movie has to be something you want to watch over and over at the expense of experiencing new things. Like reading books!

What say you?

*Which has been utterly bizarre to me, as outside of Stephen King-level titans, the authors are rarely mentioned in the movie's marketing. "Based on the best selling novel" type language (without the author) is common, but I couldn't find any evidence of Tremblay's novel hitting the NY Times bestseller list or anything like that (though it did win some prestigious awards!). So, along with the name change, it seems like it's just the usual thing of marketing highlighting what will entice people (i.e. the name of the guy who made Sixth Sense), but people seem to think it's like an intentional slight on Tremblay for some reason. The posters tout Shyamalan's name, as they usually do, but again this is pretty much standard when it comes to major filmmakers who are adapting average-selling novels. Even Ready Player One (which WAS a NY Times bestseller, god knows why) didn't mention Ernie Cline or any kind of "based on the book" language on most of the posters and such, only Spielberg's name was highlighted. I'm not saying I agree with it - I'm all for giving credit - but the sentiment seems to be that there's something insidious about it, and it bothers me. If you're gonna yell at Shyamalan, yell at the dozens of other directors (or, more likely, the people marketing their movies) for doing the same thing. My guess is, due to the usual secretive nature of Shyamalan's films, having an easily available book out there would deflate some of the mystery, so they saw no need to tell people who might not even know about the book that they could find out all of its secrets early. Tremblay is fully credited on the film, and they've put out a tie-in edition that, if the movie is a hit, will likely give him a huge boost in sales of this and his other work. So what's the problem, exactly? Just people complaining because they have nothing better to do, I suspect. /end rant.


FTP: House on the Edge of the Park (1980)

JANUARY 31, 2023


Unlike most “pile” movies, I remember exactly when I got House on the Edge of the Park – it was my prize for winning horror trivia at last year’s Overlook Film Festival (donated from the good folks at Severin). And it’d probably stay there for a lot longer if not for two things: the fact that I just this week booked a flight and hotel to *return* to this year’s incarnation of Overlook, and the recent passing of director Ruggero Deodato, who died in December at the relatively young age of 82. I must admit I’m not a huge fan of Deodato's work, but I was a fan of the man himself – he was a “character”, as they say, and there aren’t a lot of such types left (read: filmmakers who feel free to speak their mind candidly, not worrying about who might take offense to their personal beliefs). And so, knowing perfectly well I probably wouldn’t enjoy the movie all that much (what little I knew about it compared it to Last House on the Left, a film I have zero intention of ever revisiting), I pulled it out of the pile just to basically get through the movie and then dive into what I was more interested in: the interview with Deodato (presumably one of the last he ever gave for this sort of thing) and the full length documentary on the auteur, housed on a second disc.

But for context and such, I had to watch the film, which I must admit wasn’t as grim/unpleasant as I feared. It really never gets much worse than the opening scene, in which David Hess (as Alex, but basically just a slightly more personable Krug) rapes and murders a woman (the actor’s real life wife at the time!) in her car. After that it’s relatively tame by the standards of these things – without giving too much of its 43 year old plot away, there is only one other death in the film and most of the subsequent sexual scenes are “consensual” in the movie’s own weird way (one woman resists at first, then plays along and even kind of takes control, another goes all Stockholm and aggressively pursues the guy you assumed would be assaulting her). Gray area stuff, basically, as opposed to the fully abhorrent scenes in Last House and other films in this sub-genre. But even the Hollywood remake of Last House left me feeling more in need of a shower after than this did, which I wasn’t expecting.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s still pretty dark at times (Hess slashing up a late arrival to the party is pretty rough, but she survives), but instead of reveling in violence it’s a sort of home invasion thriller, where Alex and his buddy (Giovanni Lombardo Radice in his first film) are a pair of mechanics who are invited to a party by a snobby couple, as a sort of thank you for fixing their car. Once they arrive they realize they’re looked down upon by the socialites, but while Radice’s character (a bit of a simpleton) tries to fit in, Hess of course takes offense to their attitude and starts terrorizing them. But again, it’s not about a body count – in fact it actually gets pretty repetitive: someone tries to escape, Hess or Radice chases after them and threatens them, then they are dragged back to the living room with the others. There are isolated moments of humiliation (when one guy tries to overpower him, Hess roughs him up a bit, tosses him in the pool, and pees on him – I mean, if you HAVE to be peed on by your attacker, there’s no better place to have it happen, if you think about it. Just duck under the water!), but the average shot of the movie is everyone just kind of hanging out while Hess drinks their booze.

Ultimately there’s a twist of sorts, but it doesn’t do enough to change the fact that this is too clearly a quickly made movie without enough of a story or characterization to remain compelling throughout its runtime. The last thing you should feel with one of these things is kind of bored, but while I was grateful that it wasn’t assaulting my senses with unpleasantness, I just didn’t connect to it either. Radice’s character unsurprisingly starts turning on Hess’, but Deodato doesn’t go far enough with it – Radice never commits to siding with the rich folks, so his protests against his friend are about as effective as merely shaking his head in disappointment as opposed to making much of a difference either way. And Hess’ character is too generic a psycho to pull you in the way something like Henry or Red Dragon might, but Deodato doesn’t really add much dimension to the rich people either, so it’s just all rather flat. As repulsive as Last House is to me, at least it has the intriguing concept of the coincidence that the villains end up at the home of the girl they just killed – the similar element here is left as a twist in the final few minutes, so it’s too little too late.

But like I said, it was all just precursor to what I was more excited about: Deodato Holocaust, in which the director holds court and walks us through his career (kind of like that Friedkin doc). It’s a bit uneven, as he obviously spends more time on his bigger films (this, Cannibal Holocaust, Cut and Run) while glossing over others, but there’s a lot of great stuff in here, including a funny anecdote about something he has over James Cameron. I kind of wish his collaborators were on hand to offer their own stories, but perhaps now that he’s passed on they can be wrangled for something that mixes tribute with "now we can laugh about it" kind of stories like the ones he was always happy to offer about them. Indeed, I recommend watching his new interview specifically about House, because he withholds an actor’s name from a story about the man’s coke habit nearly derailing a production, but in the full length doc he’s happy to share (and I was surprised to see who it was!).

House’s disc also has an archival interview with Hess, a long one with Radice, and a historian commentary, which along with Deodato’s own interview fill in much of the film’s backstory and why it’s so threadbare (long story short: it was shot with leftover money from Cannibal’s budget, in two weeks). Radice’s dog makes an appearance in his piece, which is something I’m always delighted by in these things, being reminded that even though we look up to them and maybe stood in line for their autographs or something, they still get annoyed at their pets like everyone else. The soundtrack is also included, making this a fairly exhaustive package for a movie that should fully satisfy anyone who loved it. I, on the other hand, will see that it goes to a good home at a reduced price. I wouldn't even keep Last House if not for my love of Craven demanding a complete filmography on my shelf (Carpenter being the only other one); I certainly don't need to own a minor copycat.

What say you?


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