Director: Domiziano Cristopharo
Writer: Domiziano Cristopharo
Starring: Domiziano Arcangeli, Irena A. Hoffman, & Giovanni Lombardo Radice
Reviewed by: Brian Yandle
2009 was an interesting year for horror or cinema in general yet I dare say no film sparked as much controversy nor interest as Domiziano Cristopharo’s own House of Flesh Mannequins. Finally, we are able to see the director’s uncut masterpiece on DVD for the first time. Needless to say, this is probably one of the biggest surprises you’re apt to find this year in the distinct world of home entertainment & I would highly recommend purchasing this film for your own personal library.
While I’m certain that critics everywhere will make comparisons to other veteran Italian filmmakers such as Fulci or Argento, Cristopharo’s work is clearly unique & begs to stand out from the tireless entries in psychological horror we’ve all seen at least a million times before. Aside from the beautiful cinematography & gloriously confident red herrings, the comparisons to Argento or Fulci can safely stop here with good reason.
Unlike the modern horror film, Flesh Mannequins is divided into three acts which would suggest that we are merely watching a filmed stage play. With the extravagant costumes & lighting, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see a work of art like this on stage.
During the first few montages, we learn of a seedy newsstand which caters to the pedophiles or perverts of the underworld who pay exorbitant amounts of money for rough pictures depicting sex with children or life’s ugliness in general. Although the news stand scene is rather humorous, Cristopharo has already set the tone for what may be a rather disturbing portrayal of a society who roots seem to have manifested in carnal decay.
Basically, the story revolves around Sebastien (played by the amazing Domiziano Arcangeli) who has somehow survived a horrible childhood only to find himself still very much a victim. Sebastien spends his days & nights photographing life’s morbidity not to exclude perverse sexuality. Unbeknown to the viewer, our lead may also be a witness to murder or may even be a psychopath himself.
Sarah Roeg, on the other hand, may just be the virtual opposite of Sebastian. Played by the lovely Irena Hoffman, Ms. Roeg spends her days writing children’s novels & taking care of her father (veteran actor Giovanni Lombardo Radice) in an apartment that reminds one of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Yet, things are never quite as they seem & our little happy family may hold some dark secrets of their own. After all, no one is ever truly innocent until proven guilty & everyone has something to hide.
Naturally, the two are destined to meet & grow close even though Sarah’s father has an immediate distrust in the young gentleman simply because he finds the man a bit too “silent”. As the film progresses, we learn of the tragic events which befell both leads such as Sarah’s loss of her mother & brother. Sebastien, on the other hand, spent the vast majority of his formative years being filmed by father around the clock. Believe me when I say you may never look at family home videos in the same light again.
Although the relationship of Sebastian & Sarah would appear rather sweet on the surface, it becomes evident that their meetings are very unhealthy. In one montage, a naked Sebastian is visited by Mr. Roeg in the midst of watching one of his homemade films. Mr. Roeg makes it clear that Sebastian should seek help if he ever wants to see Sarah again. As one can safely assume, this doesn’t sever the relationship of the young twosome but rather elucidates the mere fact that Sebastien himself clearly needs professional guidance to overcome his fears & the unwholesome obsession with the unnatural, unbalanced side of life.
Towards the end of the film, it becomes a bit difficult to decipher whether Sebastien has completely gone insane or is on the verge of snapping. By this time, the viewer is submerged into a parallel universe of sorts where characters aren’t at all what we expect & losing one’s grip on reality is almost inevitable. Is The House of Flesh Mannequins just a figment of Sebastien’s mind or is this an imaginary world that he has fabricated?
Perhaps the most genuinely disturbing aspect of Cristopharos’ film is that it was inspired by actual events surrounding the life of Sarah Roeg. If we are to believe any of the events as portrayed in this film, Flesh Mannequins may very be one of the creepiest most unsettling film experiences one has any right to see.
With liberal references to the classic film Peeping Tom & sly nods to Brian DePalma, Cristopharo has secured himself a hot seat in film-making & a seemingly promising career. Cristopharo’s passionate view of film-making is not only a beaming light of hope for those of us who lost faith in the psychological thriller genre, but actually redeems the horror industry as well.
- Brian Yandle
Director: Anthony Fankhauser
Writer: Anthony Fankhauser (Uncredited)
Cast: Jim Lewis, Matthew Temple, Diana Terranova
Runtime: 85 min.
Winter 1978- Chicago police make a shocking discovery in the crawlspace of the home of local businessman and part-time children’s clown John Wayne Gacy. 26 bodies of teenage boys and men are found putrefying in a shallow make-shift graveyard setting into motion one of the most heinous investigations in the annals of serial murder history. Torture devices such as a wooden board affixed with shackles, a garrote, and a two foot long dildo most of which was covered with shit and dried blood were some of Gacy’s tools of terror. Gacy would lure his victims to his home with promises of money and drugs. As an ice breaker, he would show you his “handcuff trick.” Put the handcuffs on John first, hands behind his back of course, and then he “magically” pops them open. Now, it’s your turn. Can’t get them off, can you? John laughs sinisterly as he reveals his trick…you need the key, dummy. A chloroform soaked rag sends you into the blackout zone. In a haze, you wake only to watch as the rotund, nude Gacy with his face painted as his alter ego Pogo the Clown walks menacingly toward you hard-on in hand as you struggle against your bonds hoping against all hope that rape is the worst thing you will have to endure, but in the depths of your soul you know this is the end. This should be more than enough imagery to fill out a horror film with, right? So, does 8213: Gacy House live up to the horrors of reality or does it merely exploit the name of one of the worst serial murderers in American history in order to cover up its own low budget limitations? Step into my crawlspace and find out.
Six paranormal investigators and a sexy psychic decide to investigate the possibly haunted occurrences at John Wayne Gacy’s former home. Or more accurately land since his actual home was torn down after his conviction. However, in the movie a new home was built on the land and subsequently abandoned under mysterious circumstances. The duration of the film is spent watching auras around lamps, pictures crashing to the floor, and unexplained scratch marks on the back of one of the female investigators after she inexplicably decides to get frisky with one of the male paranormal researchers. The hot blonde psychic gets to showcase her ample bosom during one scene in which one of her breasts suffers a cut from a dowsing rod after she manages to piss off the ghost of Gacy. Truly frustrating is the scene in which she is topless (finally!) yet the camera cuts so quickly back and forth that you get only mini-glimpses of her tasty teats.
The film is shot in the first person perspective as it has been recovered by Des Plaines police as evidence of six murders and one disappearance. It’s not a total shaky cam affair though the requisite night vision does dominate many scenes. It seems the budget went toward the paranormal gear rather than gruesome special effects which considering the source material is truly a head scratcher. I mean Gacy’s terrible tale is not filled with boobs and blood to begin with (more like pecs and feces), but there is still enough atrocity to mine for an indy horror movie. The Blair Witch Project leaps to mind as well as the far superior Paranormal Activity though the build-up in both films was handled more adroitly than in this one. The acting was solid throughout the entire cast though as things suddenly start to happen as a viewer you don’t feel the same sense of panic as everyone in the film does because of this deficiency. All in all, it’s a decent film to watch late at night. More so if you are trapped in the crawlspace of a mad clown that wants to make you his dead bitch.
DIRECTOR: Adam Green
CAST: Danielle Harris, Tony Todd, Kane Hodder
RUNTIME: 85 min.
The original Hatchet was billed as “Old School American Horror.” Imagine my disappointment when I became bored watching this “throwback” horror flick with its poor acting, bad writing, and lame special effects. Buckets of blood coating obviously fake rubber heads didn’t make me misty eyed thinking I was witnessing the birth of the progeny of The New York Ripper or Maniac. Add inept attempts at humor and I was pissed to be watching a pseudo-comedy instead of a bona-fide American grindhouse slasher film. Instead of watching Tony Todd as Rev. Zombie (his role was a brief cameo), I was subjected to Joel Moore as Ben whining about being dumped by his girlfriend during the beginning of the film then inexplicably starts to pine after a stranger named Marybeth not too long after boarding a swamp boat. The Victor Crowley back-story was a hodge-podge of Freddy and Jason’s origins, but at least I spotted the pig mask from Nutbag during the flashback. I knew I was in trouble when the women flashing their breasts in the opening montage were better suited as candidates for Jenny Craig than busty beauties to get the blood pumping in a slasher film. So despite all of this, I was still willing to give Hatchet II a fair shot and surprisingly I am glad I did.
Hatchet II starts exactly where the first one left off with Marybeth being attacked by Victor Crowley in the swamp. This time Marybeth is played by Danielle Harris, a veteran scream queen who first started running away from the bogeyman in the original Halloween series. Plucky Marybeth fends off Crowley’s attack then retreats to the cabin of a recluse who fills her in on her family’s tragic role in the curse of Victor Crowley. Marybeth enlists the help of Rev. Zombie and he assembles a posse of hunters to finally take down the monstrous Victor Crowley once and for all.
This time around Adam Green wisely uses the talent of Tony Todd to full effect. Todd’s Rev. Zombie duplicitous nature and actions stand in stark contrast to Harris’s Marybeth, a woman who is trying to recover the bodies of her father and brother as well as kill the creature that slaughtered them. Danielle Harris gives gravity to her character of Marybeth. Harris plays her not simply as a victim, but more as a person fiercely determined to fight for the memory of the ones she loves no matter the cost. Parry Shen (thankfully) dials it way back as Shawn’s twin brother Justin, who finds out too late his brother died at the brutal hands of Crowley. The only noticeably weak acting in the film is by Tom Holland (director of Fright Night and Child’s Play) as Marybeth’s uncle Bob. His performance is stilted compared to the other actors in the film.
The writing is a whole lot better in this sequel with several well integrated moments of humor in the midst of tension building scenes. The special effects in the film are still very bad. It is the singular weak element which prevents the film from truly being head and shoulders above the original. Rubber heads are plain as day especially in a “curb job” scene that borders on the ridiculous. Blood sprays unnaturally like a geyser during kill scenes and even its color is a too-vibrant-red.
This underlines a deficiency of the Hatchet movies as well as some other modern horror films of late including Scream 4. These films are too self-aware oblivious to the actual qualities which made slasher classics like Friday the 13TH and Nightmare terrors of the video nasty age. Shockingly realistic and groundbreaking SFX by the likes of legendary artist Tom Savini combined with simple yet effective storytelling chilled audiences to the bone then and now. Cheesy FX…the artists working back then may have referred to their SFX craftsmanship as such, but it certainly didn’t look that way onscreen. Also, today’s meta-horror winks too much rather than genuinely frightens its audience. In-joke references choke any hope for the viewer to become immersed into a new nightmarish world. It’s as if some filmmakers today do not have the stomach to truly peer into the darkness with an audience instead preferring to chuckle and guffaw their way through buckets of red karo syrup and flesh colored foam latex limbs. Though terror needs to go old school you can still kill some time on planet Earth while you’re waiting and watch the much improved Hatchet II.
Directed by: Nacho Cerda
Written by: Nacho Cerda
Starring: Xevi Collellmir, Jordi Tarrida, & Angel Tarris
Runtime: 60 minutes
Nacho Cerda has been a huge name on the short film circuit for many years for his works which deal primarily with the dreaded subject of death. Perhaps no other director comes to mind when we think of the fascinating topic which has enthralled people from all cultures throughout the course of humankind. It is not uncommon or unheard of to dwell on the various aspects of crossing over or what really happens when we make that traumatic journey from our earthly residence into the unknown. Nacho Cerda has crafted what many should deem to be silent cinema for the new era & his vision is unparalleled in my book.
With only three short films, Cerda has captured the most beautiful yet disturbing images on film by means of a limited budget. Like many great directors who are virtually struggling in the dog-eat-dog industry, Nacho refuses to compromise his style in hopes of any commercial success but rather chooses to illustrate some of the mysteries of death through the use of film. Only the viewers themselves can be a judge of how well he achieves this goal but I’d say the man has surpassed my expectations in nearly every way possible. Personally, I would suggest watching them in order.
The first short film is completely B&W & might even remind one of old Twilight Zone shows on TV or perhaps something more modern like a student film one could come across in college. Although shot on a mere shoestring budget, Cerda really makes the most of every cent here by giving us a chilling view of a young man who awakes to find everyone in his class room frozen. Although the short film does end on a rather somber or tragic note, the viewer is then consoled with the image of a beautiful angel standing in the doorway ready to take the recently deceased into another realm.
What happens to our bodies when we leave this plane of existence? After all, our bodies are merely just shells that we are only borrowing or renting for a brief time span & one day we will depart from them even though I hate to think of such a hideous notion. The spirit itself will take that final step off the platform we know as life & hopefully make it’s way onto a better place. At this point in time, we are no longer in control of what takes place regarding our bodies. Even though our souls may be granted that final destination, the human remains are merely at the mercy of another human.
A job should never be a hobby
Aftermath is a rather gruesome, if not uber-gory short film which seems to be all the rage with lovers of extreme cinema or just plain gore hounds in need of a fix. Within a mere 30 minutes, you will need to brace yourself for some of the most ugly images one could ever imagine as a coroner carries out his grisly deeds on a cadaver after another coroner has already left the building. Mind you, we are subjected to a rather interesting display of what an actual autopsy might be like & the rather unpleasant side of the entire ordeal. I won’t go into many specific here of course but I will tell you that the unspeakable acts committed in this autopsy room are not easily forgotten & are almost unwatchable. There is nothing here at the beginning nor the end to provide any solace or comfort unfortunately.
The final short film entitled Genesis is perhaps the most beautiful work of all. Although the end result is anything but what a Cerda fan might expect, it’s perhaps my favorite short film of the three. A sculptor tries desperately to deal with the sorrow in his life after recently losing his wife in an automobile accident. Unable to cope with his loss, he begins to sculpt a statue which closely resembles his deceased love. As the sculpture becomes more life-like, the sculptor begins to lose his own life. Although tragic & even a tad shocking, it’s a beautifully filmed work of art that was praised by many upon it’s premiere at the Montreal’s Fantasia film festival.
Posted by: Brian Yandle
HHH reviews Maskhead the most rewatchable ToeTag to date.
Written by: Chad Ferrin & Roham Ghodsi
Starring: Noah Segan, Ezra Buzzington, Elina Madison, & Timothy Muskatell
Runtime: 80 minutes
Rated: Not Rated
Psychedelic & Psychotic!!!
I LOVE it when independent horror filmmakers (In this case Chad Ferrin, director of Easter Bunny Kill Kill, The Ghouls, & Unspeakable; who climbed the Troma ranks) grace us with something that, not only puts Hollywood horror to shame, but kicks it’s face in, and pisses in the pulpy cavity where its skull used to be. The director, in an effort to obtain actors said, and I quote, “I wanna make a movie that fucks the facebook generation in the face”. And by the love of whatever deity you worship he did just that. Creepy villains, excellent acting (Noah Segan & Timothy Muskatell are always a pleasure), brilliant direction, mind-bending technique, psychedelic soundtrack, and a set of weapons that will drop your jaw between your knees. If you haven’t already starting nailing the “add to cart button”, here’s the plot.
A group of drug-addled sex-smitten med. students come across a pair of married serial killers who rape their victims to death with a giant mutant bozak (15 inches long, 4 inches in diameter), and a man-eating bajingo. Serial killers who have traveled from beyond the grave via astral projection due to an experimental drug, serial killers who’ve only got two things on their mind; Rape-Murder and Bubble-Gum. Sound up your alley?! MORAL OF THE STORY: When opportunity knocks…. bolt the door, & board the windows.
Also Recommended: Easter Bunny Kill Kill, The Ghouls, Unspeakable, Bad Biology, Red Velvet, Teeth.
Posted by: Dave & Krys