There’s something very wrong about a guy who gets his daughter to star in his latest film and then shoot a nude shower scene, adding a further layer of perv, to what is equal parts kitsch and creepy. We’re talking Italian horror maestro Dario Argento here, finalising his supernatural trilogy of Suspiria (1977) and Inferno (1980) with 2007’s Mother of Tears (DV1). Argento has always loved excess, overwhelming and confusing his audience with vivid colours, baroque imagery and insanely loud prog rock music. The plot in his hands is just a convenient way to connect the elaborately staged hyper gory murder scenes. It’s murder porn but it has style. Here the murders are crueler, more abrupt, the art in the gore, not the staging. With Asia Argento (Transylvania), Udo Kier (Suspiria) and a bunch of folks that look like they just stepped out of a Human League music video, it’s as insanely excessive as the other two, but somehow it doesn’t quite connect. That’s despite the joy of Claudio Simonetti‘s (Goblin) music and the opportunity to witness someone being strangled with their own intestines.
Sauna (Asylum), is heavy on the atmosphere, gorgeously shot, bleak and menacing. It’s set in 1595 after the bloody and brutal 25 year war between Finland and Russia. It begins with this awful sense of dread and doesn’t let up, following the weary battle scared warriors who have devoted their lives killing and defiling, now charged with marking the border between Russia and Sweden. In the middle of a swamp they find a mysterious uncharted village filled with the elderly and one solitary child. Nearby is an imposing concrete sauna that is said to wash away all your sins. The soldiers of course have more than a few they wish to offload. This is a grim kind of horror, about the weight of sin and the costs of redemption. It’s creepy, tense and scary as hell, the kind of horror that seeps into your consciousness until the narrative evaporates and all you’re left with is raw emotion.
Journey Among Women (Beyond) is Lord of the Flies with 70’s feminist ideals set in Australia’s convict past. In the generous extras director Tom Cowan speaks of taking 12 half naked inner city girls, including members of ghetto lesbian feminist rock band ‘clitoris,’ out into the bush and roughing it for 6 weeks, “there was almost a mutiny,” he explains calmly. And you can see this reversion to savagery on screen. It’s loose, heavily improvised and posses a dangerous feel, as a band of female convicts escape their shackles and create a utopian existence in the bush free from the abuse of men. It’s not entirely successful as a convict film thanks to the urban qualities of some of the girls , yet as a provocative (read heavy nudity and lesbian activity) study of power and gender issues in 1977 it’s a fascinating, not in the least because it manages to avoid the sexploitation tag, despite brimming with all the right ingredients.
When the hitchhiker beheads his driver, sews it back on and then sends the confused victim on his way, you realise that The Committee (Dark Horse) is a very strange film. This surreal murder is used as a catalyst to explore ideas of freedom of choice and bureaucracy as a means of maintaining control. By having the victim up and walking, the focus moves away from the violence of the act to the arrogant motivations behind it. Written by a professor of economics and with an obscure unreleased Pink Floyd score, this is provoking English intellectual surrealism from 1968.
The Land That Time Forgot (Madman) is a boys own adventure story from the writer of Tarzan, with hyper cheesy special effects of dodgy looking plastic dinosaurs, pink smoke and ludicrous plot developments. Yes the crap plot is a dodgy special effect. Put simply, former foes are forced to band together when they are marooned on a mystical island trapped in the past. They then decide to shoot everything. It was made in 1975. You can tell.
Sex Galaxy (Arkles) is a green movie, created solely with recycled footage from z-grade science fiction from the 60’s and re voiced with the maturity of a horny 14 year old schoolboy. At one point Billy gets attacked by a vaginasaur. “Talk about being pussy whipped quips one astronaut,” “does anyone have any yeast?” screams another, “you were lucky Billy 10 seconds longer and you would have been a human pap smear.” That’s one of the more intelligent exchanges in this proudly puerile film about a planet filled with female sex slaves who are protected by a jive talking Forbidden Planet robot pimp. It’s stupid and rude. You’ll love it.
Bob Baker Fish