In cinema lore when a horrible gut-wrenching act of depravity occurs to some poor victim, the partner has the right of revenge, and anything goes. No amount of sadistic violence is too much when your cause is righteous. It’s torture porn as an expression of grief and loss, the more brutal and depraved the actions the greater the love. So when a secret agent’s pregnant fiancé is brutally murdered by a rampaging serial killer in Korean Kim Jee-Woon’s I Saw The Devil (Beyond), our hero wants to make the murderer suffer, and he wants to prolong it. So as he slices an Achilles heel or batters a groin in with a hammer, appearing suddenly out of nowhere cat and mouse style, it’s really an expression of how much he misses his beloved. It’s vicarious and unapologetic, making us complicit in his depravity and though this incredibly stylish thriller does eventually stretch the boundaries of credibility, that’s part of its bloodthirsty charm.
1991’s Sex and Zen received a certain degree of renown thanks to its imaginative use of two women and a flute, though subsequent sequels quickly descended into plotless dry humping and calculated nudity with little to no artistic merit. Sex and Zen Extreme Ecstasy (Eastern Eye) attaches jumper cables to the nipples of the franchise with a knowing eye towards both the erotic, and the ridiculous. We’re talking giant penis fountains, erotic mist that render even pious monks as sex crazed as us viewers, phalluses that can lift and spin a wagon wheel, and a gorgeous beauty with a mans voice. It’s a wholesome orgiastic assault on the senses, the most sumptuously shot sexploitation you’ll ever see. Despite the excess its message is surprisingly romantic. Sure orgies with 10 women using your recently attached donkey phallus are fun, yet it wont hold a candle to true love. Watch it with your special someone, or if not your right hand will suffice.
Italian gore maestro Dario Argento always placed style above substance, taking a concerning delight in the mechanics of murder, devising meticulously sadistic methods for characters to be dispatched in films like Suspiria. But times have changed and he’s foolishly reigned in the more hysterical aspects of his filmmaking in an attempt to compete with the current crop of torture porn schlockmeisters. Giallo (Eagle) is Argento lite, without his customary excess or inventiveness, and even the presence of Adrien Brody isn’t enough to resuscitate this turkey. He does himself no favours by calling this flick Giallo, not only drawing direct comparisons to his earlier work, but also implying it’s a definitive statement on the seedy slasher genre that he helped create. It’s not.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (Madman) is a strange film. It’s David Lynch’s prequel to his television series, yet it dilutes the soapier elements in favour of a darker more absurd feel. There’s real bleak brutality in Laura Palmer’s final self-destructive days, making it a little more difficult to enjoy than his other bleak brutal films. In particular there’s a scene in a seedy backwoods nightclub barn where the grinding music is impossibly loud and they have to resort to subtitles. It’s nauseating, near intolerable to watch, primarily due to the bombastic use of sound. Ditto for Lost Highway (Madman), also released on blue ray, the first 20 minutes are pure domestic terror, before it descends into a confusing meditation on transformation; yet again it’s the sound that does the damage. “Dick Laurent is dead.”