死霊の罠 aka Evil Dead Trap aka Shiryô no wana (1988)

Directed by Toshiharu Ikeda
Directors Company/Japan Home Video

There’s a LOT about this Japanese flick that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense – including the title vis-à-vis the content of the picture – but maybe that’s par for the course with a quasi-supernatural mystery-haunted-house-slasher, who can say. (Synopsis: A television newsmagazine reporter traces a videotape that inexplicably includes her.) Other reviewers seem to feel it’s clearly indebted to the Giallo, but I’m not sophisticated enough to tell you if that’s just because of the cloaked killer whose identity eludes us throughout. I CAN tell you that the filmmakers didn’t seem to know how to end the proceedings, but ultimately chose poorly, and that by a certain point someone should have stepped in to do some editing. All in all, though, this was an entertaining and suspenseful production, though that latter quality may be largely due to the amount of creeping through poorly lit hallways the heroine has to endure. There’s an actual sequel, plus a third movie that appears to be mostly unrelated but was slapped with the tag for marketing purposes.

Why Did I Watch This Movie?

The title caught my eye, and the description suitably engaged.

Should You Watch This Movie?

It was just different enough from my standard fare to sustain my interest, for whatever that’s worth.

Highlight and Low Point

There’s a lengthy (and frankly tangential) rape in this film which, although not particularly explicit, doesn’t differ much in feeling from an earlier portrayal of consensual sex. The actress was a noted performer from Japanese porn – originally slated for the lead role. The “Evil Dead” part of the moniker basically doesn’t apply, though some Raimi camerawork is evident. One kill in particular reminded me of, I think, “Blood Tracks. (If not Saw.)

Rating From Outer Space: C+

Izbavitelj aka The Rat Savior aka Der Rattengott aka The Redeemer (1976)

directed by krsto papić
jadran film/croatia film

A political allegory from Croatia, then situated in the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which won the equivalent of Best Picture in Portugal’s Fantasporto festival in 1982, and which has been noted for being reminiscent to modern viewers of both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and They Live. Set in a failed economy grasping for answered prayers, this is kind of a slow-developing picture, a fact more notable due to its relative brevity; the version I watched ran about 76 minutes, and I’ve seen evidence of versions ranging from two minutes longer to eight. Eventually, however, it reaches its peak, of what is essentially a terrible hopelessness. Based on a story by Russian writer Aleksandr Grin called something like “The Rat-Catcher,” this film ultimately hinges on a similar observation to the terrifying underlying theme of 1984: you can’t trust anybody, especially yourself.

why did i watch this movie?

I don’t have any idea what led me to this one … some rabbit (rat?) hole or other, presumably.

should you watch this movie?

As mentioned, it won’t take up too much of your time, and if you have any interest whatsoever in political themes – or, for that matter, historical ones – yeah, put it on your list.

highlight and low point

This production is lensed in such a way as to mute out its colors, which has the effect of making it appear much older than it actually is. Coupled with the subtitling and the stilted nature of much of the action, it comes across a lot like a silent movie at times, an impression only strengthened by the soundtrack. Locating some of the most important moments of the story in what is purportedly the abandoned “central bank” building is a masterful touch.

rating from outer space: B

Martyrs (2008)

written and directed by pascal laugier
eskwad/wild bunch/tcb film/canal+/cinÉcinÉma

After this film finally ended, I started writing a polemic on what I condemned as its senseless brutality, its transgressive excesses flaunted purely for their own sake, its purposeless exhibition of sickening abuse, its obscenity.

Morning found me still pondering what I’d seen, contemplating the motive behind the disturbing displays, so I read a lot about it, including an enlightening interview with the director. Along the way, I realized a positive critical appraisal of “New French Extremity” films, several of which I’d enjoyed, had suckered me into seeing a picture I’d scrupulously avoided for a decade,

Martyrs is a vile movie, full of sadistic horrors and irredeemable suffering and graphically unsettling trauma and grievous bodily harm inflicted upon a guileless young woman. The first half is only intermittently assaultive – nothing too out of the ordinary – but as the second half began, I had a sinking feeling, which proved prescient. It definitely goes too far, and it’s hard to find justification for what occurs. What reason could there be for grotesquely prolonged images of torture of an innocent, you might wonder.

The Laugier interview helped. Some things are indelible, though.

why did i watch this movie?

Mea culpa. I tend to favor productions that feature people doing horrible things to others. This selection has me questioning myself.

should you watch this movie?

Look, this picture’s culminating moment is a woman being flayed alive … but by that point the savagery inflicted upon her has been so objectionable it may barely register. You have been warned.

highlight and low point

It’s provocative, I’ll give it that. As to my charge of “obscenity,” French film commissars originally concurred, rating it 18+, though it was lowered to 16+ after intervention from a filmmakers society, a journalists’ union and the Minister of Culture.

rating from outer space: B