I knew this was going to be a waste of ten bucks when I bought it. But there, emblazoned on the back of the video box, were the words that made me shell out my cash:
... though this didn't have the effect on me the filmmakers hoped it would. I needed to know how much of a crime they had committed by dedicating their slovenly piece of dreck to a director whom I hold in deep respect. The answer? A capital offense, for which I recommend they be forced to watch Andrea (Burial Ground) Bianchi movies until their brains leak out from their ears.
All kidding aside, though: they could learn a lot from Andrea Bianchi.
You may have noticed that in these Other Hell reviews, I've been taking bad movies to task mainly on account of their poor plots. I know this is the easiest thing to make fun of in a bad movie; and that on the basis of plot alone, many of the movies I love best are plain ridiculous. Think about it: The Beyond. Suspiria. Vampyr. Casablanca.
But all the movies in this little wasteland are stinkers in the total sense of the word. I've tried to give at least some indication of the other ways in which these movies fail. Still, plots are easy to make fun of, and they interest the majority of viewers more than say, cinematography or editing.
Well, folks: this movie is the worst in the batch so far, on all counts -- but particularly in the editing. Scenes are terminated prematurely, or are presented in an order which make no sense; scenes are inserted which should never have been included in the first place... and all with an annoying fade-to-black that conveys a sort of finality that the movie as a whole fails to achieve.
There's this woman, see? And her sister is missing. Actually, she tells us in the opening pre-flashback sequence that her sister is dead, thus ruining any suspense we might have hoped for... anyway, no Sis, and fade to black.
Next we see someone speaking French into a pay phone. We also see the guy he's talking to, also speaking French. Fade to black. The girl says goodbye to her sister in her hotel room, where she notices her sister is packing heat. Hmmm... Fade to black.
Sis gets a flat tire on a lonely stretch of road in the middle of the night. She gets out to change it, looks up, and sees approaching headlights. Fade to black.
Next, two rock climbers, in mid-day (the next day? The day before? Next week? Two weeks Thursday? What the hell?), find something really nasty on top of a cliff, and get killed. We never get to see what it is they've stumbled on, but it's apparently big and scary. We'll take their word for it. Fade to black.
Now we see three people in a bar, nursing drinks at a table. Have we seen these people before?! The two men may have been the ones we saw speaking French on the phone, but the girl is definitely new. They're on screen for maybe a minute, making ambiguous references to things we have no clue about. Then, before we even have time to commit their faces to memory we... can you guess?
This time, when we fade up, we see some empty glasses, etc., on a table in a bar... and the subtitle informs us it's "Five Weeks Later". Our first reaction: Those three people have been sitting at the bar for FIVE WEEKS!? How long does happy hour last at this place?
Eventually we see that it's the remaining sister who's at the bar, not the three from the previous scene (see what I mean about bad editing?). She's concocted a brilliant plan to find her sister: she goes to a bar, gets drunk and surly, picks a fight with the bartender and gets escorted home by a hunk of a policeman, whom she entrances with her seductive, booze-addled charm. Clever, yes?
Actually, he's supposed to be a hunk of a policeman; that is, he's as much of a stud as the limited budget could afford. We're supposed to get the idea of his smoldering masculinity from the fact he takes his shirt off a lot. This is another of the unconvincing visual effects this movie has to offer.
... eventually, we find a warehouse security guard talking to his girlfriend's breasts on the phone. Suddenly he hears a noise -- and this brings up another annoying feature of this movie. Everybody is always pulling out a firearm at the slightest provocation. This time, the guard pulls his piece and goes looking through the stacks of boxes. Nothing. He goes back to the phone, and -- how's this for a classic bit of misdirection? He hears his girlfriend getting devoured by a nameless beast! Who would have seen that coming? They waste our time on a bogus chase, then don't even show us the monster! Aren't they cute?
Our heros get a package for the missing Sis, containing an amulet. She'd sent it out to the McGuffin Cleaning Agency, so that it would arrive in time for this scene. Evidently it takes 5 weeks to clean a McGuffin. Anyway -- on the amulet is an inscription, which the cop places instantly: "It looks like Russian or Hebrew or something."
Then we fade up on a bunch of seance-holding losers (did I mention we've been seeing closeups of their faces for a few seconds at a time throughout the story so far? No? Well, we have). One of them gets thwacked on the head by a floating Bible. Another says, "I hate when that happens!"
A mother gets killed in her garage, while her kids look on in apathy. And before we fade to black, this brings up yet another grievance I have with this movie: there's always a coy cut away from any actual bloodshed. This in a movie dedicated to Lucio Fulci, who never pulled a punch. Then again, perhaps my version is censored, because there are plenty of audio blips where four-letter words should be. I suspend judgement.
Hmm... In order to demonstrate how thoroughly inept a movie this is, I wanted to go through it in the same bewildering, meandering style that it inflicted itself on me. And I just can't do it. It's bound to be too painful for either of us. So I'll just summarize, at the risk of making it sound more interesting than it is.
It turns out Sis was one of a group of French (or quasi-French) monster hunters, charged in the name of the Old Testament Yahweh to slay the followers of Moloch. It seems Moloch's Witnesses have been holding human sacrifices to raise a dreadful Protector Beast, who will save them from the monster hunters. Apparently, Sis was the latest sacrifice, although that's never made clear. As all of this is being explained, there is a knock at the door. The cop answers it, and a bolt of lightning knocks him silly. Then glowing ecto-spermatazoa fly into the room and undo the heroine's blouse.
That's it for the special effects budget. Hope you enjoyed it.
So: the French monster hunters want the Molchites; the Molochites have raised a Beast; the Beast wants the amulet, and the audience wants a nap. Our hero and his friend go out to investigate, while the heroine locks the door behind them (they make a big production out of this, so bear it in mind).
The girl snoozes, then wakes with a start. As eerie music swells in the background, she goes into the kitchen... where she finds her cat stuffed in the freezer. In burst the cop and his friend -- remember how the doors were locked? Could someone explain this to me? -- whereupon the cop makes another brilliant discovery: "You have a cat in your freezer!" When asked to take the dead cat out of the freezer, the cop instead pulls out a popsicle, which he eats as we
There's the obligatory shower scene, then the cultists enter, and there's a fire-and-knife fight, all of which is way too little too late to revive the viewer's interest. People die, and then the French guys burst in and chase away the baddies. Now, the heros have never met the French guys (actually, they did meet one, but under suspicious circumstances), so why they don't open fire on them in the heat and confusion of the situation is yet another plot point left unexplained.
... and then it's time for a strange interlude: two maintenance men, who resemble the Skipper and Gilligan, investigate a strange smell in a building basement. They find something -- which, as usual, we don't get to see -- and the Skipper says...
...let me put it this way: here's a contest for the dumbest rejoinder in horror movie history. The second contestant is from Bruno Mattei's The Other Hell. Compare and decide for yourself:
Finally, we move on to a climax of sorts, in what I'd laughlingly call the "Mario Bava Building"... shots of its chromatically lit architecture interrupt the action fairly regularly. Guys, guys... chromatic lighting does not mean instant atmosphere! Bava created tension through the placement of his characters within the fields of light, and by their movement from one color to the next. Terror nello Spazio offers some great examples, where even the colors on the costumes have a role to play... watch the yellow triangle on the back of one of the character's space suits as she tries to open the door of the giant alien's space craft: the intensity of the yellow changes as she moves into differently lit areas of the set, and it really does help establish the mood. Or watch the scene in La Frusta e il Corpo when the anti-heroine is walking though the shadowy corridor, before she finds the boots: each doorway she passes casts a different shadow across her face and builds a sense of foreboding. Or pay attention to the lighting in A Drop of Water from Tre Volti della Paura, where often half the room will be lit in pale blue, and the other half in a warm red. The emotional temperature of the scene changes as the characters pass from one hue to the other -- it's all very carefully and thoughtfully done, as opposed to THIS MOVIE, ON THE OTHER HAND... OH MY GOD I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE! HOW CAN I TALK ABOUT MARIO BAVA IN THE SAME PAGE AS THIS STUPID TRIPE??!! MUST... FINISH... NOW!
OK, here it is in brief: A mean-ass zombie kills all the fake French guys (off screen). The girl wastes the zombie, even shooting it in the head, but somehow it keeps moving. The cop gets shot and disappears. As the last of the cultists buys it, a dead French guy gets taken over by the Beast.
Somehow, the girl suddenly becomes demolitions expert and rigs tripwire grenades. The zombie outsmarts her; they play tennis with a grenade. The grenade goes off, destroying the movie's last shred of believability: the girl hides behind card table eighteen inches from the explosion, and is unhurt. Unfortunately, the zombie is equally unhurt, and comes lumbering after her.
The girl hangs out a window by a suspiciously strong electrical cable while her last grenade blows out the building above her. She pulls herself back into the building. The zombie has disappeared. Up pops the cop -- is he the new zombie? The girl forces him at gunpoint to recite the Lord's Prayer. Trouble is, the cop doesn't know the Lord's Prayer. He manages to stumble through it well enough to convince her, much to our disappointment, and then we...
And that's it! That's the end of the movie. Even the ridiculous final shot from the original Gates of Hell/Paura nella Città dei Morti Viventi was better than this -- hell, even the end of that #%@&!! Incubo sulla Città Contaminata wasn't this infuriating.
At least it's finally over. And now that you've come this far through the garbage with me, you don't need to waste your money renting or buying this fetid lump of weasel pus. It's bad enough that one of us gave ten bucks worth of half-hearted support to this movie... ten dollars toward the nightmare possibility of
Audience Going Back To Sleep