Why did I see this? One fact I wasn't aware of is that director Stephen Monroe formerly helmed It Waits, which I had mistakenly checked out on blu-ray thinking it was Larry Cohen's It's Alive. I made it through maybe 20 minutes, and now have blown 11 bucks on Monroe's remake of Meir Zarchi's Day of the Woman aka I Spit on Your Grave. Must check IMDb more often. Anyway, if you haven't heard, the plot is rape, then revenge (for a more thorough summary, see a professional critic -- Roger Ebert still hates the original and, now, equally hates the remake). The details remain pretty much the same, but scenarist Jeffrey Reddick adds the missing fifth male, who was promoted on the American poster for Zarchi's original. And although the redneck rapists are no less cretinous than before, they know their way around modern technology: they can use a Macbook, understand that a cellphone doesn't work when it's been dropped in the toilet, and, keeping with the most modern of horror clichés, one of them carries a videocamera. (Sidenote: In order to critique the viewer's implicit scopophilia, the film has to implicate him or her in the voyeur's place through identification, as in Lost Highway, Peeping Tom or Vertigo. Here, you identify with the female victim, so when she fishhooks the hillbilly auteur's eyelids, saying, "you like to watch, hunh?," there's no critique of the gaze, masculine or otherwise. Instead, the viewer will likely feel satisfaction at the spectacle of revenge.) The sheriff (the added fifth rapist) is smart enough to know that the digital recording is evidence, so he attempts to destroy it. On the other hand, he wasn't smart enough to stop the recording while the rape was going on. Not that it matters, since the victim, Jennifer Hills, isn't interested in proving her case to others.
The bromidic High Tension and a remake of The Hills Have Eyes didn't exactly warrant high expectations for a remake of Joe Dante's Piranha, which was itself a low-budget remake of Jaws using The Birds as a template. There's not much to Dante's film except that scenarist John Sayles deserves credit for writing a goofy riff on Hitchcock's classic 2 years before John Carpenter did it with The Fog. So why see a film with such a lackluster pedigree? Well, a friend promised me as much boobs and blood simulated in 3D tactility as an R rating could handle. And, for once, director Alexandre Aja doesn't disappoint. There's a beautifully choreographed underwater nude balletic lesbian make-out scene that surely points to the future in porn on high-def 3D TVs. And the full-scale attack of the piranha on the vacationing college kids is delivered like Saving Private Ryan's Normandy invasion
set in an MTV spring-break special, only with more carnage.
The central aspect to The Birds that neither Dante nor Carpenter got right was the Divine Vengeance angle where the mortal victims in their finitude couldn't come to grips with Judgement Day. At the end of Hitchcock's film, you're still asking why, whereas you're given a reason in the two derivations: In The Fog, the attack is payback for an act of theft on which the coastal town was founded; in Piranha, it's a matter of basic biological drive allowed to take its course due to a bureaucratic coverup so that a prime vacationing spot not be deprived of commerce (as was the case in Jaws). Piranha 3D doesn't achieve Hitchcock's metaphysical ambiguity, either, but it does provide for a more satisfying version of retribution.
Next up in my survey of contemporary French horror films is Xavier Gens' Frontier(s). As can be surmised from the title, the horror affect centers on the question of boundaries, both in transgressing them and being bound by them. Most literally, the five main characters -- Yasmine, aka "the final girl;" her brother Sami; her boyfriend Alex; an awkward, Muslim kid, Farid; and a big, blonde dickhead named Tom -- are making a run for France's borders in the near-future after stealing some loot during a widespread riot on the eve of the National Front (NF)'s winning the popular election. This spatial separation of the inside from the outside -- particularly the urgent need to escape -- is the objective correlative for what follows.
(I'll be discussing plot points as needed, so spoiler alert and don't expect a linear plot summary.)
Perhaps the most commonplace hypocrisy constituting the modern Right's ideological stance is that in promoting deregulation and mass privatization of supposedly everything, the one object that remains for them entirely objective, defined solely from the outside, and thusly constituted by the law, is the body. They are, for example, consistently against drug legalization, outré sexual practices (defined as anything outside of the ventro-ventral procreative technique with the opposite sex), suicide (various State-regulated killing of another's body is okay) and, of course, abortion. Yas, no longer having that last liberty available to her at home, flees to the border with her larcenous comrades to abort her pregnancy elsewhere, not wanting to raise a child in the encroaching fascist dystopia. This plan is foiled when the group encounters the Geisler family, a Eurotrash version of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
An actual picture of my Mother (not pictured here).
In honor of this week’s Mother’s Day, I’m dedicating this entry to my Mammy.
I remember Mom liked the house kept quiet so she could concentrate on reading her scripts. It also allowed her to track the progress of the housekeepers; she could hear if they were spending their time talking, how much time they spent scouring the living room tile, etc. It was kind of intense, but not as bad as when she stopped getting decent movie roles and her alcoholism worsened. That’s when she started beating me with coat hangers and…
I am required to award stars to movies I review. This time, I refuse to do it. The star rating system is unsuited to this film. Is the movie good? Is it bad? Does it matter? It is what it is and occupies a world where the stars don't shine. -- Roger Ebert
That quote makes me laugh every time I read it. Ebert's disgust helped make the reputation of I Spit On Your Grave, and I'm sure it won't exactly hurt Tom Six's The Human Centipede, either. With the exception of some blood, pus, teeth removal and the European fascination with coprophagia, the film rarely gets much more visually repellent than the shot above. In fact, the feces remain internal to the newly created tripartite body, not shown. But suggestion is enough for creating effective horror. And Six gets a lot of mileage off what his morbid conceit suggests. This is a high (some would say low) concept film that does little more than logically follow the initial premise to its terminal conclusion. Aesthetically, the film is edited along the dialog and looks like DV porn downloaded from the Web, i.e., strictly amateurish. However, the idea of linking people along their gastrointestinal tract is inspired. It combines fear of cosmetic (unnecessary, commercial) surgery with the existential problem of being a mere organ in the social body (to the point of altering one's body to fit the organizational ideal).
The primal horror here isn't like losing one's sense of self to the Borg or alien body snatchers, but retaining a full sense of individuality while having to consciously suppress it in order to make the composite body work. It's the bureaucratic evil that Kafka's heroes always failed in struggling against, with the metaphor being physically realized. Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser, playing the Bond villain par excellence) is a self-admitted misanthrope who's a mad scientist version of Fordist industrialism. When the individual units in his creation keep him up at night by making too much noise (think Union organizers), he makes plans to remove their vocal chords (think efficiency expert). He loathes the individual. As he explains to Lindsay (Ashley Williams), the victim closest to escaping, the most willful pit bull became the center piece in his dog centipede. As a sick joke, the frontal position goes to a Japanese tourist (Akihiro Kitamura) who can't speak a word of English (or German) to his conjoined American companions (the tail is played by Ashlynn Yennie).