Monday, May 10, 2010
Sick, sadistic shit
I have a confession to make:
I love movies with sick, sadistic shit in them.
Does this make me a sick, sadistic person? Not at all. It just means that I am generally bored by the mainstream attempts to unsettle me that are offered up by Hollywood. Yeah, that little kid looks creepy and is saying creepy things. But I've seen it all before.
First and foremost when I go to the movies, I want to see something new. I'd rather see a movie that dares to be different and fails nobly, than something that's more solidly crafted but is overly familiar.
Which is why, when I hear about a movie in which a mad scientist surgically fuses three human beings together in a chain, to make one continuous digestive track connecting three people, I try to figure out a way to see it as soon as humanly possible.
The Human Centipede -- or, The Human Centipede (First Sequence), as it is sometimes known -- made it easier for me, by debuting OnDemand at the same time it was appearing for the first time in U.S. theaters. (It was made in the Netherlands and set in Germany.)
Suddenly, I knew what I was doing last Friday night.
One thing for sure is, you've got to watch a movie like this at night. Sick and sadistic -- twisted and gross, warped and nightmarish, skewed and freakish -- doesn't fly during the day.
And I'm pleased to report that The Human Centipede did not disappoint. The subject matter being as gruesome as it is, director Tom Six didn't even need to get all graphic to make us squirm. Once you've got a scientist kidnapping unwitting tourists and subjecting them to procedures that would make Dr. Frankenstein vomit, you don't need to show every little detail. The power of suggestion is strong in a film like this.
And The Human Centipede contains one of the great villain performances I've seen in the past couple years, that of Dieter Laser as the surgeon gone mad. The man was presumably once respected and not insane -- he had a high-profile career separating conjoined twins. But that gave him the intimate anatomical knowledge that would allow him to do the reverse kind of procedure, and he does it with glee. In fact, one of my favorite scenes in the film is when the abomination is first revealed. Everyone is crying, but the three members of the centipede are crying out of fear and despair, while he's weeping in joy. Great moment.
And Laser -- what a weird dude. Just look at him here. My colleague who wrote the review for my site described him as the love child of Udo Kier and Christopher Walken. Here are all three, with Kier on the left, Walken in the center and Laser on the right, so you get some idea what I'm talking about:
I won't talk too much more about The Human Centipede, because it contains some great surprises. I will say this, though: If you go into it for the same reasons I did, you'll be plenty satisfied.
Instead, I'll finish by talking about some other films I saw recently with the hopes of getting some sick, sadistic shit, and whether I left satisfied.
The Collector (2009, Marcus Dunstan). I guess torture porn has become pretty mainstream -- they've made six Saw movies, after all -- but I thought this one might be a little grislier. It involves a serial killer dressed up like The Gimp from Pulp Fiction, who sets up his victims' home as a series of Home Alone-style booby traps, only lethal ones instead of paint cans swinging on ropes. He also sadistically tortures them, if they aren't killed by the traps. The movie was decent, and there were some squirmy moments, but the premise was ultimately a bit too silly, like Saw movies often are -- so much (unbelievable) setup for so little payoff.
Downloading Nancy (2009, Johan Renck). I didn't specifically know what Downloading Nancy was about, only that it was dark and, well, sadistic. Also that some people found it abhorrent, which made it slightly more attractive. If I'd known it was about a woman who cuts herself (as I wrote about here), I probably wouldn't have been as interested, or at least not for the same reasons I was interested in The Human Centipede and The Collector.
I Spit on Your Grave (1977, Meir Zarchi). Another film I've blogged about before (here), I Spit on Your Grave was something I wanted to see because it was supposed to be one of the most notorious exploitation films ever made. I finally got my opportunity last fall. I guess this had the intended effect for me in the sense that I found the gang rape scenes repellent, but the movie satisfying in some way overall. As I discussed at the time, and as you probably already know, the victim systematically kills all the people who raped her, some of them in extremely nasty ways, so it fit the "sick, sadistic" category plenty well. I know I'm supposed to think I Spit on Your Grave is depraved and morally repugnant, but it worked for me.
Battle Royale (2001, Kinji Fukasaku). Forty-four children on an island, with weapons, killing each other until there's only one left. Disturbing, eh? Yes, it was, but it also managed to be reasonably funny in spots as well. I really enjoyed it.
Hard Candy (2005, David Slade). Before she was Juno, Ellen Page was a sexual predator's target who turns the tables on the would-be child molester, ties him up, and ... well, to tell you anything else would be to spoil it. Plenty squirmy, even if some sensationalist moments keep it from being all that it could have been.
Captivity (2007, Roland Joffe). It was the infamously graphic advertising campaign, only a small, chaste percentage of which I even knew about at the time I saw it, that inspired me toward a viewing of Captivity -- in the theater, no less. There were a couple gruesome moments, but not in a good way. This is torture porn at its worst, and it's also poorly made and laughable in spots. I ranked this as the worst movie I saw in 2007.
Funny Games (2007, Michael Haneke). I knew it would be dark, I knew it would be brutal, and I knew it would be nihilistic. What I didn't know is how angry it would make me. This is a depressing, hopeless movie, and Funny Games makes you feel like the target of Haneke's own cinematic game-playing, for his own amusement. Two eccentric youths capture a family in their summer home, torture them and kill them. Funny indeed.
Teeth (2007, Mitchell Lichtenstein). This is the prototype for a sick and sadistic movie -- but like Battle Royale, it's also very funny in spots. The one-sentence plot synopsis says it all: "A shy teenage girl who's an active participant in the local abstinence club discovers she has teeth in her vagina, and those who seek to take advantage of her find out as well -- the hard way." Awesome, gruesome, and as I said before, hilarious. I loved it. Also, afterward, I was singing "Vagina Dentata" to the tune of "Hakuna Matata" from The Lion King.
Zoo (2007, Robinson Devor). A documentary about a man who died while having sex with a horse. 'Nuff said. Sadly, the film was too vague, talking around its subject more than about it, to be as disturbing as one would hope. What was it about 2007, anyway, that there were so many sick, sadistic movies from that year? That makes four in a row on this list.
Antichrist (2009, Lars von Trier). And here's a third 2009 movie. I wrote about this movie also (here). Antichrist is famous for a couple scenes of sexual mutilation that occur in a cabin in the woods where Willem Defoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg have sequestered themselves in order to rapidly lose their marbles following the death of their young son. I wasn't as shocked as I expected to be, plus, I thought the filmmaker's motivations were artistically suspect -- von Trier is one of the most maddening, egomaniacal directors out there, and Antichrist was a movie he made the way he made it just to be controversial.
I'd love to hear any good examples you have of movies that fall into this category. My comments section is open and accepting contributions.