Hell Will Hold No Surprises for You

A quick trip down the highway to hell today with three infernal flicks I’ve caught in the past week or so…

It had been years since I last saw Ken Russell’s The Devils and in the interim I had forgotten what an eyefuck it is. Even beyond Vanessa Redgrave’s madcap turn as a randy nun with a repulsive prosthetic hunchback and Oliver Reed’s sinful-as-a-chocolate-éclair handlebar mustache, the film is just one scene after another of effulgent, gratuitous genius. While most folks would cite Tommy and Women in Love as better films, for my money this movie is Russell’s finest moment.

Oh, sure, the movie’s narrative is a bit of a mess, but given the subject matter, I think it works in Russell’s favor. While every character and their mother is going on about decadence and wickedness, it’s Russell himself that’s committing the real transgression here; from the first frame to the last, The Devils is full-on, joyously blasphemous film-making.

……

Speaking of blasphemy, I also had opportunity last week to revisit one my favorite horror comedies. Álex de la Iglesia’s El día de la Bestia (“Day of the Beast”) isn’t as over-the-top as Dead Alive or Evil Dead II and it lacks the lyrical poeticism of Dellamorte Dellamore, but it certainly belongs in that hallowed company for its masterful balance of laughs and horror. There are realtively few ‘shocks’ in El día de la Bestia, but the apocolyptic tone of the film is pervasive and persuasive.  While the genuinely likable characters and performances make this one a delight to watch, its de la Iglesia’s portrait of mid-90’s Madrid as a filthy garbage heap quickly sliding into the incinerator that lingers with me.

The supernatural elements are fun, but it’s that moment when our protagonist, Father Ángel Berriartúa (Álex Angulo), is sitting at a bus stop and he sees a group of men get out of a car across the street and set a homeless man on fire that pushes El día de la Bestia into a whole different weight class. Love this one.

……

Of the films I caught lately, though, the real sin against man is  L’ Occhio del male (“Manhattan Baby”), quite easily the single worst Lucio Fulci film I’ve ever slept through.

If you’ve ever seen Fulci’s transcendentally terrible The House By The Cemetery, than maybe you are under the delusion you’ve seen the man’s worst horror film, but rest assured you don’t know the dregs of Fulci’s 80’s output until you’ve watched ineffectual archaeologist Christopher Connelly stumble around with his eyes bandaged under his glasses after getting his corneas zapped by blue laser beams fired out of an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph. I know that does indeed sound awesome in a MST3K-sorta way, but trust me, you’ll be the one wishing your eyes had been disintegrated after 10 minutes with one. I spared myself some of the torment by falling asleep 30 minutes in and scanning over what I had missed at 4X when I woke. Even that felt like an eternity spent in some previously unpostulated level of Hell reserved for Fulci apologists, and this is coming from a guy who owns both City of the Living Dead and The Beyond on DVD.

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