Ask and receive
Here's one I did a year and a half ago (I've included some post-script thoughts afterward):
Theater of Blood
(1973 / directed by: Douglas Hickox)
I would never have seen this movie were it not for the addictive 60's AIP films starring Vincent Price. When you see something as amazing as The Masque of the Red Death
after starting a series, you sort of find it hard to stop. Well... this is the 70's. And while the horror genre certainly reached a level of excellence in the 70's by changing, watching this film is a harsh reminder of how some change is not for the better. The 60's were radical enough, and clearly the AIP / Roger Corman-directed series of films weren't without their edgy moments and tension. Red Death
was all about human cruelty and how we can view each other as nothing more than garbage to be disposed of rather than tolerating. Tower of London
showed us an insane rebel madman in charge of sentencing others to death. And The Haunted Palace
had its' gruesome moments, deciding to show us death and disfigurement instead of merely suggesting it. This included a very shocking (for its' time) death scene where a man is set on fire and screams as he burns. This all, for me at least, took care of the extremes that later British films starring Price as a horrible torturer (beginning with 1968's wretched, insufferably dull Witchfinder General
) would go to. Though the trend was set with the crappily dramatic Witchfinder
, it's said that the film was not popular. So, the British horror heads decided to try this nasty horror again... but with humor. This resulted in 1971's The Abominable Dr. Phibes
, a film that mirrored Italy's Bay of Blood
in that its' marketing campaign tried to draw in audiences with the promise of a large bodycount and brutal, graphic deaths. Apparently, that film (which after this, I've refused to see outright) was successful enough to spawn not only a sequel, but this copy as well.
Anyone else will tell you this film is genuinely funny. The first time I saw it, I was absolutely mortified and deeply offended. That was several years ago and now I have a cooler head. But there's no denying that this insanely nasty film is hateful. Comedy is often used as a mask by certain filmmakers to shield them from serious criticism of their jokes for not being just jokes. This movie tries to adopt a pose of good-natured "something to offend everyone" ribbing. But the way in which the characters are portrayed leaves no question that either the writer or the director really hate these people. To add further insult, people are shown to be worth killing for little more than being gay or fat. The only person targeted by the films' murderers who survives just happens to be the only one of his group who isn't bitchy, elderly, hypocritical, or physically unattractive in some way. What would you think if you were an actor being cast in a film to be murdered because the filmmakers saw you as ugly or old? Not only that, he's also the only character here who is capable of sympathizing with others. Wanting to care despite the characters' jobs as theater critics. So, the film can't claim it works on a "nothing is sacred" level. There is definitely nothing funny about killing two dogs and showing them being fed to someone. Hickox isn't even able to show the horror in their owner's face when he discovers the shocking truth. The film really is heartless (the sole redeeming quality of Witchfinder
; it wasn't). And what should be worse is that you become numb to it on repeated viewing rather quickly. But... before it does become numbing, it is a remarkably strong film in terms of brutality (the first murder) and it is one of the sickest movies I've ever seen (the third murder, especially).
That's my personal opinion on the film because I have to be honest. But I also believe it's worth watching a movie that has a lot of power and this one does. Visually, it's really striking and at times gorgeous. And, unlike "horror" of the last 13 years with few exceptions (28 Days Later
, American Psycho
), you will most certainly feel something while watching it. I nitpick based on things that offend my sense of morality but it's undeniably a movie you should see. And not just one of the sickest movies I've ever seen, one of the most brutal horror films too. Emotionally, it goes beyond mocking or passing judgment on its' antagonist(s) (which is more than I can say about how it judges and portrays the victims). At least it cares about someone.
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