In the near future where assistive technology serves as the cultural way of life, a very manual Grey Trace still clings to being self-independent while his loving wife, Asha, laps up and embraces new and innovative tech. When an fatal shooting strikes down Asha and cripples Grey to an automated wheelchair, Grey is forced into a depressive world he no longer recognizes. Desperate to find his wife’s killers, he accepts experimental computer chip implant known as STEM to send the signals from his brain to his extremities; however, that is not all STEM can do. The smart technology can also scan, record, and reactive to all of Grey’s experiences, be a voice of knowledge, and enact super human abilities that will aid in Grey’s vengeance, but without much control over his own body, how much will Grey continue to use the smart device that becomes smarter every minute.
In a cinematic age when remakes, re-imaginings, and sequels really do rule supreme, a breath of innovation and compelling storytelling in Leigh Whannell’s 2018 science fiction, action-noir “Upgrade” is a technological advance that’s feels lightyears ahead in comparison. The “Saw” and “Insidious” writer, who indulges in all of horror’s gracious qualities, tackles the future with a synergetic and brutal vengeance film on indie-budget proportions; however, “Upgrade” feels no where near being low budget in a futuristic world that includes monochromatic self-driving cars, bio-weaponized forearms and hands, and a robotic protein shake slingers for those meal replacement pick-me-ups. With the assistance from Blumhouse Tilt, a Blumhouse production sublabel that seeks to release projects onto multi-platforms, Whannell gained freedom to script, in every sense of the world, his own vision of cyborg horror and crime thriller.
Logan Marshall-Green stars as Grey Trace, an analog man living comfortably in a digital world. Trace is a dying bred as the technology ecosystem slowly creeps into all that earned by hard work, even in his small classic car restoration business. The “Prometheus” star tackles a unique physicality aspect of an action film that involves the robotic responses of hand-to-hand combat while also being the emotional punching bag of pelted heartache and turmoil. Portraying his character as a man’s man, Marshall-Green has to find humility in not only unable to self-serve himself as a cripple, but then also rely on the one thing he withdrew himself from for help….a machine. “Upgrade” primarily focuses on Trace to even having the camera affix to his character during fight sequences, but though most of the narrative is through Trace’s vindictive narrative, a cascading effect of his destruction brings one of his nemesis’s into reactive defense. Fisk, Benedict Hardie from the upcoming remake of “The Invisible Man” that’s also directed by Whannell, is a mysterious soldier of fortune whose backstory, that salivates at the tip of the tongue to be told, is only sampled at best with his cybernetic implants or why he was even chosen to be a deadly, robotic killing machine. Perhaps Fisk’s backstory, and those of his fellow veteran comrades, are another misrepresentation or the maltreatment of veterans by conglomerate, privately owned tech and weapon companies that lean more toward involuntary experimentation rather over anything else that’s an allegory of owning a person, a piece of property, as we also see with STEM attached to Grey Trace’s spinal cord. “Upgrade” rounds out with performances from Melanie Vallejo, Harrison Gilbertson (“Haunt”), Betty Gabriel (“Get Out”), Kai Bradley, and Simon Maiden as the voice of STEM.
Shot in urban Melbourne that’s quasi-reflective of the gritty streets of Chicago, Leigh Whannell aimed for a fatalistic mystery that breaks down relationship barriers and sustains a punitive jurisdiction of grime. Whannell surely achieves the desired affect that goes from a classy futuristic society to the bottom barrel of human existences that have been tainted by the dark side of tech including addiction and dangers of being fully aware as a sanctioned being. “Upgrade” capitalizes on every inch of its capital to enlarge the quality of a miniature budget and utilizes local talent, who, aside from Logan Marshall-Green, never wane from their unnatural American English accents, to offer heartfelt human performances despite their mechanical transitions. “Upgrade” isn’t “Robocop” or “Nemesis,” but rather more “Terminator” where organic and inorganic don’t exactly coincide to benefit as a single entity. Unlike the autonomous killing machine portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, “STEM” acts like a computer virus working off commands, coding, and complex algorithms to infiltrate and deploy executions to subverse the man over the machine and Whannell’s concept brilliantly contextualizes that dynamic without having too much exposition to divulge and is easily computed without having to be deciphered from binary code.
Coming November 18th is Second Sight Film’s limited edition Blu-ray release of “Upgrade” presented in full HD, 1080p, and clocks in at 100 minutes under a region B UK coding. Unfortunately, a screener disc was provided for review and so I will not be critiquing the video or audio quality at this time so this review is solely about the film only. A static menu including chapters were available on the disc as well as bonus features including a commentary by writer-director Leigh Whannell, a new Second Sights’ interview with the director about his envisioning and how it came to fruition, more new interviews with producer Kylie Du Fresne, cinematographer Stefan Duscio, editor Andy Canny, and fight choreographer Chris Weir. All the interviews showcase depth with the material to their respective roles and opinions about “Upgrade.” Don’t think it necessary to refer filmmaker Leigh Whannell as the “Saw” guy now that “Upgrade” has completely overshadowed the franchise in a single sitting entertained with action, gore, and a heart-rendering story. Surely to be Whannell’s break out film from the horror genre.
A sadistic carny ringmaster and his troupe of malicious clowns put on a traveling circus act through the America midwest. When an unfaithful lover challenges the powerful lout, he and his painted-face company exact a punitive act against her for all the crowd to see and enjoy and in bitter return, the scorned woman invokes a witch’s spell to summons evil forces to pluck the ringmaster and his clown lackeys up into an unordinary whirlwind. Trapped inside a super storm, the clowns use their newfound and unintentional given powers to funnel a tornado for spreading massive destruction through their cyclonic path of vengeance, terrifying a handful of ensemble midwestern survivors to fight back against the merciless and murderous clowns.
Clowns are so hot right now. From the success of Stephen King’s “It” remake and the subsequent sequel to the re-emergence of Batman’s notorious foe, “Joker”, in a controversial origin film, the carnivalesque buffoons are at the height of their inhuman malevolency since the late 1980’s saw Jack Nicholson donned the makeup as a crazed lunatic with a penchant for nerve gas and extraterrestrial clowns invaded Earth to harvest people and snack on their blood. Adding director Todd Sheets into this era of clown renaissance and outcomes the carny carnage gore fest, “Clownado,” straight from the big top. As an obvious pun on the “Sharknado” franchise, the “Dreaming Purple Neon” and “Sorority Babes in the Dance-A-Thon of Death” director pens and helms another blood drenched, apocalyptic, cine-schlock of callous proportions and unparalleled in content funded by Sheet’s production company, Extreme Entertainment. With a production company tagline of Movies with Guts, Sheets makes good on his delivery with an up close and personal spew of geysering blood sprays, severed gushing limbs, and guts, lots of guts, that’ll run any clown’s makeup red while dousing each feature with action and fun.
How do you hire a cast to garb themselves as maniacal clowns, have them portray being supernaturally charged with meteorological phenomena, and wreak havoc down from the heavens with a tornado vessel just to rip people to shreds all the while laughing their heads off? Easy. You employ the entourage familiar with your brand of Mccobb! John O’Hara, Antwoine Steele, Dilynn Fawn Harvey, Rachel Lagen, Jeremy Todd, Millie Milan, Nate Karny Cole, Douglas Epps, and others have worked previously with Sheets in these flicks, but not limited to: “Sleepless Nights,” “Dreaming Purple Neon”,” “Bonehill Road,” and “House of Forbidden Secrets.” Mix to blend some well churned budget horror talent, such as “Return of the Living Dead’s” Linea Quigley as an angst-y bar/strip club owner and “Brainjacked’s” Joel D. Wynkoop as a fearless flyboy, an already colossal cast becomes an gargantuan cogency of tacit talent and to top it off, how about an former porn star amputee? Jeanne Silver, or better known in the industry as Long Jeanne Silver of “Debbie Does Dallas Part II”, bewitches the screen as the spellbound caster and she didn’t even have to penetrate anyone with your missing fibula of a leg. The one actor that really sought the affable nature in us all is Bobby Westrick with the charming redneck Hunter Fedelis. Westrick, who hasn’t been in a movie since Todd Sheets’ “Goblin” back in 1993, returns in 2019 to be one-time alcoholic lowlife to a world savior from clown devastation; Hunter’s an overall gentlemen despite his straggly, rough appearance and beat up old straw cowboy hat and doesn’t live one person behind while also befriend a black man impersonating Elvis Presley in town has unexpressed racial prejudice. The cast also includes Sierra Stodden, Eileen Dietz, and a Cayt Feinics who seemed to just love caressing her blood soused breasts more than the next woman.
I get what Todd Sheets has erected here being the ringmaster of a dementedly dissension in the circus of blood. The capitalizing idea of clowns twirling and terrorizing through a maelstrom flash of fluorescent, like of SyFy sharks in that popular six installment franchise, is indie kitschiness at it’s finest and couldn’t be more perfectly timed after the release of Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker.” “Clownado” is a fun windstorm of gore and carnival surrealism. Sheets continues to deliver as promised per his production company and is still able to sustain relationships with his usual clowns – such as my stoic favorite, Antwoine Steele, and his role dressed arbitrarily as the King of Rock and Roll – while providing chuckles, sparks, and bimbos galore and, no, I don’t mean clown names. With any Todd Sheets production, the practical effects are innovative and dastardly with highlights including breasts with teeth instead of nipples, heart replacement surgery with a block of ice, and head explosions!
MVDVisual and Wild Eye Releasing doesn’t clown around with Todd Sheets’ “Clownado” that lands onto DVD home video in a widescreen, 1.78:1 aspect ratio. In light of microbudget limits, the digitally shot film has some issues, such as color banding, and then there’s also the visual effects that come straight out of the stock footage file and then matted over with assertion on the first run; however, Todd Sheets been doing this for decades and I’m sure if the director wanted his production and post-production to be first rate, he’d be like Picard and make it so. Yet, disappointments are a part of life and the biggest disappointment by far is the over saturation of purple tint to lay down an ominous killer vibe throughout the night scenes of the 99minute run and the tint completely dilutes the vivid face paint, or in the clowns’ case war paint, and also turns blood into a black and magenta farcical gas. The English language audio 2.0 stereo track, complete with closed captioning available, has great clarity and often doesn’t seem as tumultuous as would be expected. The mic had on point placement to hone in on every wisecrack and pun known to clown-kind. Bonus features include a commentary track with Todd Sheets, behind the scenes, a featurette entitled “The Human Hurricane, and Wild Eye Releasing trailers. From a meteorologist standpoint, weathering through “Clownado” might be a downpour of rubbish, but for those who live vicariously through Todd Sheets’ repertoire of campy, no-budget, gore films, “Clownado” is a beautiful black-comedy day for a stroll.
Husband and wife, Rob and Betty, enjoy the company of other people in their bedroom. Those other people are corpses. With Rob’s profession being a street cleaner after grisly accidents, he’s able to bring home bits and pieces of deceased individuals: eyeballs, hearts, hand, etc. When Rob is left in charge to dispose of half decomposed corpse fished out of a lake, the necrophiliac husband brings home a third party to his necrophiliac wife for play time, but when tensions between them rise with the loss of Rob’s position, Betty doesn’t want to waste her life with a deadbeat husband when she can have a dead man give her all the pleasures she desires. Feeling lost without the company of the corpse, Rob struggles to find his place in life and resorts to murdering animals and prostitutes to get his rocks off, leading to an extraordinary life alternating conclusion.
Necrophilia. Necrophilism. Necrolagnia. Necrocoitus. Necrochlesis. Thanatophilia. The act goes by many terms and divides into many segments, but the end result concludes to the same sexual attraction and acts, involving intercourse, with a lifeless corpse and writer-director, Jörg Buttgereit, aimed to exploit the exploits of grave robbers and murderers to stand against the strict censorship that was presently structured around German cinema in 1987. As Buttgereit’s first full length directorial filmed in West Germany and co-written by Franz Rodenkirchen, their censorship battling film, “Nekromantik,” is tinged heavily in necrophilia that, while obviously gross and illegal in the conventions of society, intertwines with the unwavering romantic gesture; a sensual disposition of tenderness and love for the other whether or not their eyeball is hanging out of a decaying socket or their covered in a think layer of body purging mucus. “Nekromantik’s” tragedy isn’t so much in the appalling acts, but in the defining human directions of grief and destruction that ultimately still make us human even if our acts are inhumanity.
In “Nekromantik 2,” a female nurse named Monika digs up a freshly buried male corpse to be her sexual play thing, but as she questions her feelings for necrophilia, Monika tries to suppress those deviant desires by befriending-to-date a young man, Mark, whole also keeping limited parts of the body while cutting up and disposing the remaining pieces. Seemingly going well with her boyfriend, Monika’s relationship resembles a stint of normalcy, but her desires bubble to the surface as she fantasizes about the corpse and goes to great lengths to keep Mark lifeless as possible during their lovemaking. Mark’s suspicions about her girlfriend does deter him from beauty or his desires for her, but how long can Monika go without her beloved bloated and discolored carcass? What lengths will show go to secure her happiness while taking advantage of Mark warm body?
As an extension of Buttgereit’s “Nekromantik,” “Nekromantik 2,” also known subtitled as “The Return of the Loving Dead,” is a direct sequel in limited fashion with only the corpse being the connecting factor. However, the 1991, East Germany filmed “Nekromantik 2” aggregates and compounds the unsavory lust for the dead that depicts a stronger sense of violence at an explosive carnality in the final act. Along with Franz Rodenkirchen as co-writing, Buttgereit returns to co-write and direct the sequel of considerable unlawful content, according to German authorities that arrested and trialed Buttgereit for poisonous material that could affect the youth of Germany. However, Buttgereit comes unscathed by the tribunal in a justified win against censorship. “Nekromantik” and the sequel aren’t necessarily set in a platonically set society, but held within the confines of an invented world chockfull of ignorance and drenched in biodegradable bliss.
Daktari Lorenz stars as the hopeless romantic for putrid partners. Lorenz is a good look for the Joe’s Street Cleaning Agency employed Rob as Lorenz is a scrappy man with thinning wild hair set on top of a receding hair line and has a feral soul behind his wide eyes, fitting for a fellow who did a short stint in porn in later years, but starring as Rob, however inglorious he might portray the role, wasn’t Lorenz only contribution to Buttgereit’s “Nekromantic” as he became the special effects guru behind the corpse’s fruition – the corpse that would be Rob’s character’s rotten rival. Rob’s tragedy situation is a plight of villainy against villainy, leaving the role unsympathetic to audiences but still leaving a residue impression of sordid anxiety. Rob’s only rival to necrophilia is within Monika, played by Monika M., from “Nekromantic 2” who goes through a different kind of internal struggle. Whereas Rob struggles with loss of two companions, one living and one dead, Monika struggles oppositely with one living and one dead and the choice she must make between the two. Monika doesn’t long for a cold, slimy, dead body and she choices to dispose the one that was held firm in her embracing grasp; yet she has an inkling for normalcy, a urge to undercut her deviancy, and acts upon the reformation despite the addictive callings for necrophilism. There’s not much in terms of a supporting cast in his low-budget shock horror, but the few co-stars include Beatrice Manowski, Harald Lundt, and Mark Reeder.
Overall, the “Nekromantik” films can still produce shock systemically despite being antiqued from the ye ole days of Video Nasties from the 80’s. Director Jörg Buttgereit might be thought perverse or mental to pinch body parts or dead bodies for tales of romance, but no matter his intentions to bring to the cinematic table, Buttgereit could be considered a far-fetched genius delivering the very definition of necrophilia to the screen and hoisting up a narrative around a taboo and illegal stricken act in the name of anti-censorship. Both films are nearly dialogue-less and, perhaps, wouldn’t have been highly accepted in the cult world if the score wasn’t as poignant or powerful as it was. Composed by Hermann Kopp, John Boy Walton, and, again another hat, Dakari Lorenz, as well as Monika M. in the sequel, they compose a classical and new age soundtrack that’s neither obtrusive to the ears nor not necessarily out of bounds of being parallel with the explicit material, marking the tracks as much as a character and being the quintessential dialogue much needed for a virtual silent, and extremely graphic, social commentary piece.
Cult Epics has really outdone themselves with a fantastic re-release of their previous issues of the “Nekromantik” films, releasing a limited edition, only 500 copies, Blu-ray release of both films, sheathed not only in their individual slipcase with original artwork, but also housed fully in a larger, double-sided slipcase bundle with artwork by Martin Trafford whose been a long time collaborator with director Jörg Buttgereit. The two films are presented in their original aspect ratio, 1:33:1, with two cuts available of “Nekromantik”: a director approved, super 8mm restored transfer, blown up to 35mm, that’s of a relatively washed image, but is vastly superior and clean look with hardly any blemishes upon the reconstructed coloring, which looks great considering. The second cut, a 35mm “Grindhouse version,” is a HD untouched version that keeps in the burns and blemishes and emits a warmer image in comparison. The 16mm, director approved transfer of “Nekromantik 2” is also neat, clean, and infraction free with a more natural color scheme overlaying and not as stylized as Buttgereit’s first film. The German language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound with re-transcribed English subtitles puts the vigorous soundtrack on a pedestal in the midst of previous releases that saw lossy audio compositions. With hardly any dialogue and next to none excitable action in both films, the burden lies truly on the back of the score that’s riveting and powerful and the right call to improve amongst the options for tinkering. There are also German language 2.0 stereo mixes available. A wealth of new and old bonus material includes the new transfers mentioned above, plus introductions by director Jörg Buttgereit, Q and A with the director at the American Cinematheque, audio commentary on both films by Buttergereit and co-author Franz Rodenkirchen with Monika M. and Mark Reeder included in “Nerkomantik 2,” the making-of for both films, “Nekromantik” featurette, still galleries of both features, two isolated versions the films’ soundtracks plus a live version of “Nekromantik 2,” “Nekromantik 2” post cards, and a couple of Buttgereit short films entitled “Hot Love” and “A Moment of Silence at the Grave of Ed Gein,” plus music videos and live concerts from the director, Monika M., more. Cult Epics’ wrote the definition on the definitive release for “Nekromantik” and “Nekromantik 2” and if you thought the content couldn’t get any gooier, grosser, dissident, and vile, Cult Epics said hold my beer and went to grave and back with a phenomenal package bundle that’ll be a necrophiliac’s delight as well as a gory gem in the collection of any horror film enthusiast.
Plus, the holidays are right around the corner and at http://www.cultepics.com you can gift yourself or gift to others their very own Messed Up Puzzles’ 1000 piece jigsaw set inspired by both “Nekromantik” and “Nekromantik 2!” These NSFW puzzles are a limited run, with 50 out of the 300 signed by director, Jörg Buttgereit! (Selected randomly through distribution).
Gulf War decorated soldier Frank Zimosa uses his particular set of skills as a professional contracted hitman. Frank’s current assign takes him oversees to a luxurious hotel to eliminate a couple of marks, a man and a woman, who are itemized as atrocious serial killers who’ve murdered over 150 people and Frank’s employer seeks to provide the same gruesome retribution in a certain kind of way – remove the brain the skull and the guts from the body. The relatively simple task for Frank turns into a fight for his life and his very soul as he finds himself trapped inside the hotel, owned by a secret organization swarming with putrefying acolytes of an ancient, fire breathing demon known as The Plague Spreader. Frank was ordered to kill to satisfy her pain and suffering hunger pangs, but his tenacious refusal awakens the demon who now hunts him, craving his pain, his suffering, his eternal soul for her own sated gratification and disrupts the organization’s creed to keep her dormant for the sake of humanity.
More, more, more! My internal fireworks outpouring and wanting more from a fire and brimstone gore forged finale from the action-packed first person view feature length horror film, “Hotel Inferno,” could not quell the embodied explosiveness wanting more from writer-director Giulio De Santi! Hailing from Italy, “Hotel Inferno” pulls little-to-no punches when dishing out uber-violence and non-stop carnage that invigorates the sensory and corporeal experience in the first installment of what’s called the Epic Splatter Saga that will total over six films. Two have already been produced with the third in production! De Santi, who is no stranger to the fervid gore film, teams his visual effects knowledge with long time, special effects collaborator, David Borg Lopez (“The Mildew from Plant Xonader”), and makes something shockingly beautiful that’s only been wrongfully teased in predecessors.
What’s also unique about “Hotel Inferno,” other than its first person perspective, is nearly the entire dialogue is layered with a voice over track. Unique as well as cleverly cool, we’ll touch on why later, faces with distinctive dialogue pinpoint main characters, but their faces are either shrouded by some sort of horror-esque mask, turned away toward another direction, or fed through a communication conduit, such as a portable television-radio device. Same goes with lead character Frank Zimosa whose vision never goes eye line with a mirror, never gaining a glimpse see his frantic mug, though Zimosa sounds like a chisel chin, hard-nose, angry-looking ass kicker, especially when voiced vehemently by Rayner Bourton. Playing the arch nemesis that’s quickly established and continuously prominent through duration is not the all-powerful Plague Spreader, but, in fact, the faceless Jorge Mistrandia. Donning the voice is English born actor Micahel Howe (“Solo”) who has one of the more sinister intonations amongst the few; an attribute that can be cool, calm, and inviting and can suddenly transform into a treacherous, malevolent, and vile performance that amplifies the intensity tenfold. Bourton and Howe are essentially the sole two main characters inside a melee of supernatural goons and goblins, amongst them in the cast is the introduction of Jessica Carroll who went on to do more voice work in video games and actors from De Santi’s inner film circle with Christian Riva and Wilmar Zimosa, who without a doubt was the moniker inspiration for Frank.
What sets “Hotel Inferno” apart from other splatter films? The first person shooter style, or FPS, video game structure is it! In literally the first of it’s cinematic kind, “Hotel Inferno” looks, sounds, and feels like a FPS from start to finish, a blended progeny from the ultra-violent horror survival games like DOOM or BLOOD; honestly, everything about De Santi’s film feels like a BLOOD rendition minus the shirtless, axe-wielding zombies and the robe hooded, tommy gun shooting cultists, though the rotting henchmen due speak in a high pitch dialect. Think about it. In BLOOD, a game built on a foundation of iconic horror, the anti-hero, Caleb, is a gunslinger against a unholy cult he once was a part of and then becomes his opposition. Same goes with “Hotel Inferno’s” own anti-hero Frank Zimosa, a hitman hired by an organization who then deceives him for nefarious reasons and then Frank has to blast his way out to save his soul. The story goes right for the throat, throwing Frank almost immediately into peril, and from room to room, layout to layout, the anti-hero has to slice through henchmen and ghastly demons in a very HOUSE OF THE DEAD kind of face-off, weaponizing everything against foes with armaments in the anterior of a cultish backdrop. Super. Fucking. Cool.
MVDVisual distributes Giulio De Santi’s “Hotel Inferno” onto DVD from the Wild Eye Releasing’s Raw and Extreme label. Presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, the Necrostorm produced “Hotel Inferno” engages the viewer into battle, but also invokes slight vertigo and turbid at times, especially the cave-like dungeon that’s almost absolute pitch-black. Again, atmospheric video games are much of the same regard for instant jump-scares and De Santi pulls that off here by not illuminating much of the scenes. The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio track is in an opposing stratum to how the film plays out; doesn’t quite sync with the action as the audio track is an obvious track laid on top to emphasis how much “Hotel Inferno” is like a FPS storyline. There’s an array of depth and range from each tier Frank has to painfully endure and willfully live through. English and Italian subtitles are available. Bonus material includes a secret bonus film entitled “Hallucinations,” a rough cut SOV, direct-to-video supernatural gore feature from twin brothers John Polonia (“Feeders”) and Mark Polonia (“Sharkenstein”) and Todd Michael Smith (“Splatter Farm”). Giulio De Santi’s “Hotel Inferno” is only part one of the highly anticipated Epic Splatter Saga, with part 2 and 3 very high on my to-do list The blood splatter is in a doom of mayhem, will quench gore hounds from any walks of life, and reap the collective FPS gamer from their stationary consoles and blow their mind with the most seriously berserk action-horror of this decade. Crudux cruo!
In 1978 Chile, a powerful political extremist exploits the Chilean army to conduct and carrier out the physical and sexual abuse against the people of Chile, including forcing his own son, Juan, to have sex with his tortured mother and executing her right in front of him while in the fornicating act. Juan’s father continues to further the abuse with fear, terror, and misogynistic berates until he’s finally fatally coup. Fast forward to 2011, Juan’s an unstoppable madman as he terrorizes the locals over the years without authoritative regulation and also four female outsiders on holiday for a girls’ weekend. Juan and his son force their way into their residence, tyrannizing, raping, and even killing one of them before leaving his cruel mark in his wake, but with the help of a local officer, the remaining three survivors seeks to make sure Juan, and his equally screwed up family, never harm anyone again. However, Juan is prepared, held up inside a compound subterfuge, well-armed and well-unhinged.
Perhaps based loosely off the atrocities of of former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet in the 1970’s, Artsploitation Films’ distributed “Trauma” goes to the unapologetic extreme, building upon an already unsavory narrative into the bred morbid disposition of the human psyche. Written and directed by “Zombie Dawn’s” Lucio A. Rojas, “Trauma” is a cold, blunt object with a razor sharp bite and has a penchant for the twisted. The Chilean director’s film isn’t the only game in the market of extreme movies, but does manage to create a motive of separation between most with the offending character experiencing traumatic corruption by someone close; in this case, Juan’s father 40-years earlier by oppressing the boy through physical pain and scrambling his son’s mental state by removing any humility, compassion, and reasoning that manufactures the perfect ruthless butcher. Pinochet used his military power to be a lethal strong hand when desired; Rojas spices it up by adding forced incest, rape-after-rape, and implementing a subconscious malevolency.
“Trauma” stars “To Kill A Man’s” Daniel Antivilo as the despicable Juan. Antivilo is patient and soft in his approach to a deranged character that doesn’t display that wild abandonment in psychotics. Juan goes on to slowly terrorize four lovely outsiders from the city in Andrea (Catalina Martin), Camila (Macarena Carrere), Julia (Ximena del Solar of “Perfidy,” another Rojas film), and Magdalena (Dominga Bofill). The four actresses offer up different character perspectives and personality that should divide the dynamic or, at least, complicate it; there’s a strong sense of lesbianism between them, even exhibiting traits in those who don’t identify as such. Antivilo macho savagery pitted against the four stunning, but strong women does create a black and white, stark-producing character placement. Outside that dynamic, one character has no dialogue and, yet, manages to high level physical role that’s barbaric, humiliating, and spacey and that role is inside of Juan’s schizoid son, Mario, is donned by Felipe Rios who has the strung out appearance of a long, drawn out face and muscularly thin. Eduardo Paxeco, Claudio Riveros, and Florencia Heredia round out the cast.
Rojas does a beautiful job in the juxtaposition department, paralleling the bleak, grimy, and yet agreeable life of Juan and his equally as certifiable family next to the full of life and vigor in the unsuspecting women that Rojas’ introduces off with Camila and Julia engaging in a steamy girl-on-girl love making scene that doesn’t leave much to the imagination and, then, slides into their instant road trip the day after. Rojas had built up Juan’s pain and suffering toward being molded into a monster whereas the women fly by the seat of their pants, churning out memorable moments in a flash whereas Juan’s unfortunate course was a slow burn throughout his long, hard life. The parallelism flips from Juan to the women up until the moment their lives intertwine and this is where things get messy with Roja’s script. Between Julia, Camila, Magda, and Andre, three of whom are related, tension builds as Julia plays the flirtatious and brazen field between hooking up with the cousins as stroppy Andrea steams in a passive stew on the sideline. This subplot never goes explored, going uncooked right in the middle of a hot flame where passions and couples’ plights evolve the story. The abrupt presence of Juan puts a cease and desist on any other subplot that ultimate funnels “Trauma” to be a rape-revenge flick with a graphic content.
Artsploitation Films continues to distribute internationally provocative films that always delight as well as disgust (in a good way). With Lucio A. Roja’s 2017 film, “Trauma”, casualties pile high and damage control is non-existent, fitting the Philadelphian-based company’s axiom that presents the film onto a high-definition Blu-ray. With a widescreen, aspect ratio 2.35:1, the image quality is quite good. Details are very promising here and really need to be with the gore. The face explosion and the jaw unhinging deaths are certainly not stodgy as the scene on these moments linger more than most would, soaking up the full effect of the viscous covered chunks out from the face crater by a high caliber handgun is a thing of beauty. The Spanish 5.1 surround sound syncs up well in all aspects from dialogue to ambiance. English subtitles are available and line up well enough though speedy at times. Dialogue is clear and present, Ignacio Redard score is heard, and no signs of any kind of distortions or other issues. Bonus features are limited to just the theatrical trailer. “Trauma” might have vastly skewed the actual events the film is based off of to pen a story, but what a gorgeously gory-filled and exploitively-charged narrative that can be a tell all for the cause and effect of political extremism at it’s worse. Director Lucio A. Rojas puts Chile on the controversial and extreme horror map.