Father Augustus Bane is a go-by-the-book type priest and through his unlimited optimism and passion, grudgingly turns the other cheek when life’s bitterly cold callousness bends him over a barrel and pulls his hair until bruised and raw on that very same turned cheek. When the God dedicated man of the cloth is pushed too far after the merciless slaughter of God worshipping parishioners and he is left for dead by a gang of demented family members, the surviving Father Bane is reborn and becomes destined to a vindictive life path with a six-shooting revolver he baptizes as The Lord. Hell hath no wrath like a priest scorned to obliterate all sinners from every walk of life in a blaze of the almighty glory (and gory) of The Lord and those explicitly responsible for the death of his congregational followers and much of the city’s crime and corruption will have nowhere to hide from their lethal penance.
What could be considered as the pious Punisher on steroids, Ryan LaPlante’s offensive-laden, satirical grindhouse exploitation feature, “Holy Hell,” is a confirmation of that films like LaPlante’s are sorely needed and pleasingly free in speech inside the dominion of today’s sensitive and politically correct cultural society. Surely not a product of the U.S. and will certainly piss some viewers off (especially zealots), this Canadian made production could only exist outside a conservative dome, looking inward for a weakness to seep and taint the sometimes too wholesome American cinema market that’s tiptoeing around what should expressively blunt and in your face. Let’s face it, folks, it’s a movie! LaPlante writes, directs, and stars in this movie of comedy, action, and exploitation that’s even too controversial for some of the supporting cast who used pseudonyms, such as punned Yennifer Lawrence and Zooey Deschansmell, as their stage names because of the deviant material.
The man with many hats, Ryan LaPlante stars as Father Augustus Bane, a cheerful priest with a firm belief of charity instead of violence, and as LaPlante’s first and only feature as a writer and director, “Holy Hell” snuggly fits the filmmaker’s contemning, vindictive, “autistic rage monger,” as another character described accurately. Satirically stoic, Bane reminisces the days of yore when severely slighted protagonist broke and the endured trauma became a journey of eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. LaPlante, whose career pivoted to the video game world and could so seamlessly, understood the mentality of once was with harden, good men turned relentlessly anti-heroic. Father Bane’s opposition had parallel penchants of aggressive stamina, but in a more deplorable and deviant calling. The MacFarlane family is about as coarse and as ruthless as they come ran unflinchingly by Dokes, the head of the family, with his wild eyes and skull earring atop his fishnet undershirt and open Hawaiian button down. Dokes is truly satanic as a ravishing villain from in co-producer’s Michael Rawley’s in his sardonic performance of the father of three. The “Disco Pigs” actor revels as Dokes in not only being the kingpin, but also a special daddy to his three rotten and just as maniacal kids – Trisha (Rachel Ann Little), Buddy (“Red Spring’s” Reece Presley), and, the more flagrant of the trio, Sissy, a labeled sadistic he/she of boundless perversion and a flair for the theatric played vivaciously by Shane Patrick McClurg and McClurg’s Sissy MacFarlane is difficult to dislike and is favorably one of the best and best portrayed characters alongside Father Bane and Dokes MacFarlane. The entire “Holy Hell” cast amazes as deviant delectation and round out with love interest Amy Bonner played by Alysa King (“Slasher” television series), Luke LaPlante, and Austin Schaefer.
While “Holy Hell” trails the established trope about a vindictive good man, a thrilling theme consisting inside half the grindhouse genre films of 70’s to 80’s, Ryan LaPlante doesn’t really offer much new to audiences whom are well versed; however, since “Holy Hell” is one big punch-to-the-face nod toward grindhouse and the filmmaker constructs a complete caricature picture, the shocking, the disgusting, and the hilarity mold almost an entirely new brand of grindhouse or, as I’ve coined, mockhouse. A mock-grindhouse film have natural degrading quality where filmmakers remain on the fray of getting the right look and feel of a grindhouse film, but LaPlante accomplishes the task, echoing the effect while adding his own brand of comedy. Also LaPlante’s bludgeoning of taboo is no holds barred comedy, especially on surface level narratives such as with Father Bane who has a tremendous arch to hurdle as a priest fueled with guilt and rage against an army of inhuman and derange psychopaths, plus all the other miscellaneous miscreants roaming the streets at all hours of the day, but the script is penned like the Divine retribution as the priest endures, almost in a supernaturally reborn or resurrected kind of way, after being shot six times in the form of a cross by Dokes that, ironically, acts as a blessing for Bane to declare war on evil.
Indican Pictures presents a Rogus Gallery production with “Holy Hell” onto a not rated DVD home video. The widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, has a warm toned coloring grading from digital grader Defiant and also embellishes the natural grain and blemishes to assimilate into the grindhouse collective. “Holy Hell” is intent only appealing to a comic book illustration that makes definition fuzzy, but not totally cleared from the playing field. The closes up of the gore is nicely displayed with a drenching and gruesome effect. I couldn’t detect a lot of girth from the Englih language 2.0 stereo track which makes me think LaPlante intended on suppressing much of the ambiance and up the soundtrack quality from composer Adrian Ellis, whose upbeat, synch-rock has killer intentions whenever the MacFarlane’s are rolling heads. DVD extras include a director’s commentary and a blooper reel. Chockfull with affronting one liners, “Holy Hell” is utterly sound being well-rounded with the best intentions paved in hooker blood and indecent exposure, as well as being highly entertaining, in one holy redeemable package of horror exploitation blessed by Ryan LaPlante himself.
Struggling to survive the conditions of the outside world, a brother and sister locate shelter inside a desolated complex and stumble upon it’s strange inhabitant, a solitary middle-aged man named Mariano with a penchant for welcoming his insanity. The alcohol distilling and isolating embracing Mariano has a twisted offer for harboring the young siblings as he also puts the two to work, constructing Mariano’s trash-ridden home into a cavernous structure from taped scraps of lumber and cardboard. Mariano desperately needs them to explore unorthodox depravities upon themselves to become one with their unhinged host that forms, in more than one way, one flesh-ravenous happy family.
“We Are the Flesh,” aka “Tenemos la carne” in the original title, is an experimental art house feature from controversial Mexican director Emiliano Rocha Minter. The 2016 film harbors more than just three hermit individuals dipping their toes into a forbidden pool of acts, but also provides numerous metaphors and symbolisms that might be hard to swallow and difficult to sit through during the 79 minute runtime. “Sin Nombre” actor Noé Hernández stars as Mariano and there isn’t enough praise in the art house world from his performance that consumes his mortal being, transforming him into a well oiled psychotic machine with a blazing stare, a certifiable grin, and a defined muscular physique. Hernández steals scenes left and right from his young and novice co-stars María Evoli and Diego Gamaliel, whom are equally as brave as the more experienced Hernández in their respective roles. “We Are the Flesh” emits racy undertones by just hearing the title alone and, absolutely, lives up to the title’s very core by displaying non-simulated sex acts. Think about it. Minter’s film only has three main characters for most of the narrative and two of them are siblings. Yup, Minter went the incest route for the sake of art.
In the opening scene, heavy breathing creeps upon a black screen until the image pops open to a Mariano’s face, laboring over something. Next cut is Mariano hunched over with a high stack of baled cardboard, walking in the color tone of a dark cool blue with a slight haze engulfing him. This opening scene is one instance where Mariano is portrayed the Messiah prophet Jesus. Other religious symbolistic events that connect Mariano, who would be condemned for his actions in the Christian scope, to Jesus that occur throughout, such as being dying and being reborn, the cave aspect, the motifs of faith from the mysterious eye dropper liquid, and being the sacrificial body as if transpiring to be some sort of demented wafer during a crazed cannibal communion orgy. Of course, opening anybody’s eyes or mind to this notion can be immensely difficult and profanely sacrilegious to even spell it out in text because seeing the streaming drug use, the attempted murder, the cannibalism, and the sibling incest rule the majority of the narrative makes a case that affiliates more with an unholy antichrist rather than Christ, but I believe director Emiliano Rocha Minter, being a Mexican national and growing up in a Catholic, like the majority of Hispanics, culture aimed to blur the lines between the heavens above and the fires below and embodying them as a singular whole.
Intrinsically irrational and insatiably grotesque, “We Are the Flesh” has momentum in a colorfully abrasive form, quickly evolving from act to act with characters reemerging anew every second onscreen. What might seem as a visionless quest for the sole purpose of producing shock value can be re-construed as a message more aesthetically beautiful in man’s most detested nature. Yollótl Alvarado’s cinematic vision is absolutely dripping with gripping, mature atmospherics that are well doused in vividness while, at the same time, being despairing in a post-apocalyptic haze. The experience charges at you, pulls you into this cavernous womb, and scratches at your tender barrier lining, trying to sneakily slip into your soul. The sensation is as much unreal as the film’s avant-garde structure.
Produced by production companies Piano, Detalle Films, Sedna Films, Estudios Splendor Omnia, and Simplemente, “We Are the Flesh” is a poetic approach experimental wonder, gratifyingly brought to home entertainment fruition from Arrow Films in the United Kingdom and Arrow Films, in conjunction with MVD Visual, in the United States on Blu-ray and DVD. Between Lex Ortega’s brutal social commentary gore-flick “Atroz” and Emiliano Rocha Minter’s art house metaphor “We Are the Flesh,” Mexican filmmaking stands high and bold, unafraid to tell unapologetic stories in conservative societies; a mere taste of what’s to come, I’m positive. While recommending this type of film isn’t the easiest for status quo movie lovers, “We Are the Flesh” hopefully will expand minds, open eyes, and encourage skin-on-skin contact for the cinematic adventurers.
In a wake of fatally striking down a young woman with their vehicle, two errant and drunk men, Goyo and Gordo, are arrested for the gruesome crime at the scene of the accident While handcuffed in the back of a squad car, an unorthodox police chief named Juarez discovers a video tape recorder in the front of their mangled car with a tape revealing the violent torture and killing of a young transvestite hooker. One tape leads to another, and then another, individually exhibiting a trail of cascading blood and merciless torture in the deaths caused by Goyo and his unstable and dysfunctional life. Juarez digs further into Goyo’s ghastly cases going through each horrific tape setting up Goyo for a shocking conclusion from his past he long thought was dead.
“Atroz” will make you never want to tour Mexico! I can fully understand why “Cannibal Holocaust” director Ruggero Deadato fully backs Lex Ortega’s graphic horror film an associate producer and presenter as the two films, separated by decades, are much alike with the majority of their likeness in found footage techniques, frighteningly realistic imitations of murder, and their artistic and austere grandeur of filmmaking narration. Ortega also sustains an effective horror feature through the confines of a problematic ultra micro-budget. Along with aid from a talented roster of actors and crew, no way was Ortega’s film was not being made. “Atroz,” translated to “Atrocious,” opens with the unsavory side of Mexico’s impoverishment that contributes to much of the Central American nation’s disturbing amount of unsolved murders. The montage opening is so powerful and moving that what precedes shocks as a gritty insight of what everyday Mexican residents might experience one way or another in their lifetime and though Ortega goes that extra mile to be obscene and disgusting in every way possible, the director supports his work with seeding a traditionally patriarchal society with gender identity afflictions that evolves organically and is purposefully displayed in reverse order to add more, if it wasn’t possible already, to the shock value of “Atroz.”
The outer story involving Goyo’s interrogation about his stash of tapes is only the tip of the iceberg, sheltering three background influencing stories about Goyo that set up more familiarly in an anthology manner. Inked with intricate arm sleeve tattoos and perforated with metal facial piercings, Goyo and his larger friend Gordo, which means large man in Spanish fittingly enough, seem nothing more than your typical lowlife gangbangers. However, Goyo and Gordo are more disturbed than any Mexican cholos from the first torture tape of a transvestite prostitute, a punished, bit-part role awarded to actress/singer Dana Karvelas. The next two tapes are just as hard to swallow and stomach from the assorted fluid being consumed, to the explicit varying degrees of rape, to the vivd genitalia multination, and to just the sheer ultra violence depicted makes “Atroz” the gorehound’s holy grail of horror. Never have I’ve witness a film so graphic to come out of Mexico and, by golly, I thought the world needed this Lex Ortega film. In most cases, extreme gore and shock features run a course shortly after hitting the play button on your home entertainment device, but with “Atroz,” a drive to learn more about what motivates Goyo’s unholy acts unravel little-by-little and that quality is usually omitted and uncharacteristic of explicit gore horror.
Performances are firmly established all around with Carlos Valencia and Lex Ortega himself leading the charge as Juarez and Goyo. While Ortega doesn’t necessary have much of dialogue role with Juarez during interrogations, the undiluted carnage he lays down on the tape recordings are a rare and twisted characterization hardly visited by the indie circuit and certainly not given the light of day from Hollywood, being mostly sidelined to an underground context. Rare is it to have one actor who can impersonate malice upon others that when a doppleganger appears in Goyo’s younger years video tape, “Atroz” becomes that much of brighter highlight as a dark film birthed from Mexico. Carlos Padilla truly frightens as the younger version of Goyo staged in an abusive household with an unsympathetic father, an naive mother, and lots of physical and verbal mistreatment. Goyo’s a psychoanalytical unicorn, an epitome of the mind’s deranged wealth, and a testament that his surroundings molded the very fibers of his intentions do commit evil. The sight of blood is all it takes arouse Goyo and “Atroz” provides the character an ocean of sangre ready for lapping.
Practical effects wizards Jamie Lopez and Alfredo Olguín produced unrivaled effects on a budget that didn’t provide a second chance if the effect didn’t spin right the first round. Absolutely flawless did the duo’s work gleam in the blood it was soaked in and firmly how I held on for dear life my testicles when seeing a set being cleaved graphically severed. Lopez and Olguín have a combined 23-years of experience in the special effects game and that surfaced buoyantly at the top of “Atroz’s” shocking content. In the nature versus nurture debate, “Atroz” sides with nurture putting Goyo in the impoverished and traditional meat grinder that is Mexico and spat him out where wades in a chrysalis until bursting out into a state of lust for an endless stream of revenge and blood. Ortega accomplishes nurture’s wickedness by tenfold and Lopez and Olguín exemplifies it even more.
Unearthed Films and MVDVisual’s limited edition 3-disc Blu-ray and DVD set includes a JH5 & Eggun soundtrack. Presented in a widescreen 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the 79 minute runtime feature sports no blemishes and falters on any flaws, baring and setting a fitting desolate tone through a number of camera options. There’s also and English and Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 with optional English subtitles intent on properly channeling every port of your surround sound system. A pair of issue lie with the subtitles involving quite a few typos in English and some synchronization problems delaying captioning a full second or two after dialogue has proceeded. Bonus material includes the short film of “Atroz,” a crowd funding video, behind the scenes: music and sound design, behind the scenes: practical effects, behind the scenes: production, Unearthed trailers, a behind the scenes image gallery, and, of course, the aforementioned soundtrack. Whatever you do, don’t consume any food before and during experiencing the gore charged “Atroz,” Mexico’s most deranged cinematic delicacy to date!