Eric Stanze's fourth feature film is a gruelling foray into the mind of a serial killer.
Shot on digital - though it looks great, very much like 16mm film in most scenes - this is a kick in the eye of anyone who even today still berates anything shot on video. If you think shot-on-video genre efforts are dire, then this is the best place to start for rubbishing that notion. The cinema of tomorrow starts here!
Stanze's intense sleazefest focuses on Clara (Emily Haack), a young lady abducted by the psychotic Leonard (Tommy Biondo). A prisoner in his dishevelled farmhouse, Clara is subjected to all manner of brutal rapes, torture and degradation over an unspecified length of time. Leonard - fuelled by the belief that he will become a celebrity thanks to his misanthropic acts - requires Clara to document her atrocious beatings and humiliation in a scrapbook, filled with the scribes and photographs of all of his previous victims. As time goes by, Clara decides that her only chance of survival is to manipulate Leonard through her written entries into his scrapbook.
There is an early rape scene that is particularly ugly, but in hindsight dramatically necessary as it demonstrates Clara's first incling of how important her entries into the scrapbook are to Leonard.
Okay, it's a pretty sparse synopsis, but I think the best way to approach this film is with as little warning as possible.
The opening credits are white over a black background, with Clara's screams of "What the f**k is going on?" immediately arousing curiosity. When the screen eventually reveals a snapshot of where she is - the less I reveal, the better the impact, trust me - you'll be hooked. It's an intense opening and from thereon-in the pace doesn't let go for a second. This is horror how it should be - distressing and unapologetic!
The rape scenes are genuinely jarring (including Leonard urinating on a sobbing Clara, post-sex) and the "toe scene" will disturb as many viewers as it'll delight! Though not overtly gory, this does have it's share of the red stuff. It's most potent moments however, are the scenes of absolute humiliation that Clara suffers at the hands of a leering Leonard. Explicit scenes of penis licking and non-consensual bottle sex are far beyond what I was expecting!!
The lack of background to these characters - although we do get to see a flashback to Leonard's incestful childhood - helps to concentrate the violent, claustrophobic atmosphere further. The tension never fades ...
This could be seen as a 90 minute catalogue of mysogonistic abuse (and probably is by some narrow-minded lobbyists), but is a fascinating and valid comment on social violence in general - the tagline is "True horror is simply what one human being can do to another". The acting from the two central characters is terrific, and Biondo's script is intelligent enough to justify the 5 years he apparently spent researching serial killers in preparation for this role.
There really are no down points to this film: it's intense, thankfully free from the awful 'post-ironic, we're a black comedy' mugging of most gene efforts these days, and goes all out to be genuinely nasty. If you like your horror hardcore (a'la TEXAS CHAIN SAW; LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT), then this should serve as a welcome dose of fresh air amid the current flurry of crap out there.
Try and go into this as blindly as you can and I seriously doubt you will be disappointed. The acting and script are top notch. Stanze's direction is assured and free from tacky stylised editing tricks that lesser film-makers often resort to in a bid to appear 'clever'.
Cryptkeeper must be commended for this release. Realising it would NEVER get past the BBFC, but recognising that it was such an important leap forward in digital film, they've stuck their neck on the line here with a daring Uncertified, Mail Order only release that is absolutely one of the best films I've seen in aeons. It's totally unrelenting, and never shies away from the sheer brutality on offer!
Picture is presented in original full-frame ratio and looks very nice - sharp, and free from any grain or artifacting. Another good job from Cryptkeeper. The extras are noteworthy too.
A Promotional Trailer is brief and fairly unimpressive. The Picture Gallery is brief, and the Video Art link offers but one measly still. However, the Theatrical Trailer is great - filled with tense scenes and rapturous quotes from all of the most exciting underground US 'zines and websites. Made me want to watch the film again!
You get a trailer for Stanze's SAVAGE HARVEST which looks agreeably gory and fast-paced. Last but not least, the 12 minute featurette POVERTY ROW SHOCKER: THE MAKING OF SCRAPBOOK is a brilliant insight into this stunning production. You not only get lots of footage of the cast hamming it up amiably inbetween the unbearably grim shoots, but a great female narration that informs us of such things as the shoot lasting 13 days, there only being 6 members in the cast, etc. It's a very entertaining and informative proposition.
I'm tempted to give more info on what happens in these unrelenting 96 minutes, but this film demands to be seen by every serious genre fan - and I don't want to spoil what's in store! Highly reccommended - a classic-to-be!
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by Cryptkeeper|
|Region - All (PAL)|
|Making Of featurette; promotional trailer; theatrical trailer; Photo Gallery; Video Art; Savage Harvest trailer|