For no real reason, I’m going to watch horror films every night-time until I eventually get so bored with them that I will resort to pulling out my copy of Hairspray from my DVD cupboard, and then watching it in order to wash away all of the ‘darkness’ which I will probably witness over the forthcoming days. Either way, I like horror films: I find them interesting, fun, silly, the majority quite dull…and then every so often, there will be one that is genuinely terrifying. I will hope to watch all sorts: from the obscure to the mainstream, from monster-movies to zombies-flicks, from slasher to sexploitation. Here goes…
Night of the Living Dead (1968)
A group of people resort to hiding in a farmhouse when the dead rise up and begin to walk around killing the live and eating their flesh.
Zombie classic which gave George A Romero a cult-status. Surprisingly quite gory for its time, to which I admire its shock value greatly. Perhaps not as scary as it once was – however, I felt that the opening 20 minutes had some excellent moments of tension, particularly when our young heroine, Barbra, tries to enter the house whilst being chased by only one zombie. Ironically, I found that as the zombie-count increased, the less atmospheric the film became. In terms of politics, I can understand why some people would feel that this film empowers the black character, Ben , but this doesn’t hide the fact that our female heroine cries repeatedly to the extent that it becomes annoying, and the only thing we know about her character is that she is quite simply weak and pathetic.
Still, I liked the fact that the film built a sense of claustrophobia and doom due to its minimal locations, pseudo-documentary visuals and the fact that it focuses on the group of characters we’re with as opposed to the widespread devastations of cities and the apocalypse of the entire human race, like later additions to this sub-genre. The film provides a sense of utter despair as everything appears to go horribly wrong: poor decisions are made, bad luck happens, and unfortunate acts of fate. This is the horror film which dispensed with the campness of The Gothic and re-invented horror to being cynical and utterly pessimistic in its views of humanity.
Story concerns a prison which has 99 female inmates. The prison is brutally run by Thelma Diaz and Governor Santos. A new staff member namely Leonie Caroll attempts to put a ban on the severe discipline which occurs whilst all of the female inmates are contemplating escape.
Recorded this on Horror Chanel, to which Sky+ described it as: “Extreme exploitation film from Jesus Franco. Abused female prisoners are forced into degrading sexual acts by a sadistic warden until the downtrodden women rise up in a frenzy of savage retaliation.” I wouldn’t say it was ‘extreme’ exploitation. None of the female in-mates are forced into degrading sexual acts. Oh, and the retaliation is hardly ‘savage’.
We start off with a group of three women moving towards an island. They then meet the evil prison warden – who, might I add, is excellently performed in a Pantomime style, I can imagine her being a James Bond villain. Next thing we know, each character is stripped of their name and merely becomes a number. When asked what their names are, one of the characters said her real name, to which she is then slapped around the face – the first moment in the film where I reacted to any of its ‘shock-moments’ (the second being where a snake is stabbed with a knife). Later on, nom.99 and nom.76 fight on the beach – it’s somewhat amusing in a really “I feel like a creep laughing at this” kind of way, but hoh-hum, I was watching a film about 99 women trapped behind prison bars – and it’s hinted in the title that they may get rather lesbian. Whoopee.
Later on, nom.76 and nom.99 are punished for wrestling, and no apparent reason (other than the fact that they’re in a bordering-on-creepy sexploitation film) they randomly have passionate sex – all of it being shot out-of-focus, because out-of-focus sex scenes are hipster and artistic, right?
As the film progresses, it gets progressively more dull, and even the rape scene at the end isn’t shocking. I never cared for the main character, nom.99 – if she was randomly ran over by a bulldozer I wouldn’t have noticed. The film is a success in the sense that it manages to make 99 females being shouted at, whipped for no real reason, dying due to poor conditions, and randomly wrestling, incredibly monotonous. In this sense, it as an exercise in making the shocking seem dull, which it does oh so well. It is also bizarre, considering the fact that this is a sexploitation film where all the characters are named after numbers, that this film never makes a 69 joke.
Some moments of surprise, but the majority of the time: really bloody dull.