August Underground’s Mordum (Fred Vogel, 2003)

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Like a number of other films including Melancholie der Engel, Miss Violence and, let’s not forget, Funny Games, August Underground’s Mordum seems to get a string of low ratings based on a belief that “watchability” or lack thereof regarding representations of violence makes the film worse; I disagree.

Cinéma verité at its most grotesque, Mordum details the love triangle of sorts between Peter, his girlfriend Crusty and her brother Maggot as they kidnap, torture, mutilate, rape and kill almost anyone crossing their path.

I think it is unfair to write this trilogy (of which Mordum is the best known and most notorious) off – it is a sickeningly realist combination of, amongst others, The Last House On the Left, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Man Bites Dog and makes use of the collaborative self-documentation premise to provide a “balanced” view of these three serial killers, if such a thing were possible.

Entirely reasonable as it is for many viewers to feel distanced by the film on account of the graphic nature of the depicted violence, this was not a film to be seen by many viewers; this is underground cinema and, by underground standards, it’s pretty damn good.

***1/2

Maps to the Stars (David Cronenberg, 2014)

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Sure, just like everyone else in the world, Maps to the Stars did indeed make me think about Mulholland Drive. In particular, it made me think just how much I wish I were watching Mulholland Drive instead.

I swear, for all Cronenberg’s auteurism, he flat out forgets to direct the actors, time and time again; they always seem to be set in neutral, announcing their personality traits and current emotions to one another without any subtlety beyond the pure monotony of their timbre.

It interests me that, aside from the desperately obvious “Hey, has anyone noticed how Hollywood kinda runs on psychopathy? Maybe there’s a movie in it” narrative cliché, the other two connections that I made throughout were Savage Grace and Stoker, reasonable connections to make as they stared Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska respectively, were both about incest and murder, both with performances one would generously describe as “laconic,” and were both duller than ditchwater.

Sure, most of the actors are perfectly fine, some are actually very good, but they are constantly let down by a painfully unimaginative script and are left totally at sea by Cronenberg’s complete absence of direction.

**

Tyrannosaur (Paddy Considine, 2011)

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As heart-warming as it is heart-breaking as it is spine-chilling, Tyrannosaur is an exquisite balance of realist cinematography with expert performances from every actor involved, to create create unbearable tension and release in an environment so regularly characterised by a sense of grim inevitability. Thus, both the representations of horror and of love work together to pierce the barrier of preconceptions in a world of social immobility to deliver a tale of redemption – no matter how meagre that redemption may be.

*****

Savage Grace (Tom Kalin, 2007)

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Though I regularly enjoy films about the depraved and the disturbed, as well as films exploring existential ennui, when a film combines the two in such a way as Savage Grace does, the film leaves the spectator alienated and detached from what should be enthrallingly morbid. The phlegmatism with which it approaches incest and murder is not chilling; rather, it teases the audience with very little pay-off. That it pales in comparison to Christophe Honoré’s Ma Mère is a great shame, especially considering that Savage Grace‘s source text is a true story. Julianne Moore is, as ever, brilliant and her performance in this film does warrant one viewing, but I don’t think anyone could suggest the film as a whole warrants a repeat.

**