Continuing with my resolution to watch more movies, here’s what I took in this past week:
The Loved Ones, dir. by Sean Byrne, Australia, 2009.
Normally I hate torture porn. I find it pointless, sadistic, and devoid of any real entertainment value, unless you consider suppressing your gag reflex entertainment. But here’s the thing - I think depictions of torture have their place in cinema. What would Irreversible be without its torturous depiction of rape? What would the excellent horror film Martyrs be without the absolute brutal deconstruction of its protagonist? The success of these grisly films is that they provide context and purpose to the torture, and in that regard it engages the conflict between the animal and civilized brains.
I’d heard some good things in the same vein about a small indie horror film from Australia called The Loved Ones. I was lucky to find a used copy of it at my local, and while I can easily consider it one of the most seriously fucked movies I’d seen in a long while, I also enjoyed it immensely. There’s torture, gore, cannibalism, incest, home surgeries abound in this film, but its all framed within a context of classic teen drama themes - wanting to belong, feeling loved and valued, and overcoming grief. Lead actress Robin McLeavy is admirably creepy and committed to playing the jilted prom queen Lola, and she’s matched by a subtle ferocity in her homecoming king, Brent, played brilliantly by Xavier Samuel. But the real stars of the film comes from a very unlikely side story in the film, that of a largely wordless prom date between Brent’s friend Jaime and the resident quiet goth girl Mia, played perfectly by Jessie McNamee. Their story is an antithesis to the hellish nightmare between Lola and Brent. Mia has a true darkness within her that only manifests after her compensating through drugs and sex, she’s vulnerable and all Jaime can do is be a friend to her. It’s a shocking level of emotional depth that is rare in modern horror, and completely devoid in torture porn.
I think director Sean Byrne is very talented, and I really look forward to what he’ll do next. I also think actress Jessie McNamee is the the real deal. Highly recommended.
Pink Ribbons, Inc., dir. by Léa Pool, Canada, 2011.
I’ve had a longtime beef with awareness campaigns. “Awareness” is this nebulous concept that seems like doing the very minimal to support a cause without actually doing anything for the cause itself, and it tends to be an exercise in self-serving ego massage.
Perhaps no greater offender of this is the Susan Komen foundation with their pink ribbon campaign to raise awareness for breast cancer. While I wholeheartedly support the fight against breast cancer and want to see the disease eradicated - a relative of mine last year was diagnosed with Stage IV - I’ve always been skeptical of where the money went from these multimillion dollar fundraisers, and if the “pink” campaigns were really sending out the right message about cancer.
Michael Crabtree was also investigated for sexual assault.
This documentary affirmed all my worst fears. While no doubt the women involved in these events are well meaning and have their hearts in the right place, so very few of them actually are aware of the corporate puppet strings of the Komen Foundation and Avon, and the lack of concerted effort to tackle disease prevention. Being sick is big business, and nobody in the pharmaceutical industry makes money off of healthy people. You have companies that contribute to the known causes of cancer through the production of toxic chemicals, foods and emissions, who are simultaneously the biggest contributors to the Komen Foundation. It’s a relationship that compromises the very integrity and dignity of those women who are dying from the disease.
This is a must watch. It’s just as much about corporate malfeasance as it is about manipulation of the good intentions of people who aren’t making the effort to see the bigger picture. I never donated to the Komen Foundation before, and I never will, and after seeing this doc I hope you’ll be convinced to do the same. But don’t get me wrong - the Komen Foundation itself is filled with good people who believe in the right thing - but as the saying goes, the road to ruin was paved with the best of intentions. Required viewing.
The Seducers (a.k.a. ‘Top Sensation’), dir. by Ottavio Alessi, Italy, 1969.
I love a good b-movie, and have amassed a solid collection of Italian, Turkish, Greek and French exploitation and grindhouse flicks. I was excited when I found a copy of the much-hyped Italian crime-sexploitaion romp ‘The Seducers,’ and snapped it up for a couple of bucks. I wish I had that money back. In a good b-movie there’s a very artistic and acceptable level of bad, which is what makes it so prized. This was just bad and then some. Bad acting, bad cinematography and just about everything else that could go wrong. Terrible, terrible, terrible.
Grazie, but no grazie.