The Butcher Boy (1995)
Neil Jordan’s fucked up version of The Reflecting Skin, in a way. This is one of those first person narratives that follows their source novel. The boys actions are both unpleasant and perplexing with excellent cinematography highlighting the Irish countryside and a beautiful score to top it off. Truly a traumatic poem of violence with pedo priests, shock treatment, and grim hallucinations. There’s a twisted, comedic tone in place but the severity of the boy’s destruction overlaps any attempts at dark humor. Our little butcher boy is surrounded by an alcoholic for a father, a suicidal mother, and religious Irish hysteria. It does become difficult to watch.
The acting is incredibly believable and should be celebrated. Cringe-worthy Francis Brady is performed by an Oscar worthy Eamonn Owens. Stephen Rea plays the boy’s father brilliantly. He always manages to impress and he can act in ANYTHING! I have been a huge fan of Rea and Jordan since The Crying Game. Sinead O’Connor makes an appearance as the boy’s only solace, the Virgin Mary.
Do yourself a favor and check out the novel. At least, skim it.
The Reflecting Skin (1990)
Set in a post World War II rural town during the 1950s, an imaginative young boy believes his neighbor is a vampire. Meanwhile, mysterious murders happen across town. Seth is surrounded by idiosyncratic characters; His abusive mother, a father with a shameful past that reeks of gasoline, a brother who is unable to provide answers, a dead baby that he believes to be an angel, two odd sisters that make pigeon noises, the town Sheriff who seemed to have lost body parts in comical animal accidents, and a widow named Dolphin.
The refusal to offer any explanation as to what the hell is going on in this film creates a dimension of possibilities for the viewers to theorize. What’s evident to me is that The Reflecting Skin is a metaphor for the violence of childhood, Freud. Children are assaulted with information and situations that their feeble minds are unable to comprehend. The film is shown through a little sociopaths point of view and it isn’t pretty. Child abuse is still very much alive and I can respect the artistry and material. However, this is not one of my favorite films. It’s one of those ‘pull off the shelf every 10 years’ kind of flicks. Prepare for depression to set in if you’re giving it a go. There’s not a drop of redeeming qualities in any of the characters. Pure chaos with a pre-famous Viggo Mortensen.
Philip Ridley did manage to transform this carefully scripted number into a beautifully photographed trade with the help of Dick Pope’s cinematic eye. His use of yellows, blacks, grays, and blues bring this film to life with meticulously constructed frames. See his previous work Darkly Noon. It’s a shame he hasn’t put his skill to use in further developments.
My biggest pet peeve goes to the actor playing our little sociopath Seth Dove, Jeremy Cooper. Though the boy’s darkly appearance strikes a cord, I’ve seen better acting from a ham sandwich.
Little Otik (2001)
A cynical retelling of an ancient fairy tale where an infertile couple take their obsession with having a baby to a frightening level resulting in the fears, anxieties, and frustrations of parenthood.
Barren? No biggy! Here’s a God damn tree stump that I carved into the shape of a child. I shit you not. Baby fevered Bozena, far removed from reality, takes a liking to the tree stump and accepts it as one of her own. She breast feeds it, bathes it, takes it for walks, and cuts its toe nails…. Errr limbs. While her husband Karel is shocked by her neurotic behavior, the stump craves red meat with a never-ending appetite so the audience is given the impression that the stump is alive and he too is infected by baby fever with visions of babies every where.
The neighbors in this building are also no picnic. The 10-year-old of an alcoholic father and tedious mother has a sexual curiosity and has no problem bending over to ease drop while flashing her panties to the perverted fossil upstairs. Before you can say WTF, a hand pops out of his sandy trousers. The meaning behind their gross exchanges are obvious but comical.
Riding along with the imaginative folklore – Otesanek, a tale of a wooden baby who devours its parents and half of the countryside there’s talk of lazy sperm, awakening images of blood-spatter, dead felines, and there are street vendors fishing infants out of tanks before wrapping them up in newspapers and selling them to pedestrians. This is a black comedy and I got a chuckle out of several scenes but in the end it had me scratching my head wondering what the fuck it was that I just watched. Director Svankmajer provides a surreal style and jarring close-ups that will ride your brain waves for weeks after viewing. Stop motion animation has never been so nightmarishly haunting.
The Canal (2014)
Film archivist David moves his family into a period house adjacent to a canal that’s rumored to be haunted. Following a plethora of grim visions and suspicions of his wife cheating, David struggles to find answers to the enigmatic turmoil ensuing.
This is one of those ambiguous films where the climax is obvious from the get go. We all know what time it is. The Canal is absolutely terrifying and it’s one of the few films to startle me, much like Babadook. However, the final finish was a little silly and left a bad taste in my mouth which makes The Babadook far superior. There are also misogynist elements in place here. Whether that’s intentional, I do not know and I am not about to start an unholy war between a male critic.
The pros – Shit stains on my mattress as a result to the disturbing imagery that’s backed by an unsettling score successfully built by Ceiri Torjussen. It works at a steady pace with convincing performances, I am a huge Rupert Evans fan. It’s a tired trope that succeeds in manipulating the audience. The cons – Why are there Sharon Tate crime scene photos mixed in with the photos that are believed to be past residents’ horrors? Also, corpses giving birth.
Baby Blood (1990)
A parasite slithers inside a voluptuous circus performer’s snatch in hopes to be born as a human. The mother will have to provide blood in order to keep her ‘baby’ healthy. Horny men across the country fall victim to prenatal care as the parasite grows stronger.
This visceral French number starring a not too terribly attractive but 10 on the body scale, Emmanuelle Escourrou, is a mixed bag filled with fascinatingly grotesque imagery and silly dialogue between our baby mama and her mistake that actually becomes quite creepy if you’re watching the dubbed version with Gary Oldman’s voice. It’s well made with great POV shots. The creativity behind that stabbing scene is a work of art. For gore hounds, Baby Blood features gallons of spraying blood, rolling heads, brutal stabbings, and exploding leopards. It’s one of the goriest films I have ever seen. I mean, this canvas is soaked in red. An uncut version is now available for all of you sickos. It’s an exploitive sleazefest that offers chauvinist pigs for victims so the crowd goes wild with every brutal death. I even found myself craving more carnage. A Baby Blood 2 poster appears towards the end of the film. If only…
Things this movie taught me; Male circus performers are abusive to their women, mutants like the beach, and everything sounds better with Gary Oldman’s voice.