Shocking Movies: Part 2Nauseating horror.
Once again, vomit inducing content is a subjective experience based on past experiences in real-life and therefore what makes one person pray to the porcelain god may induce a husband bulge in the next (apparently there are numerous websites that cater to some abhorrent fetishes but we wouldn't know anything about that). Also, the ability to churn the insides of the viewer is very much based on context; seeing the competitive eaters in Taxidermia apathetically making room for the next stage of the competition could be hilarious to some while the same person watching Lucifer Valentine's pukefests could be unwillingly encouraged to mimic the on screen stomach evacuations. Either way, there are numerous filmmakers within the horror genre who are determined to make their audience want to yodel the yoghurt.
So, before any more colourful descriptions of barfing are wasted on the introduction, here's what makes us want to divulge our dietary decisions.
Salò, or the 120 days of Sodom (Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma) (1975)
The movie is split into four chapters; the Anteinferno, the Circle of Manias, the Circle of Faeces, and the Circle of Blood. Even with all the cruelty and atrocities that are portrayed in this film, it is fairly easy to guess the chapter that may arouse the desire to spout stomach substances in the majority of those experienced with extreme cinema. Yep... it's the poop one. It starts with the Duke forcing a terrorised girl to eat his freshly laid bowel movement. This act inspires a number of poop related miseries to be inflicted upon the victims culminating in a poop banquet. It is an arduous section of the movie that leaves little to the imagination.
Salò is a very wrong movie yet also provides an examination of the pernicious influence of power and the terrible loss of humanity that assumed superiority can furnish upon the corruptible. The message is powerful but the delivery will be too nauseating for those with even the slightest shit aversion. Obviously some people were even more offended than myself with regards to Salò. The director, Pier Paolo Pasolini, was murdered before the release of his movie and it is speculated that it could be because of the content within.
In a Glass Cage (Tras el cristal) (1986)
Klaus, a former Nazi doctor living in exile in Spain, has made a life's work out of tormenting and mutilating the weak, particularly children; in a moment of clarity, he finally sees himself for what he is and attempts suicide, but he does not die: instead, he is then confined to an iron lung. His wife and daughter cannot cope with his new condition alone, so they seek out a nurse for him. A young man, Angelo, is in the area and offers his services – but it seems as though Angelo's new charge is already known to him from the past, and what's more, he knows what Klaus has done during his life. They quickly enter into a diseased sort of symbiosis, with Angelo commandeering the household and, eventually, with the older man's keen approval, re-enacting Klaus's catalogue of war crimes, as recorded in meticulous, maniacal detail in his war journals.
In a Glass Cage is proof positive of how close the links between sumptuous style and shock can be; throughout a deeply attractive, well-made film, it's nonetheless an uneasy watch, an examination of what can happen when two diseased psyches collide in extreme circumstances. For me, it's nigh on impossible to absorb myself into the film's universe without feeling worse for wear after the experience.
Dumplings (Jiao zi) (2004)
The film revolves around the attempts of an ex-actress living in the lap of luxury trying to regain her youth so her rich and chauvinistic husband won't trade her in for a newer model. She hears about the rejuvenating power of Aunt Mei's secret recipe dumplings and seeks out the elusive abortionist turned chef. The new diet works but the dose required to maintain her marital bliss keeps increasing and she soon goes to extreme lengths to source the secret ingredient.
The focus is continually on making the act of eating repulsive. Even before the objectionable secret ingredient is discovered the chewing noises are engineered to gross out the audience. The movie creates suspicions as to what the dumplings contain but doesn't make it obvious at first. This enables the imagination to get a bit grossed out while trying to deny the inevitable. Being unsure makes it all the more freaky as the mind tries to think of alternatives while secretly hoping it is the worst case scenario. Dumplings aims for biliousness and Fruit Chan effectively makes this happen.
Plot is rather low in the mix, and it's more of a gonzo art project than a coherent movie, but essentially, Nekromantik follows the fortunes of a guy called Rob; Rob's day job involves scraping up the bits of people left over after Germany's copious amounts of road traffic accidents, and when he's not doing that, he's taking his work home with him so that his necrophile partner, Betty, gets to play with dead things. Everything, from the work uniforms being worn to the work itself (natch) to the cadaver that gets bagged up as a gift for wifey... it all has a taint of ickiness to it: something about the lo-fi filming style, its lack of polish and its disregard for staple elements like story and character – cumulatively this makes me feel somewhat sick. It comes across as one of those nightmares you have where you feel disorientated and feverish; you're in the real world, but then again you're not. Add animal killing into this mix (the film contains real slaughter footage from a rabbit farm) and the unsettling effect is only going to be bolstered.
I can't say that I enjoyed Nekromantik as such, and it's not necessarily a film I want to revisit, but I can respect any film of its age that can still stick to your skin like such a cold sweat. It's disturbing and memorable, a real overloading experience for the senses.
Slaughtered Vomit Dolls (2006)
Slaughtered Vomit Dolls has a vague plot that revolves around a bulimic stripper turned prostitute and her descent into insanity. The movie is more a test of endurance rather than a shocker. Gore is prevalent in the first movie but as the series continues this descends into porno and piss drinking to try and obtain a reaction. The puking portrayed is genuine for the most part and it is inevitable that, after an hour or more, regurgitation would be on the mind of the viewer (especially after the "regurgitation on the mind" scene).
Despite being known as the Vomit Gore Trilogy there is talk of a fourth movie this year. I may wait for that one to be shown on TV. A vomit gore movie marathon would truly be a test of maintaining stomach contents, whether that is because of the on screen bodily waste or the perceived pretentiousness of the artistic aspect of the experience.
Traces of Death (1993)
To prolong the comparison for a moment though, Faces of Death has a central character in the guise of a "doctor" who narrates the collection of clips, giving it all a semblance of credibility – someone to guide us through the footage which is to follow, linking everything together. Traces of Death doesn't bother with any of that. You're on your own. It simply pitches you into a series of death scenes, some well known (like the R. Budd Dwyer public suicide, which it plays over and over again at varying speeds) some intriguing, rather than horrific (like footage of an embalming taking place, showing the skill involved in this line of work) and some nothing other than vile; I could happily live out my days never seeing a living animal's skin being blow-torched ever again, as one of the sequences here shows and which, I confess, I skipped through when I realised what was happening.
A relentless barrage of footage which goes on for nearly one and a half hours, including everything from surgery to people being gunned down, you can't help but be carried along by Traces of Death. It's grotesque and it's engrossing – in a way that even the most stomach-turning works of fiction can't achieve. This is a sure-fire way of taking voyeurism and morbid fascination to the extreme – and it is definitely not a film for the squeamish.