Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"La Setta"(1991)d/Michele Soavi

As the resident uber-Italian on the block, I draw the most satisfaction from reviewing my fellow countrymen and their genre efforts here for your entertainment.Nothing exhilarates me more than a good horror movie, except maybe a good Italian horror movie, of course.Tonight,we'll cover a beautifully ominous and enigmatic example from my favorite of these aforementioned directors, fellow Milanese, Michele Soavi, that happens to star eighties scream screen Jamie Lee Curtis' older sister, Kelly, as well as genre legend Herbert Lom in one of his winter years appearances, and Soavi regular Tomas Arana in a splendid turn as a Manson-esque mass murdering Satanist.Also on board for the nether-born chaos and carnality (filmed over three months in 1990 for roughly two million dollars) are Donald(Dr. Butcher,M.D./Zombi Holocaust)O'Brien, Mariangela Giordano, and the legendary cult hero, Giovanni Lombardo Radice in a memorable cameo sequence, proving he may be the best at portraying an off-kilter kook on camera.Even Soavi himself turns up in an uncredited cameo as a magician on television.The effects were, of course handled by maestro, Sergio Stivaletti(some of the oddest work I've seen from him to date); with original sountrack work handled by none other than Pino Donaggio.
From the initial frames the viewer instantly knows it's a Soavi movie, due to the highly stylish trademark cinematography within, engulfing the film in a dream-like aura, making one wonder if he or she wasn't in the middle of an elaborately strange yet beautiful nightmare; a nod of influence to producer and co-writer Dario Argento perhaps, perhaps due in part to the surreal quality of the odd story itself.I haven't seen too many people champion Setta, as should definitely be the case here, but I blame that upon lack of exposure to many genre fans, and not a general dislike for the movie.I suspect that the pedestrian U.S. release title,"The Devil's Daughter" and the uninspiring Italian region 2 dvd sleeve artwork(Kelly Curtis holding a constrictor superimposed over some tinted energy lightning.Scared yet?Nah, me neither.More horrible than horrifying.) haven't helped win many viewers over either.A screening will have the opposite effect, revealing a murky,atmospheric,and often very spooky experience if you're willing to accept it.Highly recommended.
What Martin Romero(Johnny Morghen) lacks in hair follicles, he makes up for with batshit craziness.
We open in the desert with a commune full of sixties reject hippie dirt merchants doing what they do best, getting their tits painted and neglecting their kids, until they're finally set upon by a murderous cell of Satanic bikers, led by Damon(Tomas Arana) who's like Charlie Manson with better taste in music(he quotes the Rolling Stones, not the Beatles).Thankfully they slaughter the whole camp like groovy peacenik piggies,with Damon pow-wowing about a devil-driven apocalypse with unseen passengers in an ominous black limousine afterwards.It's not time, just yet.We spring ahead decades later to the nineties in Germany, where Martin Romero(get it?)(Johnny Morghen) is driven by unhallowed motives and impious forces to stalk and kill a woman, before a subway pickpocket unwittingly lifts a disembodied human heart from his pocket(Bobby Rhodes Demoni voice:"That'll teach ya to steal thangs!"), leading him to kill himself with an officer's revolver rather than be arrested for his heinous crime.Meanwhile a grizzled, feculent methuselah(Always wanted to call somebody that FTR) named Moebius(Herbert Lom)rides a cross-country bus, clutching a mysterious package and intermittently dosing his peepers with some horrible dark liquid.During a pitstop he is walloped to the asphalt by a car driven by a woman named Mirium(Kelly Curtis).He refuses the obligatory ride to the hospital, opting instead to recharge his creepy batteries on her couch for the night.A bad move on her part, unless she was looking for the elderly stranger to sneak into her room during the night and allow an earwig-esque insect of unknown origin crawl up one of her nostrils and exiting Stage Well-in-the-cellar, which I probably don't think was the case...A simple "Heyyy,thanks for letting me crash at your place, baby." would have been closer to proper etiquette here.
Jovny the Vlasic stork delivers a diabolical pickle from Hell.
Before too long, Moebius' true intentions for the attractive young school teacher become known, camoflaged against a haze of deliriously wild dream imagery like a television watching bunny(...yes,bunny) that even channel surfs with the remote, an amorous stork(...yes,stork) with a propensity for rape and pecking mealworms out a beak-created meathole in a human neck, faces peeled off n' jacked up with the aid of multiple surgical finger-hooks, origin-free blue stringy residue in glasses of drinking water, evil animate hankies that form-fit into death masks(Sam Raimi was watching, no doubt) on the grillpiece of Miriam's friend and fellow schoolteacher Kathryn(Mariangela Giordano,of "Burial Ground" fame), and irrational giallo-styled stabbings: He is the elder of a sinister sect that has targeted Miriam as the life-vessel to carry the hell-seed to bear the son of the dark lord and master, Satan himself, triggering the Astarothical armageddon that Damon was plugging for in the first reel, enslaving the doomed human race.This all should have become painfully apparent when she discovered the Carollian portal to Hell in her basement.She probably might have wanted to check for that when she bought the house in the first place, I dunno.Does Ol' Scratch get the opportunity to hand out brimstone-flavoured "It's a boy" cigars? I'll let you snare a copy and find out what happens at the climax for yourselves.You'll dig it.
...On the receiving end of what's known in the industry as a "reverse Joan Rivers".
As far as I know, no NTSC dvd has been released for tonight's review as of yet; I rushed out and grabbed the Italian disc with all speed ages ago, and it perplexes the writhing screw out of me to see genre fans whimpering about paying twenty-two dollars for a dvd(I paid more than that, ya petticoats!), let alone one by a masterful director such as Soavi that they've more than likely yet to see, yet box packages of Peter Jackson's Rings trilogy(they've likely seen a dozen times already) go for upwards of eighty bucks( expensive hobbit indeed.Sorry.),and spend weeks on the best seller list with no backlash.Prioritize intelligently, is what I'm saying here, woprophiles mine.
A visually stunning and bizarre progression from his previous two genre pieces,Stagefright(1987)and La Chiesa(1989),Setta, which was also puzzlingly marketed to some extent as Demons 4(with Chiesa serving as Demons 3), is an expert honing of Soavi's directorial blade, which would be held aloft over all(at least according to ol' Wop's standards anyway) by the time of his next film,Dellamorte Dellamore(1994), his last horror film to date.I've seen hardline Argentophiles rip on Soavi for this movie's Dario-esque feel, even going so far as to call him a hack because of it.Climb out of Argento's ass already, ye blind sycophants, and conserve your venom for more deserving Italo-cinema failures,like Trauma(1993) or Phantom of the Opera(1998).Pssst, that's two more asspies than Michele has ever helmed.Soavi rules.Three wops.
Put that groady external womb-bag away, would you? Can't take you anyplace.


Nigel Maskell said...

that rabbit thing- came out of the blue and was a pleasant surprise,it sort of seemed to go against the tone of the rest of the film. inspired.

beedubelhue said...

Love this one.I think it's a perfect next pre-Dellamorte step for Soavi from La Chiesa.I can't believe how many negative opinions I've heard from people on it lately.


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