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FOWLER’S FLIX 11.04.16: The universal art of exploitation

Artsploitation Films
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One year or so after their formation, Artsploitation Films has done an amazing job on their promise to bring genre films from around the world to your home video system, delivering one adjective-defying film after another from countries that I’m sure most of us didn’t even know had a motion picture industry. From the unsettlingly comedic to the downright mentally disturbing, let’s run though some of the upstart label’s recent outings, shall we?

I’m sure there is some sort of social commentary to be found in the German oddity Der Bunker, but even after two viewings I am still as befuddled as ever as to what it exactly is. On a cold Deutschland night, a young student rents a room in the titular bunker, presumably a leftover relic from World War II, from an increasingly bizarre family including the super straight-laced father, the mother who communicates with an alien living inside a gash in her leg and a precocious 8-year-old (in the body of a 30+ year old) who is in training to become President of the United States.

Genuinely anti-entertaining, Der Bunker is a very creepy little film, one that tends to ride the fine line between deep and pervy, especially when it comes to the young boy who is desperate to please his father by learning world capitols to the point of masochism, rewarded by his mother with a thorough breastfeeding, all seen through the eyes of the boarder-cum-tutor who finds himself delving deeper into madness with the rest of the household.

From Italy (but desperate to be American) is the predictable thriller The Perfect Husband. Many might find the story nothing more than a gorier variation of a Lifetime Movie of the Week—which don’t get me wrong, it mostly is—but at least it is watchable as a couple, in an effort to move on past the loss of their child, go to a cabin for the weekend to rekindle some romance. As wont to happen in a cinematic cabin in the woods situation, things go maritally wrong, axes are broken out and blood is spilled.

However, as rote as that all sounds, director Lucas Pavetto still manages to pull out some truly inspired twists towards the end, making The Perfect Husband a fun little thriller that might not make too much sense, but God bless him for at least trying to stifle audience expectations. Someone has to.

Audience expectations are absolutely thrown out the window—literally—in the visceral Aussie film Observance. Hired by God knows who, a private investigator sets up shop in an abandoned apartment to spy on a seemingly innocuous woman across the way. As the days goes by, however, he starts spitting up this nasty black goo and has vivid death-filled dreams that seem to be bleeding over into reality.

Ultimately vague storytelling and a pervasively paranoid atmosphere veer Observance into such a disturbing, unsettling realm that, by the time the credits roll, the viewer feels dirty, like they were spying on someone maybe they shouldn’t have. The sense of dread lingers longer than the questions the movie leaves behind. Is that something you feel up to?

From viscerally erratic to visually erotic, in 1974 Spanish director José Ramón Larraz went to the foggy moors of England to make the sensual Hammer Films piss-take Vampyres, a subdued but fully-nude collection on the promises of sex and gore that the aforementioned famed British studio would often tease but never truly deliver on. It’s maintained a small cult following over the past few decades (despite actually being quite boring) and apparently someone felt it was ripe for remake because here we are with this new take.

This Vampyres stays pretty faithful to the original, as two female English bloodsuckers keep men chained in their basement for various acts of sanguinary consumption. Of course, this pleasant-enough existence is upended when some nosy campers come looking around and become entrenched in their world of madness and lust. Amping up the gore and sex for modern audiences, this update is still, at least for me, pretty sleep-inducing and might be a big-seller for fans of the original but it’s no different than most late night Cinemax fare, for the most part. For completists only.

Finally, if you need further proof that America’s horror films truly inspire the rest of the world like no other, let me introduce you to a flick entitled Killbillies, the first horror film—one packed with bloodthirsty, inbred backwoods rednecks—from, of all places, Slovenia. You’re welcome!

True to form, as a couple of models head to the countryside for a fashion shoot, they are roundly interrupted by the archetypically deformed hicks, who ain’t taking too kindly to having them on their land. They kidnap them, imprison them in the basement and promise to use their corpses to make liquor, which they sell to the locals (!). As a flight for life ensues throughout the idyllic, lush countryside, even though it’s a trope we, as Americans, have seen a billion times, it’s an enthrallingly fresh take in the hands of another country.

And a big thanks to Artsploitation for putting it into this jaded genre-fan hands. Just when you think you’ve seen it all…a sigh of relief comforts your cinematic psyche, telling you gently “The world is too big for you to have seen it all. Now here’s a redneck psycho flick from a former Eastern Bloc country, sleep well, my son…”

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About the Author

Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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