Ginger Nuts of Horror
BY ALEX DAVIS
Dir. Lucifer Valentine, Canada, 66 mins
There are times as a reviewer where you are slightly limited by the form itself. Those moments are blessedly rare, but in turning to review the fourth part of Lucifer Valentine's Vomit Gore 'trilogy' there is a certain sense that I can't really, truly convey what it is like to sit through one of these movies. Emotionally, psychologically, sometimes even physically, these movies are a pure and utter assault on the senses. And I don't mean that in any enjoyable, lively, colourful way – everything about these films is unpleasant. Lucifer Valentines has a following in spite of – or perhaps because of – making these films a living nightmare for the viewer. I'd even argue Valentine sees you as his enemy and the whole series - and this film in particular – is an attempt to break you.
The other challenge in reviewing Black Mass of the Nazi Sex Wizard (I'm abbreviating to BMOTNSW from here on in for expediency) is that there's just nothing to compare to. There are movies I have slogged through and almost turned of – Thanatomorphose and Vase De Noces spring to mind in particular – but these are least made concessions to the traditional art of filmmaking. They have plots, if they are a bit vague in places. They have characters you can recognise and follow the arc of. They follow something linear in terms of timeline and chronology. BMOTNSW throws everything you know about movies out of the window, which I think makes it an even harder watch. As with the opening three movies, I feel like there is something going on here, some message, although putting your finger on it after one watch is extremely tricky. And, if I'm honestly, I don't think I could stomach going back for a second look. So what you have here is something unique, and I can't look you in the eye and say 'it's a bit like this' or 'it's a bit like that'. Vomit Gore is Vomit Gore, and I don't think anyone has delivered anything like it before or since.
In that lies Lucifer Valentine's strengths – I've long espoused the virtues of originality, and movie makers trying to do things that are new and challenging. And Valentine has always done that in spades. Coming back to do a fourth movie in what has always been widely acknowledged as a trilogy is a bit unusual and fairly brave as well – I suppose it's never stopped Hollywood before, with that said. But BMOTNSW might just be Valentine's magnum opus, and this one justifies the return to the subgenre that Valentine created and remains the only exponent of.
And therein lies the final problem in presenting a review of this movie. It's so hard to watch, such visual and audio torture, that it's taken me a long time to build up to actually watching it. The vast majority of the first three movies remain firmly etched in my brain in a little corner I rather try and forget about. If you don't at least cringe at some point, I don't know what's wrong with you. I consider myself a hardened extreme horror viewer, and I wasn't coming to Vomit Gore not knowing what to expect (although the clue is rather in the title). Yet I not only cringed but shouted, watched through my fingers, gagged – yes, actually gagged – as well as being on the verge of tears at one point. That's the mental and emotional effect this movie has. An hour and six minutes has never ever felt so long.
And how do you rate something that makes you feel that way? What's more, who on earth do you recommend it to? If you have a few worst enemies maybe you could pop them a copy, but this is purely and simply for the most hardcore of readers out there. If you struggled with A Serbian Film, or Martyrs, or Guinea Pig, or Nekromantik, then you'd better turn back now. BMOTNSW is practically in a league of its own when it comes to being disturbing, and remains territory only for those with the strongest of stomach and the bravest of mindsets.
To say a bit more about the film on its own merits, we revisit the world of runaway porn star Angela Aberdeen – played in the first two movies by Ameara Lavey and in the third by Hope Likens, but this time depicted by Sister S. We open with her disclaimer – practically a tradition for these movies – where she says she took part in everything of her own free will, not to copy any of the scenes at home and that fundamentally it shouldn't be watched by anyone who could be fragile or unstable. That's followed by a written disclaimer, so you can't say you haven't had fair warning if you're going to dive down this particular rabbit hole.
The story – such as it is – is kind of a montage of flashbacks, fantasy, dreams and memories as Angela Aberdeen kills herself and goes much further back this time to Angela's younger days and the Nazi ritual that made her and the 'master' who broke her. Sound horrible so far? Good, because what you seen on screen is much worse than that. As always there is a shedload of vomit – with girl shoving their fingers down their throat to bring up more and more – combined with some extreme murder scenes and gore. There are oddly lucid moments, little times where things settle down and the onslaught of hideous imagery recedes for a while, which as a viewer you have to make the most of – they don't last long at all. There's also some pretty bizarre Japanese (I think) cartoons and Christmas cartoons spliced in, which when combined with the sickening visuals and grating soundtrack somehow enhance the unpleasantness of the viewing experience. It'll certainly make Christmas this year interesting (must avoid flashbacks, must avoid flashbacks...)
I've made the bold statement that I consider this Valentine's magnum opus, and I will stand by that. First up, I think Sister S is the best version of Angela Aberdeen we've seen as yet – and some of the things she does to deliver the role are pretty questionable but certainly show a strong commitment to it. Secondly, the style feels a bit more restrained – I don't mind that the symbolism or the amount of repulsive content is toned down, but it feels a bit less over the top and ridiculous than the other did in places. And although the film is effectively a bizarre sort of montage, it feels better constructed and more of a whole than any of the first three did. It's tighter, leaner and for me remains much more on point than its predecessors. The ending is also pretty effective and for me feels a fitting closure to the series as an entirety.
So, with everything I've already said in mind, it's fair to say that most people wouldn't want to watch this. In fact, I expect many of you are happy for me to suffer through that experience oon your behalf. But if you are this far along the review and thinking 'Man, I have to check this Vomit Gore stuff out!', then I would suggest this one. It is effectively a prequel – so it wouldn't be out of order – and I stand by that it's just better than those before it. And if you can't endure this one, then the others are certainly not going to be for you either. But BMOTNSW feels like a director finally nailing exactly what it was he set out to do, and is a fitting conclusion to probably the most notorious film series of all time.
RATING: 9/10. Paradoxical, right? I'm going to justify my rating in three ways – firstly, it is better made, better shot and better constructed than anything else in the series, and I gave those 8s and 8.5s. So I can't say it's better and rate it anything less than a nine. Secondly, the originality of the director in producing such a singular vision of what a movie can be I have to laud. It's wild, unpredictable and truly like nothing else on the market. Thirdly, this series more than any other cuts right at the question of what Film Gutter is about. In most quarters, claiming that a movie is an ordeal and that you never want to watch it (or even think of it again) would result in a horribly low rating. But this is Film Gutter, and this is our ball park, and most of what we cover is intended to be unsettling, disturbing and confronting. And, as a piece of disturbing cinema, BMOTNSW is about as disturbing as it gets. Or, to put it another way, if you want to make your movie an ordeal for the viewer, make it the best damn ordeal you can. Valentine polishes this series off to near perfection here, so I'll be giving it a 9/10.