FILM GUTTER Come on in, the water's confining... Scrapbook (2000) Dir. Eric Stanze, USA, 95 mins
Running a weekly review here at Film Gutter is a really interesting thing for me on many levels, and one things that often occupies my mind is getting the right mix of material. It's good to cover some great new movies, as well as to head all over the world to check out some obscure films and cult favourites. And then there are those well-known, dare I say notorious, movies that are such prime Film Gutter territory that I do genuinely try and space out. We've yet to look at Salo, or Melancholie Der Engel, or Cannibal Holocaust, or the August Underground trilogy... but these are treats (??) I am portioning out. They'll get a feature here in due time, don't worry.
The reason I mention it is because today's movie is one I've wanted to watch and cover for some time, and one I deliberately hadn't come to as yet. But finally I gave into the temptation to watch Scrapbook, the infamous feature from Eric Stanze which has such a high reputation in extreme horror circles.
And I am delighted to report this one did not disappoint. Scrapbook is full-on, visceral and unrelenting, the kind of filmmaking that is liable to take years off your life. And this is intended as a huge compliment.
The film centres around serial killer Leo (played by Tommy Biondo) and his latest victim, Clara (Emily Haack) and the disturbed and disturbing dynamic between them. The movie opens with a very impactful flashback to Leo's childhood, in which his older sister attempts to seduce him only to be interrupted by their father, who proceeds to drag Leo aside and rape him. So it's clear from the get go we are not f***ing around.
This is one aspect of the limited back story of Leo we get, which normally would be a bugbear for me, but the performances from Biondo and Haack are strong enough to compensate for that. It's not so much about the individuals, but the interaction between the two of them and the brutal assault that Leo launches at Clara – and that Clara survives. This includes a couple of unflinching rape scenes – including the infamous wine bottle scene – and a series of attempts by Leo to destroy his victim's mindset. Something about Leo stuffing Clara into a barrel, pouring milk into it and then keeping her in there for days also really got to me. The handicam style of shooting is really effectively delivered – given that it's not usually one of my favourite types of flimmaking, it's quite something that it doesn't jar on viewing.
It's a little hard to describe why Scrapbook works so much better than many movies in a similar vein – after all, I've previously criticised 'serial killer vs victim' movies for a lack of convincing characterisation and genuine plot. But this movie, for me, is the pinnacle of its form – it has a raw, crushing energy throughout and looks phenomenally believable. The concept of the scrapbook that sits at the heart of the story is a fascinating one, and every single aspect of this film is so committed and so wholehearted that it distinctly lifts itself above many of its fellows. I couldn't peel my eyes away from this one at any point, from its startling opening to its very satisfying conclusion.
Put simply, extreme horror fans should not miss this one. Scrapbook may be 15 years old, but remains a fresh-feeling piece of work, which is testament to just how good it is.
RATING: 9.5/10. Some of the classics of extreme horror don't really live up to their reputations, but Scrapbook is certainly not one of those cases. Striking, well-acted, genuinely believable and truly compelling, if you haven't checked this one out as yet go and treat yourself. This one will surely still be held as a classic of the subgenre for many years to come, and rightly so. After this one I'm very much looking forward to covering more of Eric Stanze's work, so be sure to check those out here at Film Gutter!