Friday, March 23, 2012

Goregoyles: First Cut (Mutant Edition)

Goregoyles: First Cut (Mutant Edition) (2007)
Starring: Mireille Leveque and Marc Vaillancourt ("Beast" segment), Robert Harvick ("The Holy Terror" segment), and Eric Therrien (Host segments)
Directors: Alexandre Michaud and Augustine Arredondo
Ratings: Six of Ten Stars

I've sung the praises of the anthology fillm format in the past. However, Canadian director Alexandre Michaud recently demonstrated a feature of the anthology that I hadn't considered: If part of the "film" sucks, you can replace it with something else while leaving what worked intact.

And that brings us to "Goregoyles: First Cut (Mutant Edition). This curiously titled DVD, which was first released by Brain Damage Films in 2007, is a revised version of Michaud's 2003 "Goregoyles: First Cut" anthology film.

The only real complaint I had about the original "Goregoyles: First Cut" was the segment titled "Bezerker", a weak attempt at a zombie movie that stuck out like a sore thumb in an otherwise decent package. Given that "Bezerker' is nowhere to seen in the forthcoming "Mutant Edition", I assume that I wasn't the only reviewer who had unkind things to say about it. And it's absence is greatly appreciated, as it smooths out the film, resulting in a even level of quality across all segments.

(Although I need to stop thinking of the elements of a "Goregoyles" package as "segments". They are actually distinct short films, each directed by a different independent horror filmmaker and surrounded by "host segments" featuring a severely perverted and violent male Elvira-type character. Producer/Writer Michaud has stated that the "Goregoyles" series was conceived along the lines of the big-budget extravaganza "Grindhouse", in so far as each installment is a "double-feature" of short films. Not only did Michaud come up with the idea before Tarantino, but he's managed it better... he's offering cheapie horror movies that were made with budgets appropriate to cheapie horror movies... and if Tarantino, Rodriguez, and the Weinstein Company had kept the budget in line with the sort of movies they were presenting, maybe they wouldn't have had a financial disaster on their hands. I digress, but the "Goregoyles" series is, in some ways, what "Grindhouse" aspired to be.)

As with the other two "Goregoyles" reviews I've written, I'm going to review and rate each element of this film seprately, which will lead to an overall evaluation and rating. (Given that this is a revision of the original "Goregoyles: First Cut", I am considering the new material presented in comparison to what it replaced, as well as on its own merits.)

First up, we have the "host segments". In the original "First Cut", each film was introduced by a whacked out character named Uncle Dodo (played by Sebastien Croteau) who came across like a counter-culture, death-rocker take on Cain from the old "House of Mystery" comics. In the "Mutant Edition", the films are introduced by Uncle Vicious, a monstrous, sadistic, murdering rapist who doesn't show any of the wit or charm of the Dodo character. The gory violence he visits upon a tied-up, naked woman in the host segments (including raping her to death with a nail-studded dildo; an act that happens off-camera but which forms for the foundation for "Farewell from Uncle Vicious") was something I found quite off-putting. I understand, however, that this type of material is quite popular with the target market, and I also realize that the fact that I've been stabbed and cut, and have suffered broken bones and crushed fingers might make me more prone to react negatively to detailed torture scenes and other displays of physical pain on film. When these factors are taken into account, I can stand back and say that the host segments are decently presented, Therrien presents an appropriately insane character, and they do the job they're supposed to do nicely. I didn't find them as informative, intresting, or amusing as the host segments in the original version of the film, but they still earn a (low) Six of Ten Star-rating.

The replacement for "Bezerker", as mentioned above, is "Beast" by Alexandre Michaud. According to Helltimate Studio's website, "Beast" was originally produced for a werewolf anthology film, which I imagine ended up never happening, as the film is being presented here. (It was also made some five years ago, according to the copyright date on the end credits.)

"Beast" is part slasher-film and part psychological horror film. It's the story of a woman (Leveque) whose life goes from bad to worse when her mentally unstable brother (Vaillancourt) murders her husband and then abducts her so she can stop him from turning into a werewolf. Although somewhat clumsily written, the film is saved by some excellent acting on the part of Leveque and Dubreuil, and a last minute twist that may cast a different light on the opening murder. Director/writer Michaud is also to be congratulated for finding a way to incorporate the basics of a werewolf story into an ultra-low budget film and avoid transformation and make-up effects that leave entirely too many films of this level looking amatuerish and laughable. Even five years ago, Michaud understood how to work within his means. "Beast" gets a rating of Six of Ten Stars.

Finally, we have "The Holy Terror", the story of a man (Harvick) who becomes possessed by a demon who once gave Satan himself a run for his money. I raved about this short film in my review of the original "Goregoyles: First Cut", and my opnion remains mostly the same. I noticed some problems with the sound that didn't register last time--such as dialogue that's a bit hard to hear due to ambient sound in the scene--but I still think this film is a must-see for aspiring filmmakers. It's amazing what director Augustine Arredondo accomplished for a reported $800... and it's a shame that he apparently hasn't done anything else since.

In the final analysis, "Goregoyles: First Cut ("Mutant Edition") is two steps forward and one step back. Replacing "Bezerker" with "Beast" greatly improved the overall quality of the offering by removing a trashy little flick that wasn't worthy of the material it was surrounded with. On the other hand, the host segments lack the charm of the ones featured in the original... although I suppose they may appeal more strongly to gorehounds and fans of the "torture films" that seem to be in vogue these days. (I'm also slightly dissapointed by the absense of the "making-of docmentary for "Holy Terror", but an interesting interview with Michaud and the stars of "Beast" almost makes up for that... and those DVD extras aren't part of the film anyway.)

It earns a solid Six of Ten Stars and my recommendation to those who appreciate well-crafted low-budget movies.

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