Starring Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman, Filth) and featuring a score by Laurent Bernard of Gallows, THE HERD is a study into the most unimaginable human suffering, yet it depicts a violence that is perpetrated every day on a massive scale.
THE HERD is written by Ed Pope (Transgressive Cinema) and directed by Melanie Light, and features the additional acting talents of Victoria Broom (ABCs of Death 2, Stalled), Jon Campling (Sleeping Dogs, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows) and Charlotte Hunter (Dungeons and Dragons, Vitality).
Imprisoned within inhuman squalor with other women; Paula’s existence and human function is abused as a resource by her captors.
Escape, on any level, is hopeless as the women are condemned to a life of enforced servitude at the whims of their imprisoners for one reason only – their milk.
Enslaved, inseminated and abused – every facet of their life is violated. At first the premise seems exaggerated and absurd; but is, in fact, disgusting in its stark normality.
Deliberately avoiding the lack of finesse associated with “torture porn” and sexploitation, THE HERD eschews these in favour of a vicarious descent into the visceral nightmare of relinquishing the most innate rights of existence.
Existing principally as a dark and transgressive horror short; THE HERD also asks questions as to how we approach the sentiency of other beings and the importance of the concept of individual freedoms in modern society.
Advocates of high quality independent horror cinema can find out more about the film and, should they wish, how to support it here: http://www.sponsume.com/project/herd
The Seasoning House is a stark tale of repression and the point at which revenge becomes a necessity, not a desire. Girls are abducted to a literal den of iniquity and forced into a life of sexual slavery at the hands of Viktor (Kevin Howarth) as a commodity for his abhorrent clients. The protagonist is a young deaf girl, Angel (Rosie Day), who is spared the sexual abuse of the other girls, but is required to prepare them for clients and has to avoid the ever-present threat of violence that accompanies her captivity.
Set in the war-torn Balkans in 1996 (perhaps ’96 to deliberately place it outside any of the Yugoslav Wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo of that decade?) The Seasoning House uses its set and setting to perfectly encapsulate the horrors that are to come. The cheapness of life and absence of basic humanity are thematically represented in both the macro and microcosm of this film.
Within the first six minutes the Director (Paul Hyett) lays bare the full tragedy of the premise. New girls are delivered to Viktor and he immediately slaughters one to ensure the obedience of the others. This warns of a difficult cinematic experience ahead, but it is performed with such accomplishment there is confidence that all will be handled competently.
The appalling reality of the house is further revealed as the girls are bound and Angel is forced to administer Heroin to them – their compliance now assured in a tether of violence and narcotic submission. Hyett employs an appreciated lack of sensationalism to the process, which keeps the film grounded and focussed on the absorbing tale that is beginning to unfold.
Indeed, this atmosphere of vile oppression is unrelenting and the film is harrowing throughout. The death of Angel’s mother at the hands of laughing, complacent soldiers is depicted with heart-breaking clarity in flashback. Angel’s life from prior to her abduction is shown this way to enhance her character development, beyond what would be possible with a deaf mute in a single location. Whilst being unobtrusive to avoid slowing the pace of the film, the flashbacks still provide a stark contrast between Angel’s previous life and current situation.
Hyett uses most of the first act to build the immersion into the emerging story. There is no doubt as to the hellish existence of the girls, the utter revulsion at the men who pay to use them or the callous barbarism of their captors. Thus, as the first major plot point arrives, suspension of disbelief has been expertly crafted.
It is soon revealed that Angel uses vents in the building to secretly move around the house. This adds an interesting extra dimension not just to her character (an inevitable harsh penalty for discovery still can’t fully contain her) but also to the set, as over an hour of the ninety-minute running-time takes place in this building, which is now made an extension of Angel’s private world. The irony that the structure which imprisons her becomes her greatest advantage is an obvious but enjoyable one. Naturally this was reminiscent of The People Under The Stairs, although The Seasoning House is a far more tangible and oppressive movie.
Right on schedule at the half-way point of the film, the soldiers who killed Angel’s mother turn up at the house. Angel hears the screams of the only girl she has befriended in the house, as one of the military men rapes her to death. To this point the film’s pervasive sense of helplessness made it easy to forget that this is a story of revenge; so Angel’s first act of retribution came as a genuine shock, not least because it was so utterly brutal in its ferocity and violence.
A fantastically anxious final act then follows with the soldiers and Viktor hunting Angel down through the house and beyond. Hyett hit the balance between ultra-violence and adrenaline-inducing thrills very well. The earlier craftsmanship to create such empathy towards Angel reaped its rewards as it transformed into a vicarious tension as she is pursued.
Sean Pertwee, as Goran – the captain of the militia, was typically excellent. This is the kind of role he excels at (such as in Dog Soldiers). The south-eastern European accent must have been a challenge to maintain, and this occasionally shows, but not too much to be intrusive. Indeed, the acting across the cast is very good, with Rosie Day another stand-out, as Angel, hitting the perfect note in every scene, and avoiding the easy clichés of playing victim or heroine.
It is true to say that every aspect of this film has been done before; but originality is a harsh yardstick to hold any movie to, especially horror. The Seasoning House proves that if a tale is well told and the production values are high, lack of innovation in the story and set pieces are not sufficient to prevent the film being an effective one.
Quality scriptwriting ensured that it was gratifyingly uncertain as to how the ending of The Seasoning House would arrive. Would there be salvation, retribution or the brutal realism of an unhappy ending? The Seasoning House makes its choices, leaves an intelligent degree of ambiguity and executes its conclusion in the same satisfying manner afforded to the rest of the piece.
Revenge movies have largely gone the way of the zombie film in recent years; they are overdone to the point of tedium and it requires a picture of high quality to elevate itself above the dross. I Saw The Devil does just this.
With the sub-genre having been debased to the very formulaic structure of: Act One being half-an-hour of prolonged murder, Act Two being the attempt to capture the antagonist and Act Three being half-an-hour of bloody revenge; I Saw The Devil proves beyond doubt that you don’t need an original plot to produce an intelligent and engaging film, if you structure it in an interesting way. It is atmospheric and beautifully shot, and once the viewer is immersed to the point that they trust the competence of the director, the actions of the characters become enjoyably unpredictable. This is executed by fine acting from the two leads.
With a commendable freshness, Director Jee-woon Kim deftly weaves this familiar tale – of the bereaved husband seeking revenge for the murder of his pregnant wife. Whilst it is undeniably violent, the film never once feels gratuitous. Recognising the need to effectively vilify his serial killer antagonist, Kim avoids the pitfalls of lesser filmmakers by eschewing lingering scenes of women being murdered, yet skilfully creates his villain by showing the intense, merciless fervour with which he slaughters. Thus, each of the killer’s actions shock and offend the viewer anew, rather than serving to desensitise.
I Saw The Devil does not feel long at a 2.5 hour running time. This is achieved by interspersing the main story arc, of pursuit and revenge, with an interesting focus on the emotions and motivation of several of the characters. There are moments of black comedy and some well executed action sequences that would not be out of place in a more mainstream film. Kim defies our expectations by having the antagonist ensnared repeatedly – only to be released to prolong the hunt.
It is the exploration of the nature of revenge that raises I Saw The Devil above the norm. It functions to examine revenge as a base emotion and what this ultimately achieves. Does revenge simply become a convenient obsession to distract from grief, and if so, what happens should revenge be realised or not? Kim addresses this theme successfully without it encroaching on the plot or ever being condescending.
I Saw The Devil is disturbing, entertaining and thought-provoking. It remains unpredictable to the end, despite feeling very familiar. Jee-woon Kim creates a world with a palpable sense of threat and obsession, which is not only a beacon in a tired and lazy revenge sub-genre, but the new standard for all modern horror thrillers.
I want my Transgressive Cinema readers to be able to get this short story for free – so if you download The Herd before the end of the July it wont cost you a penny.
Shot in black and white and with a lead character who doesn’t utter a single word during the entire movie – The Human Centipede 2 feels very different to its predecessor but is exactly the film that many incorrectly assumed that Tom Six had made with the original installment.
Like the first movie no one can fault the casting selection. In the original film Dieter Laser was a masterful choice as the deranged scientist who envisaged the concept of a “human centipede” – yet in the second offering this has been surpassed. Laurence R Harvey – who plays the socially inept and mentally deranged Martin – portrays his character with a significant physical presence; with a toad-like appearance he elicits simultaneous pity and disgust.
Martin lives with his vile mother and works a night shift monitoring CCTV in a car park. This solitary employment allows him to indulge his obsession with the first Human Centipede movie. He watches it endlessly, documents it and even pleasures himself with sandpaper whilst watching it. Eventually Martin decides to make his own bigger and better Human Centipede with twelve people instead of just the three. Thus he sets about the logistics of his task and collecting the necessary human components.
There is some interest in Martin’s character and story – and no one could fault the acting of the limited cast. Martin’s relationship with his mother develops to a crescendo which becomes a horrendous “Psycho” image for the Saw generation. The film does leave an unanswered question in the viewer’s mind, but not one that lingers for too long.
To assess a movie like this from a point of high-brow smugness is to miss the point completely. The concept of the Human Centipede First Sequence was fairly innovative and on this basis alone should be praised and encouraged – as there is a paucity of originality in the modern genre. In this Full Sequence Tom Six spares no detail and pushes any boundary he sees fit. Although this style delivers nothing new in these days of ultra-gory horror it at least fulfills its brief – and anyone sitting down to watch a film such as this has only themselves to blame if such content bores or offends them.
The monochrome style, which serves to make the graphic gore less sensational but no less repulsive, and the curious antagonist make this a more interesting film than the previous one. Ultimately such a movie will always revolve around its very basic premise – accept this before proceeding and enjoy being grossed out for 90 minutes, otherwise don’t be shocked if you are disappointed.
Frank finds himself in debt to a supplier, so when a former prison associate turns up unexpectedly asking to score a large consignment of heroin at short notice, Frank sees the opportunity to make back the money he owes. To do so he sources the drugs from the gangster he owes money to – on the assurance that both debts will be covered after the sale.
Pusher is shot in a very naturalistic style, which makes it feel real and immersive. More mainstream movies set in this environment can be overly polished and stylised resulting in the grubbiness of the world becoming sanitised. The movement of the camera and the framing of the shots often make the viewer feel like they are in the room for many of the claustrophobic scenes.
The character of Frank can be vile and crude at times but he is also strangely appealing as an individual – mainly because he appears to be trying to do his best in life and make it through with the cards that he’s been dealt. Unlike many characters of the gangster underworld he does not seem to revel in violence for status or pleasure. Thus he is a character with depth; he has virtues and flaws – all of which are believable and delivered competently by the actor, Kim Bodnia.
The film is segmented into each day of a week. As the story progresses to the drug deal which will pay off Frank’s debts a very subtle, but increasingly palpable, sense of dread starts to permeate the film. There is a definite vicarious concern for Frank and despite his best laid plans we sense that his world is about to fall in.
Of course the deal goes bad and Frank finds himself without either the drugs or the money and therefore up to his neck in debt to someone more than willing to take several pounds of flesh in lieu. Thus the film descends into Frank’s personal nightmare as he embarks upon a mission against the clock to raise the cash.
It takes nearly half the running time before we see the violence we suspected Frank to be capable of; this patience is testimony to the quality of the film. The character is crafted to create empathy which in turn leads to understanding and acceptance of his motivations and actions.
As the tension builds the film becomes a fascinating view into how its main character responds to the conflict he is placed in – yet on a much more human level than more standard fare in this subgenre. The horror of this film is in the violence, despair and desperation that Frank has to endure.
Pusher is an exploration of fate, luck and circumstance – how individual acts and decisions, even those beyond our control, lead us into situations that can change our lives. The end of the film, whilst not completely ambiguous, is open ended enough to make us consider whether events that may appear to be either benign or malignant can in fact be the opposite, and even if they are – we may never know. On this basis a film about Danish gangsters becomes something that relates to all of our lives, and that is a mark of brilliant filmmaking.