In Stoic, there are three sadistic attackers. In Taxidermia, there are three generations of mentally-muddled men who abuse themselves in the worst ways imaginable. In The Telling, there's a trio of spooky campfire-style horror stories told one after the other. So here we go… one, two, three!
Directed by Uwe Boll
Starring Edward Furlong
Lowdown: Prison is scary
Stoic, based on a shocking true crime which took place in Germany a few years back, is a little bit cinema verite (no script, it's improvised), and little bit torture porn (the pain inflicted upon the victim is above and beyond).
The movie starts off with a flashback to an inmate's suicide, then plows through the individual interviews with his three cellmates, their recollections of the day's events which led to their friend's desperate act, and finally, the reveal.
The prisoners, each with only light sentences for relatively petty crimes, are passing the time as usual in their cell. They tell stories, brag about past exploits, and play a little poker… but the stakes are higher than usual on this day, when one of them loses the game and must ante up by eating an entire tube of toothpaste. He welches on the penance, much to the consternation of his three "friends" — they force him to swallow the substance but that's not good enough. As their collective anger escalates, the defeated man is subjected to much worse.
The story is simple and the two sets are beyond basic — a cell and an integration room — but the acting and improv is powerful. The cinematography is excellent, as are the edits… if only there had been more edits. The account begins to drag about halfway through, and limps onto an inevitable end.
However, if you are a fan of prison violence films (and let's face, who's not?), then you'll want to place Stoic in your DVD collection right between Chained Heat and Dead Man Walking.
Directed by Gyorgy Palfi
Starring Marc Bischoff
Lowdown: Ejaculate, excrement, evisceration
In this grand guignol gross-out from Hungary, themes such as compulsive wanking, grandiose gorging, and the art of stuffing and mounting dead things are examined with an unflinching microscope, no close-up considered too close.
The first fellow is meat-beater, the second is a meat-eater, the third is a meat-mounter… and it's all in the family. The tryptich commences in Central Europe during the Soviet era, where we are introduced to a drunken soldier in a desolate outpost who is so frantic to experience pleasure, he will try anything (in these instances the filmmaker will let you use your imagination… not so, here). Eventually he has illicit sex with the wrong man's wife, resulting in his death and her giving birth to his piggish child. The little boy grows up big, strong, and very hungry. As the son's obesity and appetite grows, so does his fame as a world-class champion eater ("You've got to watch the cross-swallow," he's warned by the coach as voluminous streams of chunky vomit flow in a projectile from between his soup-chapped lips).
The first two stories are interesting, but pretty much just disgusting and not in the horror genre. What eventually qualifies Taxidermia for a spot here in the hallowed electrons of Horror.com is the third tale (and its namesake), which follows the grandson of the first man, and his pursuit of pleasure in the form of art. I won't spoil anything here because it's best-seen for yourself, but there's gore a'plenty here.
The film itself will bring to mind the arty films of visionaries such as Werner Herzog, Takashi Miike, Andrzej Zulawski, and Terry Gilliam all rolled into one… with maybe a dash of Tom Greene and Sacha Baron Cohen thrown in for those card-carrying fans of The Body World exhibit.
Directed by Nicholas Carpenter
Starring Holly Madsion
The Lowdown: Delicious damsels in distress
This year, three hopeful but plain-Jane pledges for Omega Kappa Kappa are called upon to bring refreshments (sweet, salty, and sippable) for the uber-bitchy and uber-babelicous committee of judging sorority sisters to find out if they're even worthy of hazing. Once they arrive, the leader of the padded pack throws them for a loop when she insists on being told "scary stories" as she and her girls nosh on the homemade "just desserts" (remember: Revenge is a dish best served cold… yeah. It's not hard to figure out where this dinner party is going, but it's fun to watch them bite).
Shot on video and not especially well-acted, what sets The Telling apart from other low-budget indies of this ilk is its exuberance. The scripts are fun and well-thought out, the videography is complex and dynamic, and the players all seem to be not only trying but having fun with their roles. This is a great one to stop on while late-night channel-surfing (and don't forget the microwave popcorn).
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson