REVIEW: The Passion of the Christ (2004)

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The Passion of the Christ: B+

While Bloodcrypt’s primary purpose has always been to provide a safe haven for closeted gay politicians to meet up with hairy bi-curious traveling salesmen, we sometimes like to post reviews of horror films. And one of the best things about reviewing movies is that sometimes you get to bring an obscure little movie to the attention of a wider audience.

While it certainly got lost in the shuffle of movies like Saw and Saw II, along with Saw III, Saw IV, Saw V part 3, and Saw: Look Who’s Sawing Too, a lot of fans of the “torture porn” genre would appreciate a film like The Passion of the Christ. It has everything you want in a film from this genre: beatings, blood, more beatings, nails through body parts, and Aramaic.

What sets this film apart is that it makes it a period piece. It all takes place in some obscure backwater territory of the Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Nero. The primary victim is some guy named Josh or something (it’s been a while since I’ve seen it) and he’s being tortured under the order of Pontius Pilot. (What’s frustrating about the movie is that you never get to see what kind of a plane Pilot flies.) The tricky thing is, Pilot’s not all that into it, and he even does some sort of symbolic thing where he cleans his hands or some shit. I’m not sure what that’s all supposed to mean. But the point is it’s a bunch of bearded Druids (or something) who want the Josh guy dead. Why do they want him dead? It’s not clear. He seems like he’s pretty cool. Maybe it’s because they’re jealous.

Those of you who are expecting something along the lines of I Spit on Your Grave or its remake, known as I Spit on Your Grave, might be disappointed. Yeah, you watch as Josh gets beaten into a pulp. There’s even a part where they whip him, and the whip has little spikes in it which tear his skin off. When the beatings are done, they stick him way up in a tree next to a couple of other guys who are put up in other trees. (Why were they beaten? I dunno, but I think that this movie demands a prequel!) When all that’s done, you expect Josh to finally find his way off of it and deliver some payback. Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you, but they imply a lot more than they show, if you know what I mean.

Not only does this movie deliver the thrills while instructing the audience on an often-overlooked piece of history, but what really makes it great is that since Josh is Jewish, it really turns into a tribute to the Jewish people. The director, Mel Gibson, himself a Jew, clearly wanted to pay tribute to the culture of those who have been responsible for so much of what’s great about American entertainment, and he really delivers with this one.

REVIEW: Martyrs (2008)

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Martyrs (2008): B

I changed the grade on this flick three or four times.  I started in the “C” range, but the more I thought about it, the more I had to admit that there was a bunch of stuff that stuck with me, and that counts for a lot.

I was made aware of this French indie on one of those “movies that shouldn’t be viewed” lists, and there is certainly a large segment of the population to which Martyrs would be UV (Unviewable).  This movie is fucking brutal.  However, unlike something like Hostel or other “torture porn” of that ilk, there is something to the pain that’s inflicted on the two unfortunate “martyrs.”  It’s done for a purpose, not for sadist enjoyment.  I finally settled on a B because the film’s ambition is laudable, and it earns points for doing things I’ve never seen before, some of them I wish I could un-see.

The film starts by chronicling the escape of a young girl (Lucie) from a lair where she is imprisoned on an iron chair with a hole cut in the seat to piss through.  She’s force-fed a disgusting gruel and beaten savagely by faceless assailants.  However, she‘s not sexually abused, which makes the motives of her captors unclear.

She ends up in a foster home, where she befriends another youngster, Anna.  However, Lucie is attacked in the night by a fearsome female apparition that is capable of inflicting physical harm on her.

Meanwhile, we jump to a seemingly normal family of four, sitting around the breakfast table, about to start a seemingly normal day.  The doorbell rings, the father answers it….and a grown up version of Lucie blows him away with a shotgun and proceeds to wreck shop on the rest of the family, including two teens who beg for their lives.  Lucie calls Anna to tell her that Lucie has finally found the people responsible for her childhood trauma.

To go much further would veer into spoiler territory, but I can say that if agonizing, repeated onscreen violence perpetrated against women is a deal-breaker for you, you’re gonna want to give this one a pass.  What ultimately happens to the protagonist is one of the more unsettling acts of naked brutality I’ve ever witnessed onscreen.  However, the philosophy behind the torment elevates Martyrs beyond simply torture porn into some form of art.  It’s not art that everybody can appreciate, which is ok.  We simply can’t all be this fucked up.