REVIEW: LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE (2014, TetroVideo)

Late Night Double Feature is a Canadian horror anthology which brings together the directorial talents of Torin Langen, Navin Ramaswaran and Zachary Ramelan. Shot from a TV channel perspective, we are shown a double feature of short films (Dinner For Monsters/ Slit) as part of Dr Nasty’s Cavalcade of Horror.

The film kicks off at a frantic pace, throwing us straight into the action by introducing us to Dr Nasty and Nurse Nasty who are the hosts for tonight’s late night double bill. The presentation is very much 80’s B-Movie nostalgia with over the top acting and bonkers character design. We are very quickly immersed into the TV shoot delivery by being shown a series of short horror themed trailers and commercials before the first film starts…

The first short film is called ‘Dinner For Monsters’ and sees a chef recruited to join a lavish, wealthy household where he will be catering for an table of eccentric guests. While entering his new workplace, the chef doesn’t fully understand the type of cuisine he will be expected to serve up but he very quickly (and shockingly) discovers the order of the day is ‘human flesh’. This film perfectly combines comedy with horror as an interesting tale of cannibalism unfolds. Visually, the short is extremely well produced with crisp visuals and stellar acting. This segment is very much in the tone of Parents (1989) and Delicatessen (1991); it doesn’t take itself too seriously but is highly entertaining. I found this to be a very strong appetiser for things to come and it left me wanting a further serving…

After a short interlude, we are then shown the second film ‘Slit’ by Torin Langen. A man works as a professional ‘cutter’, providing a service to those who seek self-mutilation for pleasure and relief. Abruptly, and very much unexpectedly, this short film knocked the smile off my face as the comedy of the previous segments was trampled on with a very dark and ‘extreme’ boot. I guess it caught me off guard at first but after a short while I sussed out the direction where this segment was going and eased myself back into the film. Much like the first short, Slit is very well made with high production values and original storytelling but it ramps up the gore and violence. The practical effects were magnificent and it really delivered in terms of shocks and squirm moments while also giving integrity to the subject matter. We see the ‘cutter’ visit one client he would later regret meeting and the tension was managed perfectly right up until its epic finale. The placement of strong subject matter after a comedic start actually provided a very smart juxtaposition and added variety to the proceedings.

After the two films had been ‘screened’ the focus moved back to Dr Nasty’s Cavalcade of Horror as we are exposed to all kinds of debauchery. Dr Nasty is portrayed as an out of control, violent and drunk chauvinist who tries to exert power over his co-host Nurse Nasty. This segment baffled me alot as it switched between ‘comedy’ and ‘serious’ sporadically and I didn’t really feel that it was all really necessary. The story evolved into chaos as several members of the production characters began to fall-out and this is went things got really interesting again. Just when I thought things were slipping away, they managed to save the story with a convincing ending which worked as a neat wrap-around.

Late Night Double Feature was a real surprise. It managed to cover alot of ground and combine alot of different styles within its run time. It was great to see a film dare to do things differently and it provided a unique and unpredictable experience.

Score: 3.5 / 5

REVIEW: XPIATION (2018, TetroVideo)

Directed by extreme horror veteran Domiziano Cristopharo (Red Krokodil, House of Flesh Mannequins), Xpiation is the third and final installment in the notorious ‘Trilogy of Death’ and is a brutal follow-up to Torment (2017, Adam Ford) & American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice (2017, Poison Rouge).

Xpiation wastes no time in serving a stacked platter of torture and punishment as ‘Latino Guy’ (Emanuele Delia) wakes up in a room tied to a chair with a gag in his mouth. Infront of him is an eloquently dressed lady (Chiara Pavoni) sitting cross-legged on a chair holding a hand held JVC video camera. We are then introduced to the ‘torturer’ Simone Tolu who takes direct orders from her to inflict torture on the Latino man…with no holds barred.

From the very start, we know very little about the characters and the situation, but things become clearer as the film progresses. At first it appears the lady is a sado masochist using a ‘easily led’, naive man to bring her disturbing fantasies to life by beating the “Latino Guy’ senseless, but there is more to the story than meets the ‘eye’. There is an almost p’mother/son’ type relationship going on but the woman is ‘using’ the ‘torturer’ to do things he doesn’t entirely understand. Doping him up with drugs to pull him as far away from reality as possible and using him like a slave to carry out cruel acts on a helpless victim.

There is an intricacy to the story which takes a while to brew but simmers nicely. There is a deeply embedded theme of ‘atonement, as the woman plots for revenge on her unstable upbringing and past suffering of unimaginable abuse. The film touches on some very ‘real’ and hard hitting subject matters which brush away any possible comparisons to ‘torture’ horror movies which have came before it. This is very much a tale of ‘abused’ becoming the ‘abuser’ but with some clever twists along the way…

As with all good extreme horror films, the practical and special effects are paramount to its success; Xpiation punches high above its budget with űber realistic gore and ultra realistic violence. We see an array of household objects used as weapons to devastatingly brutal effect as the victims face is battered until it looks like a burst football, and his limbs are burnt and destroyed beyond repair. The gore is painstakingly realistic and bloody thrilling to watch. The torture scenes involving an iron make Hostel look like a Disney movie…

The production values are strong throughout, for a small cast the acting is decent. Chiara Pavoni steals the show with her portrayal of a troubled soul trying to find peace with her past. There are so many layers to the characterisation that you won’t know what is around the corner. The cinematography is excellent, focusing on a single location for the most part but ensuring the room is atmospheric and interesting. The switch to hand held camera perspective adds a nice touch of ‘ fake snuff’ aesthetic and realism to proceedings.

While many modern torture horror films are ‘half-cooked’, Xpiation is ‘sizzling’ all the way through and ‘very well done’. The film is a perfect way to end the ‘Trilogy of Death’ by serving up a feast of gore and violence.

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: Frankenstein’s Creature (2018, Hex Studios) + Director Interview

Frankenstein’s Creature was the debut feature film by Sam Ashurst released in 2018, based on Mary Shelley’s novella Frankenstein (1818). The film is a monologue telling the story of Frankenstein from the perspective of the creature.

Frankenstein’s Creature is an intricate character study which stays true to the source material but also delves deep into the lesser known aspects of the story. The Creature, played by James Swanton, has many layers to his personality and many aspects to his psychology. The Creature is a tortured soul but not devoid of feeling or emotion, quite the opposite infact. The Creature talks through his life experiences and saddening shortcomings while also taking pride in being responsible for his makers downfall. We get to see all aspects of The Creature’s traits. The innocence of his initial life experiences, to the sadness and disappointment, to the dangers of rising bitterness and jealousy.

Frankenstein’s Creature consists of a one-man cast set in a single filming location. For a 91 minute run time, normally this type of set-up would enounter many difficulties but Sam Ashurst ensures the lack of characters and set designs actually adds to an immersive experience and luring atmosphere. In terms of the casting, the performance by James Swanton is so dynamic that it never gets boring. The script is heavy on dialogue but James Swanton manages to get under the skin and into the mind of The Creature and carries the film with strong theatrical acting and high energy levels in his performances. Imagine being front row at the Theatre, with noone else around you; this film creates that simulation and is immersive from start to finish. Swanton uses a limited number of props to drive the story forward but for the most part uses his own movements and limbs to re-enact the story telling through improvisation. In any film, a strong performance from a single actor can win you over, well in a film which has only one cast member and the acting is delivered as intense as this; it is simply captivating and breathtaking.

In terms of the production values, Frankenstein’s Creature has a very unique style but is top-tier throughout. Presented through a grey/blue-monochrone filter, the film pays homage The Golden Era of Horror films but with a modern tint. Despite being set in a single location with a still camera for the most part, the background never feels bland because it adds so much character to the atmosphere with its fixed lighting and stone textures. Ashurst uses overlapping techniques to merge scenery into the frame during key moments of The Creature’s story telling to bring it to life. The insertion of images of flowing rivers and animals walking freely adds alot of depth to the backgrounds while also ensuring there is enough on screen activity to keep things fresh and interesting. Much like the single cast/single location approach, the sound design is simplified but also dynamic. The score by Johnny Jewel is delicate, luring and fractured to complement the other elements of the film and manages to effectively lift the mood when needed and also lower the tone when required too. The combination of moving imagery and ever changing sound design creates a ‘trance’ like effect on the viewer. There is a haunting aspect to watching The Creature open up his soul to us while the visuals sway like a breeze…

We’ve seen countless adaptations based on Mary Shelley’s novella but they normally follow the same formula with a predictable blueprint. Frankenstein’s Creature strays from the path and finds something more pure and honest. The film is a journey, unravelling more than we’ve ever seen or heard before and deserves multiple viewings.

Score: 5/5

Interview with Director Sam Ashurst

NF: How many days of shooting were required to make Frankenstein’s Creature and what were the biggest challenges when filming?

SA: In terms of shooting the performance, we shot it in a single day – in a single take. What you see is an unbroken take, which is 90 minutes long. We had the space for a day, so we had enough time for three chances to get it right. I actually used the first take, because I knew we had it as soon as James finished.

I thought about doing a Kubrick and getting him to do those two extra takes anyway, for safety, but I’m not a monster – that performance always took so much out of him – so I used the rest of the time to get those other angles, of specific moments, for the dissolves.

For the dissolves that don’t involve James, our second-unit director Jonatli Gudjonsson, who’s an Icelandic documentarian and editor, spent a week in Iceland getting those incredible natural shots. I asked him to hunt out the horses, the sweeping vistas, the ice, the abandoned house – which were all so invaluable for the feel of the film. I was so excited when he came back and I saw that footage. It was perfect.

Outside of that, James and I spent a week rehearsing the play at my house, adjusting the blocking and timings to fit the space / make it feel more cinematic.

NF: As a film reliant on one actor, how did you find out about James Swanton and how did you end up working with him?

SA: James actually appeared in a promotional trailer I’d made for a script I’d written, called The Devil’s Patient. This was in 2017, and The Devil’s Patient was intended as my first film. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to it. Since then, Hereditary has been released, and there’s an eerie amount of similarities with that movie.

The Devil’s Patient was about a nurse who got slowly possessed by a demon trapped inside a coma patient, and the conspiracy around her was so close to Hereditary – the ending is basically a mixture of that and Saint Maud – I threw up my hands when I saw that in the cinema!

Anyway, I got impatient while I was waiting for the producers to get the money for The Devil’s Patient, and, in the meantime, Channel 4 gave me a really small budget to make a music video for their Random Acts TV show.

As I was directing that video, looking at the crew around me, it hit me that the budget was so low, I could probably raise it myself. If I did, I’d have the team I needed for my debut film – if only I could make a movie in a day.

I spoke about the idea with my friend Dan Martin, who I host the Arrow Video Podcast with, and he gave me some advice an old teacher had given him – if you want to make a film in a day, shoot a play.

I loved the idea of filming a play, because loads of my cinematic heroes also did theatre, whether that’s Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman or Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and their movies had that theatrical influence.

I knew James had a one-man Frankenstein, and he’d been such an absolute joy to work with on that trailer, so I asked him to send it over to me. He did, I found it insanely powerful – it reminded me of the ‘tears in rain’ speech from Blade Runner, but feature-length! And the rest is cinema history.

NF: Apart from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novella, did you seek any influence from past Frankenstein film adaptations when deciding on the direction you wanted to follow?

SA: In terms of the influences, we just looked to the book and used that as the starting point. The play is so insanely faithful to the book (in which the Creature is verbose and intelligent, as opposed to a groaning monster), I wanted to imagine that this was the first ever cinematic adaptation of it.

So, instead of looking at James Whale’s film or whatever, I looked at the cinema of the 1800s, and decided to make a film that could feel like it had been made just after the book was released, lost, and rediscovered. We shot it on the 200th anniversary of the release of the book, which was beautiful timing.

Also, I’m from a working class background, and silent film was originally a working class entertainment, for people who couldn’t afford the theatre, or the opera, so it felt true to where I come from.

A lot of those earliest movies were recreating plays; it was part of the evolution from theatre as entertainment, so they were shot in that proscenium style to recreate the look of the theatre, so I found a location that would allow us to do that.

Every decision was made in relation to that overall vision. Shooting with bold shadows for the black and white grade, using the kind of dissolve trickery Georges Méliès was known for, and the fixed camera of the Lumiere brothers (combined with more modern motivated zooms)… It was all in service of that feel.

I also wanted it to have a Fritz Lang feel, there was definitely a German Expressionism influence, because those specific silent films helped birth cinematic science-fiction and horror, which the novel did too.

Even when I selected James’ costume elements (some of which had come from the play, but not all), and when I worked with the incredible make-up / prosthetics artist Roz Gomersall to create a new look for the movie, the style of those silent films were firmly fixed in my mind.

There were more modern influences though – I wanted it to be a trance film, like Inland Empire or some Tarkovsky stuff, to really take audiences on a weird trip. At the premiere you could really feel it start to hypnotise the audience, that was such an incredible feeling.

NF: At the Frightfest 2018 premiere, you were asked if you would consider making another monster film adaptation as a character study. Is this something you would still like to do in the future and which monsters interest you the most?

SA: I’m not sure if I would, actually – I’m so proud of Frankenstein’s Creature, I’m so happy it’s my first film, but I think I’ve said all I have to say about the classic monsters.

NF: Do you feel your debut feature film, Frankenstein’s Creature, influenced your work on the two ‘A Little More Flesh’ feature lengths which followed?

SA: Definitely, in terms of what I learned making it. I learned how to produce a film, and how to manage a budget. For the recent films, I taught myself how to edit, and shoot, so that I could use my DIY budgets on bigger casts / more intense effects.

I also feel like I’ve continued to combine arthouse and grindhouse influences to create really unique cinematic experiences that are unlike any other movies. No-one had seen anything like Frankenstein’s Creature at the cinema before, and that’s driven me to create other new experiences for audiences.

I definitely feel like these three films are connected, they’re a DIY horror trilogy that will always be linked as a whole – for me, anyway.

NF:  It has been 3 years since Frankenstein’s Creature was released, what are your fondest memories of the production?

SA: Probably the rehearsal period with James. We’d run through the play as many times as possible throughout the day, then I’d cook for him and show him a movie that I thought could help his performance. So, stuff like Secret Honor, There Will Be Blood, and Possession, all of which were first time watches for him.

Obviously it was a rush getting the performance on the day itself, and I loved the edit process too – working with David Marshall to get the timings of those dissolves exactly right, and adding Johnny Jewel’s score – the whole thing is a fond memory to be honest.

NF:  What is your favourite Frankenstein movie and why?

SA: Outside of the Universal stuff, a more under-the-radar choice that people should check out is Larry Fessenden’s Depraved. It’s a different, modern approach to the story, with a hell of an ending.

NF: How has the response been in the years since Frankenstein’s Creature was released and what are you most proud of?

SA: Working with James for sure. I am incredibly proud of giving him his first feature lead role. The fact that I spent my own money on bringing his play to the big screen, which premiered at the legendary Empire Cinema on Leicester Square no less, will always be a source of great pride.

It was such a risky project in so many ways, a single-take movie delivered in a Shakespearian style influenced by silent cinema… In a world of Marvel movies or whatever, I might as well have gone to a Scottish island and burned my money, like the KLF! But it was the first film to sell out at FrightFest in 2018, then in 2019 Hex released a limited edition DVD, which sold out in the pre-order stage.

Audiences want to be challenged, and it’s important that independent filmmakers remember that – don’t try to copy what’s out there, make something that’s uniquely you, and it will find its audience.

But, yes, to answer the question, James is an absolute, unquestionable, genius, so I’ll always be proud of bringing his work to a new audience.

NF: ‘ Monster’ movies bring great escapism, especially those which focus on human emotion, do you feel there will be a change in demand after this pandemic?

SA: It’s interesting, because Frankenstein’s Creature involves so many themes that feel relevant – whether that’s isolation, creating a giant inner world, or finding yourself through solitary engagement with nature, that it almost feels like a pandemic movie! It was certainly shot in a way that is conducive to the current challenges we’re all facing as filmmakers.

But I’m not quite sure – I think a desire for escapism is right, but we’re in such a transitional period right now: I think smaller, personal movies might be what people start to crave, because the big screen experience is changing so much, which matches the business sides of things – the studio balance sheets are also changing. That said, it’s probably best to look at politics for the answer, horror always seems to grow out of what’s happening there.

NF: Graham Humphreys designed the stunning art poster for Frankenstein’s Creature, how was he to work with and did you set any criteria for how you wanted the poster to look?

SA: He was an absolute delight, a dream. I grew up on Graham’s VHS covers, so I was truly honoured when he agreed to take this on. I sent over images for him to use, and gave him a rough layout, which is very close to what you see. But everything else, the colour choices, the style, it was all him – I can take no credit for that masterpiece of art.

Also, to Graham’s immense credit, I only had enough in the budget to cover a digital image, but he surprised us and went ahead and painted it anyway, for which I will always be hugely grateful. This film was blessed in many ways!

Huge thanks to Sam Ashurst for kindly donating his time and effort for this interview and allowing me to review his work.

Frankenstein’s Creature is OOP on DVD, but the Digital Version is available to buy via https://hex-media.myshopify.com/products/frankensteins-creature-digital-version

REVIEW: eROTik (2018, TetroVideo)

Filmed in Turkey, eROTik is an extreme horror film directed by Domiziano Cristopharo (Red Krokodil, House of Flesh Mannequins) which follows the necrophile ways of ‘Dahmer’ (Adam Western) who has a passion for Egyptian culture (particularly mummification), love and extreme sex.

From the opening scene, eROTik instantly throws you into it a land of extreme horror; jerking off at the face of censorship and moral standards. The film wastes no time in trying to make you spew your load, lighting is nice but the subject matter is dangerously dark and there is no sugar coating. The madman is not someone you can relate to, he is extreme beyond your imagination and his nightmarish visions merely stimulate his abnormal appetite to do bad things. Seasoned fans of this genre will probably expect this to be a relatively linear film following what has been seen and done before but eROTik is no ‘copy cat’. It is nasty, grim and seedy but also beautifully shot with an infectious minimalistic soundtrack. There are plenty of gross out moments which will make you reach for the nearest barf bag or sick bucket but it is simply too brutal and interesting to look away.

When it comes to necrophilia, Europeans do it better. Paying tribute to (but not imitating) the Nekromantik films by legendary German filmmaker Jörg Buttgereit, eROTik is a modern throwback to the much loved (and sorely missed) Video Nasties era. The film certainly doesn’t hold back as we watch the lead actor torture, abuse and dismember his victims aswel as having sex with them (alive and after death). To put it bluntly, eROTik is ‘top shelf entertainment’ which is not designed for mass consumption. For the weak of heart, it will turn their stomach and creep them out and probably force the majority of viewers to ‘rage quit’. But, for those looking to sink their teeth into something with buckets of blood, gore and violence this should be on your list…

Much like the maggots and bugs which inhabit ‘Dahmer”s home, the film is crawling with dirt, seediness and depravity. We see things we don’t want to see. The film is harsh and pushes the envelope at all times with its dark and disturbing imagery. As blood runs black, so does eROTik’s dark themes which are uncompromisingly brutal and unapologetically unnerving. Themes of spirituality and desires are mounted by an uncontrollable urge for the madman to flirt with ‘death’ and we see it unfold in all its guts and glory. The practical effects are so good, it makes it uncomfortable but exciting to watch the brutality reach new heights.

eROTik is an expression of repressed violence and a much needed shock to the system. The film is a bloody, disgusting, morbid and vile masterpiece that will make you want to take a shower after viewing; but isn’t that what we always wanted?

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: THE OBSESSED (2019, TetroVideo)

The Obsessed is an Albanian body-horror film by The Bad Trip Bros, directed by Domiziano Cristopharo (Red Krokodil, House of Flesh Mannequins, eROTik et al). Inspired by the real life story of Bjork’s stalker Ricardo Lopez, the film follows Ricardo (Jacopo Tomassini)’s unhealthy obsession for famous singer Eva (Elisa Carrera Fumagalli).

Broken down into three phases, we observe the stages of Ricardo’s dangerous infatuation with Eva. The Obsessed is a character study which revolves around showing all aspects of Ricardo’s disjointed life style and shows the demise of his mental and physical wellbeing in a very graphic way. Ricardo is a loner, living with several cats and a dog who clearly values the company of animals over people. He has a dirty drug addiction, using his own saliva as lubricant when cooking up, and snorting powder off unclean surfaces. He has no pride in his physical appearance or health and fails to conform to a normal way of living.

Ricardo’s obsession intensifies through time and we are exposed to his hallucinations, brought to life beautifully by high production value practical effects and props. This is where the film really shines, the practical effects are ambitious but the talents of the team involved clearly surpass this. We are shown incredible transformation and body-horror segments on a par with Stuart Gordon’s best films. Seeing a man transform into a cat is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life time watching horror films. We are also shown a series of interesting segments where Ricardo has out of body experiences and speaks to his demons; the level of creativity is extremely original and impressive.

Despite being a straight up body-horror film, The Obsessed doesn’t run far away from extreme. In a sense, it holds it ‘hand in hand’. Showcasing the amazing practical effects, we are exposed to super realistic gore which looks too real to be staged at times. In particular, a self-harm scene where Ricardo cuts his entire body all over with a razor blade is worthy of a squirm and really pushes the buttons of the viewer. I think The Obsessed found a fine balance between ‘over the top’ horror and extreme and it never goes too far on either side. The film starts off as a slow burner but this is needed for the viewer to fully understand the lead character and his intentions, when the film really gets going it hits hard.

As previously mentioned, the practical effects are fantastic. The nightmarish hallucination sequences all stand out of prime examples of why Indie horror does it better. There is no sugar coating. From a giant talking penis with teeth to a chest burster scene to a scene where Ricardo transforms into a demon. There are so many moments where my mouth was open with shock in awe of how amazing it all looks. This really needs to be seen to be believed; truly mind-blowing workmanship.

The acting performance of the lead character Ricardo is incredible. Jacopo Tomassini really sinks deep into the character and leaves no stone unturned. As the viewer, we never get bored of the plot progression as it is unpredictable and exciting. A special mention must go out to Elisa Carrera Fumagalli who plays Eva, her segments may be short and sweet but she is interesting too and the singing (if her) is amazing on the songs we hear during the film. If it is her, the soundtrack deserves to be released. Similarly, the synth score by Antony Coia is breathtakingly good.

The Obsessed is a head bending body-horror film which takes strong influence from the story of Bjork’s stalker but adds its own twisted spin. The practical effects and cinematography are mind-blowing and out of this world. Fans of body-horror need to make a priority to watch this masterpiece. Words can’t do justice at how majestic The Obsessed is.

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: ILL – FINAL CONTAGIUM (2020, TetroVideo)

4 extreme horror directors collaborate to create a powerful pandemic movie with a difference. Lucio A. Rojas (Trauma), Lorenzo Zanoni (XXX Dark Web, Vore Gore), Domiziano Cristopharo (House of Flesh Mannequins, Red Krokodil) and Kai E. Bogatzki (Blind, Scars of Xavier) each bring their own style & short films to the table with a common theme; the spread of a deadly virus worldwide through the handling of contaminated money.

ILL: Final Contagium is broken down into four distinct shorts, each taking place on a difference day in a different country. The film starts with ‘Contagium Day #0’ (Lucio A. Rojas) set in Chile, where two ‘gold digger’ ladies meet a rich man with the intention of spiking his drink and stealing from him. After a few drinks, they had back to the man’s house, finding a briefcase which they assume is ‘only’ full of money…

Dangerous consequences take place when the girls let greed take over them and they unleash a flesh eating virus to the world. The first short sets the tone perfectly for the film, things escalate quickly and the practical effects are incredible.  The level of grimness is on a par with Éric Falardeau’s body horror masterpiece Thanatomorphose (2012). A strong short to kick off proceedings and its fast pace and powerful execution gave me a quench for more!

The next short is ‘Gully (Day #86)’ by Lorenzo Zanoni which is set in Italy. The short starts with a man trying to flag down an ambulance for a car crash victim, while helping himself to the victims wallet. In line with the previous short, upon obtaining the cash the thief gradually starts to fall ill and we are shown the stages of his health deteriorating and suffering. This short is a real showcase of extreme practical effects and transformation and reminded me of The Fly (1986). While his body starts to rot and decay, the man builds an uncontrollable hunger for food and can’t suppress his appetite leading to more disturbing consequences. This short is brilliantly acted and we build empathy towards a character who we initially disliked due to his actions. We watch the man’s body and life fall apart as his girlfriend walks out on him and leaves him to rot in his flat. This short really nails the physical and mental despair of the man and it is sad to watch him wither away.

The third short is directed by Domiziano Cristopharo; ‘The Body (Day #104). This focuses on a Kosovan trans woman who has recently gone through body transformation surgery and is adapting to her new body. This is a highly original short which continues with the theme of a virus spreading through exchange of money but also asks alot of questions to the viewer through its social commentary. 

Pain is the price of perfection. This short has many twists and turns, particularly when we realise the woman is a prostitute and she continues to invite clients over while her body slowly starts to become more and more infected. This short lays alot of focus on the woman’s breast implants which she paid alot of money for. Her desire to be pretty comes at a dangerous price. This short really stood out to me as relevant and current in today’s times, I was horrified and saddened by the pain the woman was going through as her happiness turns to sheer horror.

Last but certainly not least, we have the closing short ‘The Cabin (Day #913)’ by Kai E. Bogatzki. A father looks after his sick son who he has isolated in a cabin. Set in Germany, this short shows the power of a father’s love at caring for a son who has an inevitable death looming. Much like the previous two shorts in this film, this manages to pull the heart strings as we watch the agony and torment of a father trying to do the right things for his son. This short took the film out of urban areas info rural landscapes to emphasise that the virus has no boundaries. I felt the placement of this short as a wrap around was perfect as it reminded me of the ending of 28 Days Later (2002) where we realise escaping to rural areas doesn’t always bring safety or immunity…

The four shorts all carry a common theme around the spread of a virus through the exchange of money but they all ask different questions of the viewer. Is greed worth more than your health? Is beauty worth more than your health? Is money more important than life?. It is safe to say, the film is perfectly crafted to please both ‘gore hounds’ and ‘deep thinkers’ due to its intricate design. The production values are consistently high from start to finish with beautiful visuals, great acting and an impressive soundtrack score.

Overall, Ill: Final Contagium is a stacked , horrifying and thought provoking infection movie which strikes a fine balance between physical and psychological horror. This is easily one of the best infection movies I’ve seen in decades and is up there with the works of George A. Romero and David Cronenberg. It is a perfect blend of body horror and social commentary. While we are all currently living through our own pandemic, Ill: Final Contagium reminds us that it could be so much worse…

Score: 5/5

Ill: Final Contagium is available via TetroVideo: https://tetrovideo.com/shop/ill-final-contagium-bookbox-dvdposter/