I signed up for the horror streaming service Shudder (it’s pretty much Netflix for horror fans). I was hesitant to add yet another subscription based payment to by credit card every month, but at five bucks a month, I eventually caved and signed up. What really drew me in was their selection. Being one of the few remaining video store clerks in existence I’ve witnessed the ridiculous price mark-ups that are put on old out of print horror flicks or anything being re-released by Arrow Video, and seeing titles like The Mutilator, Blood Rage, and Microwave Massacre on Shudder warmed my shrivelled horror geek heart enough to throw money their way. I’ve watched a couple movies using Shudder over the last few weeks that are worth writing about, so I’ll spare a review of Shudder itself for another post but until then, here are reviews of two of the goriest movies I’ve ever seen in my life (and they couldn’t be any more different).
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)
Riki-Oh is an kung fu action flick from Hong Kong set in a dystopian future where prisons are privatized and run like corrupt businesses organizations. Our main character Ricky is a man who is incarcerated for manslaughter, and by being the best at everything, is able to literally punch a hole through all his problems and take down the bad guys.
Sounds like a real frightfest, right? Why the hell would a kung fu movie that isn’t Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires be on a horror streaming site? Well, young and naive reader, let me tell you. Riki-Oh is one of the goriest movies I’ve seen in a long time. The director, Ngai Choi Lam, should be lumped with the gory greats like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson (yes kids, before Peter Jackson was shitting out Hobbit movies for giant paycheques, he was making the greatest fantasy adventure movies of all time, and before that he was making Kiwi trash cinema that included scenes where blood erupted onto actors at five gallons per second). So while there aren’t any scares to be had at all throughout Riki-Oh, it’s got enough splatter to satiate even the most diehard gorehounds.
While a lot of the violence is played for comedic effect, sometimes it’s legitimately nauseating. Sure, seeing a hole get punched straight through a man’s torso might be kind of funny the first time you see it, but there are scenes of disembowelment and dismemberment that can make anyone cringe. While a lot of the effects are dated, a lot of the big set piece gore scenes were clearly thought out and crafted really well. The practical effects are surprisingly good for early ’90s Chinese cinema, but they’re still light years away from the kinds of horrors Tom Savini was putting out in the mid ’80s. Either way, I think that the effects in Riki-Oh add to it’s already overflowing charm.
The story in Riki-Oh is paper thin, with plot points resolving themselves almost immediately after surfacing and lots of overacting and scenery chewing hammering every point or message in this movie into the audience with no regard for subtlety. You don’t watch Riki-Oh for the message. This is not a thinking person’s movie. There is a scene where Ricky’s arm gets slashed open by a machete, so he decides to tie his tendons back together so he can keep fighting. No, you didn’t misread that. Ricky is just so much of a badass that he doesn’t conform to your logic.
Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky is a capital-F fun movie. After watching bleak, depressing horror films and heavy arthouse flicks for a long time, it’s great to take a break and watch a movie where a man punches another man so hard in the face his mouth falls off. Riki-Oh belongs in any B-movie night, accompanied by many friends and many beers.
À L’intérieur (2007)
À L’intérieur (Inside in English) is a French home invasion horror movie and notable entry into the French extremity movement of the 2000s. I’ve been hesitant to watch any of the big French extremity films based on how, well, extreme I’ve heard they are. Fun, fun things like torture, rape, and mental and emotional abuse all find a home in films like Martyrs, Ils (Them), and À L’intérieur, and are flaunted around like jokes in a Mel Brooks movie. After a long while of beating around the bush I’ve decided to take the blood soaked plunge.
À L’intérieur follows Sarah (Allyson Paradis), a young pregnant woman who gets into a car accident, leaving her boyfriend dead. Several months later on Christmas Eve, a mysterious woman breaks into Sarah’s house and assaults and torments her, claiming she wants Sarah’s baby as her own. Sounds lovely, right? Just to help drive the point home, in the “See Also” section of this movie’s Wikipedia page is a link to the article on fetal abduction. A developed plot is pretty non-existent like in most home invasion films, but À L’intérieur spends most of it’s sub 90 minute run time building immense tension or causing you to cringe and want to curl up into a ball and close your eyes.
I have to commend the filmmakers on the decision to make À L’intérieur a quick but brutal film. Despite it’s short run time, it feels long. This movie is exhausting. Any longer and the movie would either stride well past the extreme and excessive and into self-parody or would have dragged to what would seem like a glacial pace. Once all the set-up and exposition is out of the way, this movie is pretty much a non-stop barrage of violence and murder. That being said, I’m glad the directors (Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury) took their time to establish everything that needed to be established right at the beginning in a pretty smooth and easy to digest way. I’m not too familiar with modern European acting talent, but I thought Paradis did a phenomenal job all throughout the film. From the opening car crash to the mundane conversations she has all the way through to her mutilation later in the film, Paradis’ range was wide enough that she was believable across all of her screen time. And let’s not forget about her counterpart, Béatrice Dalle who plays the demented and twisted unnamed assailant. Dalle fits the part so well, selling the audience on hating her guts all the way through the film. Her character is pretty much irredeemable, but she’s convinced herself so thoroughly that what she’s doing is right that it’s amazing to see how she acts and reacts to everything that happens in the film. Bustillo and Maury shake things up a bit with Christmas Eve visits from family and co-workers, as well as some not entirely incompetent police officers giving the audience just a second to breathe (and sometimes to ratchet up the tension even higher) every once in a while before the blood begins flowing yet again.
So, let’s get to the part you’ve all been waiting for: the violence. I wouldn’t say this movie has gore. I’d say it has GORE. Stabbings, slashings, burnings, gential mutilation, head explosions and disembowlment are all shown in full, explicit detail. If I haven’t made it clear already, À L’intérieur is not for the faint of heart or the faint of stomach. There are a couple scenes involving a pair of scissors and a belly that I won’t be able to get out of my head for a while. While there’s less blood and guts in this film than in Riki-Oh, À L’intérieur plays it all totally straight, and the added emotional investment we have in Sarah makes this movie grind you down as the minutes scrape by. Once the story hits its final act, things get a little ridiculous and over the top (I’m looking at you, MacGyver’d spear and maniacal blind cop [note to self: add Maniac Cop to watchlist]) and it kind of takes you out of the film just before the big final horror setpiece.
Overall, À L’intérieur was worth a watch. I’m glad I finally dipped my toes into the new French extremity pond, and once I fully process this film, maybe I’ll go shin deep next time. À L’intérieur is a tight, well acted and directed, engaging, and extremely disturbing horror movie that deserves to be watched by anybody who gets a kick out of gory movies or by anyone who has become desensitized to the bland Hollywood horror flicks that have been flooding the markets for years. I don’t know if you should have a couple beers and watch it with your friends because they might hate you, but if you watch it alone it’ll definitely require a few beers afterwards to help you get to bed that night.