BEGOTTEN (1990) – Written and directed by E. E. Merhige, this black and white art film runs 72 minutes. Merhige later directed Shadow of the Vampire, a surreal horror movie about the making of the silent film Nosferatu.
Begotten was grandly described by its creator as a depiction of “the death and rebirth of gods.” If that didn’t make critics and viewers of the time want to belt Merhige in his pretentious face then the movie itself did. Okay, I’m largely just joking with that remark, but I’m sincere when I say that Begotten IS one of those experimental films that practically dares viewers to dismiss it as nonsense masquerading as art.
I like Begotten but if I was doing a promo blurb for it I would avoid its director’s lofty tagline and instead use something like “It begins with God committing suicide … Then it gets weird.”
The opening several minutes of this movie – the portion where God does indeed kill itself – have been all over YouTube for well over a decade. The footage seems to have inspired many of the creepy, black and white, nonsensically macabre videos that uploaders post when trying to start an Alternate Reality Game or just to get easy hits from sheer weirdness. (Think of Plague Doctor masks and such.) Continue reading
DR CALIGARI (1989) – “The Cabaret of Dr Caligari” might make a more fitting title for Stephen Sayadian’s genre-bending Dr Caligari. Long before Dandy Dust there was this fun movie which was sort of a hybrid of Eraserhead and The Rocky Horror Picture Show with sprinklings of Liquid Sky and Repo Man. Nightmarish visuals and deranged sexuality abound.
Many IMDb reviewers trash this movie but their reviews read like they were penned by someone who has never seen an Alfred Hitchcock film knocking Mel Brooks’ High Anxiety as “not funny.” Just like with the Brooks movie if you’re not familiar with the cinematic styles and productions referenced in Dr Caligari then no, you won’t find it entertaining.
This movie, which is full of absurdly horrific imagery and horrifically absurd imagery is simultaneously a celebration of AND a parody of art films and silent movies – especially of the German Expressionist variety. The Cabinet of Dr Caligari kicked off that cinematic style in 1919 and we’re told that the title character of this 1989 product is the great granddaughter of THAT Dr Caligari.
Our thoroughly modern Dr Caligari is played by Madeleine Reynal, who camps it up as if she’s part robot, part dominatrix, and part corpse. The good doctor runs the Caligari Insane Asylum, or CIA (remember MK-Ultra?) She’s secretly using some of the asylum’s more hopeless patients as human guinea pigs for her horrifying experiments. Continue reading
PIG (1998) – This cult horror film was a joint project between the legendary Rozz Williams and Nico B. I’m about to commit cinematic blasphemy by pointing out that in my opinion this is one of the most overrated “art” films of all time. Maybe if Pig had come out before Luis Bunuel’s Un Chien Andalou from NINETEEN TWENTY-NINE it might deserve the praise heaped upon it.
As it is, though, not only has this film not stood up under the test of time but it’s even difficult to see why it was so acclaimed back in 1998. By then movies like Tetsuo and both Nekromantik flicks had already pushed past many boundaries that Pig doesn’t even approach, let alone challenge.
The film is in black & white and depicts a (sometimes) pig-masked serial killer who tortures his prey before killing them. His “calling card” of sorts is his habit of carving the word “PIG” on the bare chests of his victims. An obviously willing and masochistic male victim has a rendezvous with the serial killer and the pair travel to an abandoned, run-down house in the desert, numbered “1334” (the title of the sequel Nico B made years later). Continue reading