A grandiose title, I know, and dependent on one's subjective view of "disturbing."
Important prefatory remark: I do not recommend this movie. To anyone.
August Underground's Mordum, a title which I don't faintly understand, is part of a low-budget, but in a sense relatively high quality, bunch of straight-to-DVD films produced by Toe Tag Pictures out of Pittsburgh. It's the second in a trilogy.
I have not seen any of the company's other films, and I certainly don't intend to.
There are roughly three types of horror films:
1. The popcorn variety popularized by the overrated Scream and Friday the 13th franchises; these offer a certain amount of thrills and suspense (well, in intent anyway), but are no more about horror, or even murder, than are the generic action films. In fact, the method, style, and story are presented in such a way that the audience more or less cheers for the killers, providing that the conventional frisson occurs. Since there is no characterization (or at best rote, unimaginative characterization), we don't truly care what happens to the victims. So there is no genuine horror present.
2. The actual horror film, in which murder and torment are explored in a somewhat more naturalistic way; that is, the actions of the tormentors (human or supernatural) are displayed as...well, honestly horrific. Audiences don't side with the killers, or hope for gruesome deaths of the victims; audiences want the victims to live, to succeed, and we have ill will towards the villains, or sadness and despair at the sorry state of things. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a classic in this genre; and the French film l'interieur is for my money one of the best horror films ever made. The good ones of this type are visceral films that, like good movies generally, have something to say.
3. "Extreme" or "gonzo" horror films: these are what are commonly referred to as "exploitation films." Their point of existence is to repel and shock, often through imaginative uses of gore, as well as a pointed and sometimes clinical focus on human suffering. Most fail by standards of their own premise; they don't horrify in any profound way; they don't tell us much or anything about the darker perspectives of human existence and the violence inherent to nature (except, I suppose, by virtue of their very existence).
That's why the Saw movies, for example, are not scary; people who find them scary simply lack the self-education of having watched and thought about horror films. If this sounds like snobbery, consider people who think Twilight the pinnacle of the romantic drama, or The Day After Tomorrow as a superior action film. Similar measures apply to what are and are not good horror films. (No, of course it's not a science, and everyone disagrees on specifically what are and are not "good" movies...but everyone, uncontroversially, agrees there are "good" and "poor" genre movies.)
Now to the film in question here.
August Underground's Mordum is clearly a film in which the architects consciously chose to avoid any boundaries. If it has anything enlightening to offer, it's that I fully realized for the very first time how ubiquitous those boundaries are in movies, including in horror films.
There is really no plot. The "story" revolves around a woman, her brother, and her boyfriend, who are joint serial killers. The conceit is that it is a snuff film. This isn't a "found footage" movie; we are never outside the central conceit. There is no conventional editing, music soundtrack, artistic lapses in time and place to navigate for us the fact we are watching a fictional account. Thrust directly into the point of view of monstrous sickos, we are watching three people, depraved and vile even by serial murderer standards, filming their exploits just for kicks. The production values are truly terrible, which makes sense because it is filmed entirely on out-of-date videocam. But the acting is naturalistic, the special effects appear real.
Is the result a good movie or a bad one? That is perfectly unclear. I would say it's both; it's successful as a film in its own right...but I detested it.
I have never been so repulsed by a movie. My emotional response afterwards was one of disgust, and sadness. Seriously. So the movie is a "success" by the standards it plainly attempts. If it weren't done right, I think the disgust would be joined by shake-your-head laughter at how awful it was, and the whole thing would be eminently forgettable. But it isn't. I felt dirty, as if I had just watched the vilest and most depraved piece of pornographic excess around. I almost felt secretive about having watched it. It's that extreme, presented as it is as a snuff film.
I've watched more horror movies than I can remember, but this is the first one I've seen that is literally too much for me. I watched the whole thing in about forty minutes, because I felt compelled to fast-forward, again and again; not from boredom, but from revulsion.
After three-quarters of an hour of incest, dismemberment, rape, maggots, cruelty, sex with a disembowelled torso, vomit, a man forced to cut off his own penis in excruciatingly graphic detail, necrophilia in a dirty bathtub, feces, and infanticide...I've discovered that I have my limits.
I didn't know that about myself. Quite educational.
Do not watch this movie. It's worse than I'm making it sound, actually. It's not scary in a suspenseful way; it's scary in an existential way.
Yeah, I like the song. I bought the album at 13, and wore it to a scratched husk. This particular tune is a classic in the genre of rock n' roll drinking songs.
But...come on, people! Enough is enough. There are lots of other good songs. Stop playing this one so endlessly. I beg you. Let it go. It's so damn...over, man!
2. "Old time Rock n' Roll" Bob Seger
If any of you grew up in my socioeconomic bracket, you heard this song played at weddings, graduations, and drinking parties. You heard it year after year, and occasionally still do.
Sadly, and if I can slander my own environment, if you grew up in my bracket you're probably dumb enough to think it's an excellent tune. It isn't. Don't be a dumb hick; wake up.
Jesus Christ on a cracker. I'm bloody sick of it. Jeez, the man himself vaunts the virtues of blues, funky old soul, and what have you; he didn't suggest you only listen to his one interminable song! You're stupider than he is. Smarten up.
3. "Footloose" Kenny Loggins
Fuck you. At least the other two songs I mentioned are half decent. This one is not. This is a terrible song. If you like this song, you're not good. You lack virtue and character. This song ranks among my least favourite of all time, alongside "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies and "Seasons in the Sun" by Terry Jacks. (At least that one had the dignity to fade away, right?) But "Footloose"...wow. I mean...you're kidding, yes? Why have I heard this awful tune a thousand times? It's not right. I welcome the Islamist Caliphate, so long as beheading is the punishment for playing this abortion.
And now they're remaking the movie (which sucks every bit as much as the title song). I heartily wish for all of you to go to hell. Peace.
Watched this again yesterday, and like the best movies, it improves through repeated viewings.
Adapted from the Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs, this is nonetheless a Scorsese film through and through. It's a nihilistic exercise in the "cops and criminals...what's the difference?" subgenre, in which everything of moment comes down to personal, individual contradictions. If there is systemic corruption and criminality, it's because human beings are systemically fucked up.
Bad boy Costigan is a cop infiltrating the mob; good boy Sullivan is a mobster infiltrating the cops. Costigan is troubled by family and class demons and has a prescription drug issue; Sullivan has a problem with sexual dysfunction, at odds with his easy (if deceptive) charm with the ladies. Being a Scorsese film, lapsed Catholicism mingles uncomfortably with latent Catholic guilt. (The film's title is itself a truncation of Catholic liturgy.)
Father-son issues abound as well, attaching the movie to a common mythic scope. Costigan's late father, a working class hero-type in tumultuous South Boston, could easily have been a successful criminal, but chose not to. Martin Sheen's Captain Queenan acts as father replacement ("Do it for me," he asks Costigan of the dangerous undercover work, though the two of them have just met); whereas Sullivan's replacement father is the Irish crime boss, Frank Costello (Jack Nicolson, brilliant as usual).
Aside from Cpt. Queenan and Staff Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg in a hilariously profane performance), the Mass. State Troopers are as muddled by confusion, corruption and infighting as is the criminal organization. Sullivan, the criminal infiltrator in the police, is actually promoted as investigator....to discover who the criminal infiltrator is. And Costigan, the undercover cop, is one of only two people whom crime boss Costello actually trusts (one dangerous moment aside).
Meanwhile, Costigan and Sullivan are both in love with the same woman, unbeknownst to each other; and nor does she know the true identity of either man.
Jack Nicholson's gangster is almost demonic; when he isn't consumed by sex (always with cocaine-fuelled women whom he seems to despise), he is casually covered in blood, or handling body parts, and dispensing a sort of Ayn Rand "wisdom" to his worker bees. And of course he, too, is "undercover," and is working with the Feds as a Rat.
For obvious reasons, the idea of "rats" arises again and again. After sketching a swarm of rats apparently consuming the State House, Costello says to Costigan, "You can learn a lot by watching things eat. You should eat something." Everyone's eating one another in this film, and also eating their own selves through lies, double-dealings, suspicion, and guilt. Everyone is atomized and singular, "the individual" as postmodern and alienated, without community, and even "family" is a series of dopplegangers and frauds; the only good one, Cpt. Queenan, is dispatched violently, through a literalization of the Christian "fall."
In other words, what should be convoluted plot mess, overthemed with religious/mythic/psychological issues, and coincidence-contrived, comes out to take its place in the upper-tier pantheon of great crime movies (to which Scorsese had already contributed, crucially with the brilliant Goodfellas.)