Posted: 10/24/2009

 

Terror Pack Vol. 1

by Jef Burnham



Now available on DVD from Palisades Tartan.


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This box set of international horror films from Palisades Tartan includes France’s Sheitan (2006), Japan’s Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman (2007), and the Netherlands’ Slaughter Night (2006). The quality of the films in the Terror Pack is surprisingly consistent from one film to the next— no film here is a masterpiece, but they all display merits in their content and storytelling that allow them to stand out from the mean-spirited, inhuman dreck that Hollywood passes off as “horror.”

Sheitan is a bizarre experience if you are unaware of the influence of Kourtrajme, a French artistic collective with 100+ members working in a wide variety of artforms, on the film. Numerous members of the cast and crew hail from Kourtrajme, including Sheitan’s star and producer, Vincent Cassel (Eastern Promises, Irreversible), who had worked with Kourtrajme artists on a trilogy of experimental shorts. Sheitan marks the feature film debut of Kourtrajme. The soundtrack was provided by their musicians, especially their hip hop artists, and through this I can best describe the film’s style as “freestyle horror.” The filmmakers adopt a standard horror formula, wherein five teens end up staying in a creepy old house, but the verbal focus of the plot bounces between sex comedy and a comedy of manners. The subtext of these two concurrent comedies, however, is profoundly unnerving— the film’s constant reluctance to acknowledge this eeriness only adds to the effect over time. Though all of this is fascinating, what you really take away from the film is Cassel’s brilliantly hilarious yet terrifying portrayal of the creepy house’s inbred care-taker, Joseph.

Special features on the Sheitan disc include a making-of documentary hosted/narrated by Cassel and the original trailer.

Carved: The Slit-Mouthed Woman (known only as The Slit-Mouthed Woman in Japan) is based on a Japanese urban legend about an evil spirit woman with long hair, a trenchcoat and a white surgical mask, who kidnaps children. She then removes her mask, revealing the corners of her mouth slit up the sides of her face, asks them, “Am I pretty?” and cuts the corners of the children’s mouths with a pair of scissors— a very Japanese boogeyman to be sure. This film features some really great child actors, some incredibly disturbing imagery and stars Eriko Sato from Cutie Honey as the Slit-Mouthed Woman.

Special Features on Carved include a making-of featurette; a series of talking head-style interviews with the cast, starting with Sato herself; the original trailer and TV spots.

Slaughter Night (Sl8n8) is sort of a My Bloody Valentine meets Evil Dead and plays out like a more typical horror film with a high body count and a gimmicky horror movie icon in the form of Andries Martiens, a Belgian serial killer from the 19th Century looking to escape from Hell by possessing people and impaling heads on spikes. Where Slaughter Night differs from most American horror film is that people don’t start dying immediately. There are actual characters with an actual plot to develop… well, maybe only one character gets developed, but it still feels more natural than we Americans do it, even if the shaky-cam is nauseatingly overused in any remotely suspenseful sequence.

Special features on Slaughter Night include outtakes, a making-of featurette and the original trailer.

Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.



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