Monday, July 5, 2010

THE BURNING MOON, Olaf Ittenbach, 1992

My favorite horror films are usually completely nonsensical. The more confusing, messy, violent and delirious they are, the better. From Fulci's masterful "The Beyond," to the "Coffin Joe" series, to the shot-on-video hall of famer "Sledgehammer," each are prime examples of hallucinatory nightmare-scapes.

"Sledgehammer" (1983)

I usually find myself defenseless on the losing side of an Argento vs. Fulci argument as I prefer Lucio's films overall for their maddening nonsense. Basically, I'd rather get repeatedly mindfucked by the pillaging antics of the Chewbacca army in Fulci's lesser known "Conquest" than observe Argento stumbling to end one of his gialli films. Admittedly, I love Argento's style and especially "Suspiria," but when it comes to a whodunit scenario Argento fumbles to deliver something climatic (i.e. "Opera.") Argento's journey to to the reveal is fun, but on the whole I'd rather be completely dumbfounded by Fulci's absurdity. A pointless argument that really boils down to taste, but I included it as it helps to explain these types of films by extracting the things I enjoy about Fulci's films and the like.

"Conquest" (1983)

Perhaps the culmination of these unique genre films are not wholly what the filmmaker intended, which only adds to the madness (and YOU the viewer must allow it to do so!) Maybe technical ineptitude seeps in here and there. Or perhaps the filmmaker has an educated affection for Luis Buñuel's "The Exterminating Angel" or the "Coffin Joe" films...whatever it is, the mystery behind the director's unfocused delirium is what makes these gems compelling. There is an added sense of discovery as a viewer to experience something that abandons convention and now exists as an forgotten, eccentric piece of hell - maybe this is what Harmony Korine was after with his deliberate VHS feature "Trash Humpers."

For me, these types films are mostly an all-or-nothing experience. If you can harmonize with the aforementioned, you can experience a new horror all together - a psychedelic fever-dream that descends into an abominable waking nightmare. Now, enter the Holy Grail of shot-on-video nightmarish delirium and let's pretend we found this tape unmarked and buried in a ditch:

Its actually an extreme DISSERVICE to the film to post this butchered clip of the film. This YouTube user failed to upload this scene in its shocking entirety. This unmatched descent-to-hell sequence is actually around 9 1/2 minutes long. Please seek this film out for the sole reason to watch this scene not only its entirety but its jaw-dropping context. I've shown it to many people, and the result is the same. Gasping and heart holding.

To draw a parallel between this and one of my favorite surreal trash artists: Ittenach's unending vision of hell echoes the brilliant payoffs in José Mojica Marins' "Coffin Joe" series.

"This Night I'll Possess Your Corpse" (1967)

"The Burning Moon" may be the ANGRIEST horror film ever made. The film centers on two horrific bedtimes stories that a delinquent, junkie brother (played by director Olaf Ittenbach) reads to his 6 year old sister. These morbid stories focus on a serial killing blind date and a murderous, psychotic, rapist priest.

Upon my first viewing, I was delighted to know that the film actually includes an image of a burning moon. After Ittenbach's character returns home from a brutal gang fight he is beaten by his father. Pissed and broken, he heads upstairs to his room where he shoots heroin. He approaches his window and steps out to a (deck? fire escape? i dunno) and stares at the moon. And of course, it BURNS. Queue intense music and "ARRRHHH!!!" This is what inspires him to make a visit to his little sister's room for some hardcore reading.


Beyond its innovative visceral violence and lo-tech aesthetic it's actually a good film - there is some insane craftsmanship behind its DYI façade. If you have a palate for low-budget nihilism a la "The Last House On Dead End Street," "Combat Shock," or "The Death King," Ittenbach's persistent warped vision will be your new best friend.

"The Last House On Dead End Street" (1977)

"Combat Shock" aka "American Nightmares" (1984)

"Der Todesking" aka "The Death King" (1990)

I discovered "The Burning Moon" while searching around online. I came across this YouTube video title "The Brutal Murder of an Autistic Farmer." I laughed so hard until I cried - then I watched the clip.

As you can see the non-stop brutality of this clip is coupled with a sad, melancholic score which only adds to its subversiveness. Fulci also seems to use this bizarre mixture of the horrific imagery and an empathetic score. This may not be the best example below, but you can see traces of that in "The Beyond".

I'd rather not spoil more of "The Burning Moon" has it holds more insane surprises. However, if you're not convinced to seek this out, then I've included some more tantalizing stills from the film aka the ultimate "movie night" movie.

Final word: A great resource for gems like "The Burning Moon" is - bookmark it now!

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