Actors: Domiziano Arcangeli, Irena A. Hoffman, and Giovanni Lombardo Radice
Synopsis: A voyeuristic look into the mind of a loner photographer and a life filled of bizarre fetishes and torture.
Over the course of time I have figured out that if you find yourself saying “What the hell did I just watch?” at the end of a film, you probably just wasted your time. The last two times I caught myself asking that question was with Lars Von Trier’s super pretentious Antichrist and the ever infamous A Serbian Film. In both cases, I am still waiting for that refund of both time and money that I exhausted. It’s been nearly 2 years since my viewing of A Serbian Film and I’ve once again have stumbled upon a film that took a lot of effort to muscle through and left me utterly clueless at the end. Domiziano Cristopharo’s 2009 effort House Of The Flesh Mannequins has proved to be my latest test of both physical and mental endurance.
House Of The Flesh Mannequins follows Sebastian; a loner photographer. He spends most of his days photographing or filming child pornography and watching bizarre home videos with jarring images. Over the course of the film it’s revealed that Sebastian’s odd behavior can be attributed to the fact that his psychologist father spent years experimenting on Sebastian with sleep depravity and situations that tested the taboos of a father-son relationship with incredibly inappropriate behavior. A tenant, whom which Sebastian is fond of, gains interest in Sebastian’s past and begins to fall for him. Sprinkle in a few trips to a local fetish shop and you have the main components of the story.
Judging from the cover and some quick, non-spoiling reviews, I was able to formulate the opinion that I was about to jump into an Italian horror flick that was going to be full of bizarre imagery with tons of nods to Fulci and Argento. In many ways, I was right. Part of the allure to Italian horror cinema was the ability to blend in terrifying avant-garde artistry. Greats like the previously mentioned Fulci and Argento perfected the art of not over doing it and only letting their inner artist come out when needed. Where they succeeded, Cristopharo failed. It almost immediately becomes clear that the mixture isn’t balanced correctly and the art quickly starts to center stage almost never returning to give enough focus on the story. The over use of bizarre snuff footage and trips to a fetish shop where the participants engage in anything from your standard fetish into something more supernatural, the film completely loses all grip on itself and unwinds even faster. Lastly the overuse of straight pornography scenes kind of steals any credibility the film might have had. Some reviewers are saying that it was only sprinkled in and wasn’t overtaking, I beg to differ. I liken it to the Brown Bunny and how most people that watched that horrible excuse for a film only did so they could get to the blowjob scene. Even the box of this film makes it quite clear that they are trying to capitalize on an audience that just wants to see blood, guts, and poorly put together unsimulated sex scenes. Heck, I’ll openly admit seeing basically those words advertised on the box got me hook, line, and sinker.
When the film finally wrapped up, I felt like I had run a marathon. The film is confusing and rather than being the horror film it set out to be, I feel like it was best meant for the art-house crowd…which I am definitely not apart of. This is one that horror fans should avoid because it’s one of those films you’ll overhear your local hipsters talking about at the nearest coffee house. They’ll be saying how deep and griping the film was with its artistic expression but you’ll quickly be able to come to the conclusion that whatever they are talking about, they are full of shit.