Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Boston Underground Film Festival 2008: Il Bosco Fuori

There was a guy next to me at this movie who just laughed constantly. Not really enough to be obnoxious, but it was just constant, from the time he and his friends sat down through the projection problems through the movie, no matter what was happening on-screen at the time. I wondered whether he was drunk or high or something. I guess that's defensible at this sort of festival, but, man, it's annoying.

Also annoying: The same guy was among the guys yelling when the guys behind the screen were having trouble getting the projection to work properly on the short scheduled to screen before the film. I occasionally wonder if the people who yell "focus!", "sound!", "well that was short and disappointing!" ever give it a moment of thought. The way I figure it, if there's someone in the booth, he already knows about the problem, is likely already at work, and your yelling is just irritating and distracting him. If not, it's doing no good and irritating me.

Il Bosco Fuori (Last House in the Woods)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 22 March 2008 at the Brattle Theater (BUFF X)

So, who here likes blood? And mayhem? Flesh-eating? Do you mind if that's pretty much a movie's got going for it? Because that's what you get from Il Bosco Fuori. That's Last House in the Woods in English, but doesn't "Il Bosco Fuori" sound much more exciting? The English title is ominous, sure, but "fuori" is just a violent-sounding word (even if it just means "outside"), and this film doesn't waste a lot of time in trading ominous for violent.

We start with the initial attack to establish that this is a bad stretch of road, where a young couple traveling with their son get a flat tire that turns out to be a trap. Later, we meet up with Rino (Daniele Grassetti) and Aurora (Daniela Virgilio), a couple on the outs that may be getting back together or not after falling back into bed together. They, too, fall into a trap, and are attacked by a trio of young men who knock Rino unconscious and try to rape Aurora. Fortunately, Anotonio (Gennaro Diana) and Clara (Santa De Santis) are driving by and bring the younger couple to the safety of their house. Naturally, "safety" is perhaps the wrong term to use.

To say filmmaker Gabriele Albanesi isn't re-inventing the wheel here is putting it mildly. A lot of the beats are standard issue - opening violence to show the filmmaker means business, cutesy scenes to establish that our potential victims are basically nice people, violence, lull, recognition that things are worse, terror at grotesquery, bad guys versus worse guys/the enemy of my enemy is my friend, blood, blood, blood. If you like horror, either in the American grindhouse or Italian giallo tradition, you know what you're in for - Albanesi isn't about to change the rules on you.

He will, however, serve it up with relish. He's serious about his violence early on, before the blood really starts to fly; the opening leaves a kid orphaned and in mortal danger, and the muggers' attack on Aurora is intensity without gimmicks. He doesn't lose that intensity entirely as things get messier, but his attempts to keep topping himself point out how thin the line between the grotesque and the ridiculous can be (and how skewed one's perception on what belongs on which side can be in the middle of a movie). A kid with shark-like teeth chowing down on someone's leg can be played as creepy, but once you've got a couple feral rednecks sitting down with him for family dinner, that's going to get laughter.

Still, props to Albanesi for be willing to go there, wherever there might be, to gross the audience out. He's probably working on a pretty tight budget, so some of the gore effects look a bit dodgy, but he does spring for the large barrel of fake blood, and does come up with some admirably nasty ways to kill and maim his characters - honestly, I'm not sure why more horror filmmakers have not recognized that, while it's hard to create a situation where there's the possibility of a character getting a lot of pus spewed at them, it is undeniably disgusting when it happens.

His resources (or lack thereof) betray him a little. The cast is good enough to get sawed and stabbed, although you certainly won't remember any performances after the movie: Just be glad that Santa De Santis's Clara does seem to be having some thoughts as she moves between Antonio and Aurora, and that Daniela Virgilio fills out her tight, blood-spattered clothes nicely. There's nothing especially forbidden or atmospheric about the locations; Anotonio's and Clara's house seems a bit homey and suburban to be as isolated as would seem to be necessary.

Albanesi's enthusiasm, at least, is admirable. A little more money, maybe a writing partner who can come up with a real story to give his apparent skill at mayhem a worthy outlet, and this could be a good sign of nasty times to come.

Also at HBS.

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