Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The eyes of the city, collected: Anguish (1987)

Anguish (AKA "Anguista") (Spain, 1987)
starring: Zelda Rubinstein, Michael Lerner and Talia Paul

A rather small woman lives a simple and satisfied life with her timid, grown-man of a son, an eye clinic intern and her pets. Completely satisfied, that is, until she began hearing some unsatisfactory grunts and complains against her son by listening through a sea shell. (Just go with it) Through hypnosis, the Mother then commands her son to collect the eyes of those who wronged him, further dragging the man into a murderous path until, stressed from being controlled, the son rebels and claims to do the job on his own.

As we watch the mayhem unfolds, we are taken back and revealed to us another crowd of spectators watching our movie as their own. In fact, the film we were watching was no more than a film within a film, and these entire room of moviegoers is our characters. But someone among them isn't fine. He's obsessed with the movie, and soon, those around him shall feel his wrath. Who will live and who will survive is not the question. It's what is real and what is not...
literally a mama's boy
I have my share of arthouse films, and most of the time, I never get them, but I do like the colorful styles these movies experiment on. Anguish is one film that merges this style of movie making with the bloody mayhem of a slasher flick with much originality in the plotting. Many a times we'd seen some terror unfold inside a cinema, but how often do we becomes a part of the action?

The movie is creepy as it is convulsed; the wailing and echoic commands of the Mother is chilling and torturous, add along the schizophrenic imagery we're put into and these scenes somehow creeps into us. It's also quite intense, with a very tight atmosphere that took on a full swing by the time the film-within-film half of the movie was revealed.

There's some nice gimmicks thrown in to tie us with the events of the film but none of it is as effective as the Hypnosis session our eye-gouging ophthalmologist (and us) are put through. There's some warning labels in the beginning of the film about some mild headaches and out-of-body experiences; I had the headaches, I don't know if this is an isolated case, but I keep having the headaches every time I watch the hypnosis. It's kinda scary at first, but I find it very clever and a little dangerous.

I also found the flow of the movie to be quite interesting; basically it's two slasher movies rolled into one, the first (plainly credited as "Old Movie") being a bizarre yet effectively creepy take on the basic hack-and-slash formula that delivers the gore and some very scenic cinematography. All the while, the second (labeled "New Movie") mixes the slasher build with a hostage scenario, featuring a gun-totting killer working his way quietly through one movie patron at a time in a similar effort from another gun-held slasher flick "TAG: The Assassination Game (1982)", only with a higher bodycount and only in one location. In the end, the two began to merge chaotically until the line of reality and make-belief is completely blurred, that even us, the audience, can't tell what is real or not.
Oh God, oh God, oh God
is it real?!
And yet, Anguish's not without it's own set of flaws. While the kills had me going, there are some problems with some of the acting and accent, but seeing this is a foreign title I wouldn't take it against the film. The late Zelda Rubinstein from the Poltergeist fame did steal a lot of attention, however, as the manipulative yet caring "Mother", who's presence reeks with a mystic aura that shifts from time to time from being a menace to a worried mother.

I guess you could say I know why this movie is underrated; not only is it rare but it's strangeness and gimmick might be off-putting for many and the lack of any clear plot could be too confusing for your casual horror fan. But if you got a taste for the weird, or something very different, I highly recommend this film. Arthouse flick or not, this is one slasher film you should not miss. You got to see it to believe it.

1 female had her throat cut with scalpel
1 male stabbed on the gut with ice pick
1 male stabbed on the head with an ice pick
1 male stabbed on the back with an ice pick
1 female drugged, eyes removed offscreen
1 female shot on the chest
1 female shot on the head offscreen
1 elderly female strangled, later seen with throat slit
1 female slashed to death with scalpel
1 male shot on the neck
1 female found dead
1 female shot on the back
1 male stabbed on the gut with a scalpel
1 male shot
1 male shot
1 male shot
1 female shot on the face
1 male shot to death by snipers
1 elderly female suffers a heart attack
1 female had her neck slashed with scalpel offscreen
1 female killed
total: 21
Seriously...did anybody else felt weird watching this? Headaches?

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