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

The scene starts with a small woman living a simple and satisfied life with her pet snails and her timid, grown-man of a son who happens to be working as an eye clinic intern. A completely satisfied life, that is, until she begins hearing some unsatisfactory grunts and complains against her son by listening through a sea shell. (Just go with it) Through hypnosis, the mother 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 (about twenty minutes or so into the film), the camera zooms back to reveal to us a crowd of spectators watching our movie as their own. In fact, the film we were watching was no more than a movie within a movie and this entire room of moviegoers will soon find out that they aren't safe; one of them isn't all right in the head, you see, and their obsession for the film inspires them to start their own massacre and those around shall feel their wrath. As the two movies starts to blend together, though, who will live and who will survive is not the question here but, rather what is real and not?

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 filmmaking with the bloody mayhem of a slasher flick with much originality in the plotting. Many a times we've seen some terror unfold inside a cinema, but how often do one done the way this film did?

Basically, we're treated with two slasher plots rolled into one, the first (plainly credited as "Old Movie" or The Mommy) being a bizarre yet effectively creepy take on the basic hack-and-slash formula that delivers 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. The two  will begin to merge chaotically in the end until the line of reality and make-belief is completely blurred that even us, the audience, can't tell what is real or not.

It is as creepy as it is convulsed, with the wailing and echoic commands of Zelda Rubinstein's Mother character being chilling and torturous along the schizophrenic imagery we're put into. I'm actually quite surprised at how a few of these scenes somehow gave me the creeps, particularly the hypnosis session our eye-gouging ophthalmologist (and us) got put through, which ties in to the warning labels at the beginning of the film alerting us for some mild headaches and out-of-body experiences. By the time the second plot of Anguish gets introduced, it did got quite more intense with its very tight atmosphere as our gun-wielding maniac do their best to keep their killing spree as unnoticeable as possible despite, well, the carnage they're planning.

Oh God, oh God, oh God
is it real?!

While the kills had me going, I did find the acting and accent to be a tad distracting, 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 the attention as the manipulative yet caring "Mother", whose presence reeks with a mystic aura that shifts from being a menace to a worried mother time to time.

I guess you could say I know why this movie is underrated; not only is it rare but its 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
Total: 20
Seriously...did anybody else felt weird watching this? Headaches?

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