This week: CONQUEST!!!
Italian gore master Lucio Fulci's 1983 ode to the sword and sorcery genre, Conquest (not to be confused with the big budget Jenna Jameson porn vehicle of the same name), is a flawed gem of a film, poorly shot and scripted but chock full of enough blood, brains, naked 80's chicks, and malevolent dudes in psuedo-Chewbacca costumes to make it worthwhile.
Fulci has been a big name in low-budget Italian horror movies for decades (responsible for such masterpieces as the Zombi series, Manhattan Baby, The New York Ripper, The House By The Cemetary, and The Gates of Hell, among others), and along with Dario Argento helped define the prameters of the field. Up until his death in 1996, Fulci was widely recognized as a master of his craft, and to this day his name is synonymous with the spaghetti-gore splatter film.
So what the fuck happened with Conquest?
Despite its fantastic use of severely under-funded special effects and stunning locations, Conquest (as evidenced by the trailer) looks like complete ass, playing out either in heavy fog or soft focus or bright sunlight or dark caves or several combinations of each. Cinematography is definitely the film's weak point, but its strong points are manifold, from its interesting B-gorror-movie-meets-Masters-of-the-Universe mystique to its rampant nudity to the plodding, eerie soundtrack supplied by the master himself, Claudio Simonetti (above, right).
The film begins by introducing us to Ilias (Andrea Occhipinti), a scrawny young lad who receives a magical bow and arrow from the ghost (maybe?) of his father. Or maybe grandfather. Or maybe just some guy. We are sort of informed that he has to undertake some sort of mystical quest to conquer evil (or maybe not), and then he takes off in a canoe.
Cut to some cave somewhere. These Chewbacca-esque dudes are ravaging a small village of cave dwellers, splitting open the head of their leader (excellent/shitty gore) and then (quite literally) ripping a chick in half. We are introduced to their leader, Ocron (Sabrina Sellers aka Sabrina Siana), a sorceress plagued by visions of her own demise at the hands of some dude wielding a bow and arrow (hmmmm...). She is so plagued, in fact, that all she can do is writhe around in nothing but a golden mask and studded codpiece all day with a snake crawling around on her (it's actually less hot than it sounds).
When Ilias is first locked in battle with the Chewbaccans, he runs out of magical arrows (?) and has to be rescued by this really tough dude named Mace (Jorge/George Rivero). Mace has one of the awesomest weapons ever, a pair of nunchaku that bear a striking resemblance to two clumps of dirty socks connected by a piece of string. Many rewarding scenes ensue involving Mace and his nunchucks, as he and Ilias confront zombies, more Chewbaccans, and other assorted minions of evil.
Character development comes in the form of the unsteady Mace/Ilias alliance, with Mace helping Ilias on his vague quest to defeat evil and Ilias teaching Mace the power of friendship (Mace "only has enemies" and likes it that way).
Believe me, two dudes clad in furry loincloths "learning the power of friendship" together is EXACTLY as gay as it sounds.
So what do we have here? Conan The Barbarian meets Brokeback Mountain? Deathstalker meets Caligula? Conquest is impossible to sum up so neatly, but the juxtapositions might just give you a little idea of how confusing, how 'left field', and just how weird and bad/good this movie is.
Above: Ilias weilding his Tron-ish bow and arrow, which emits some really cool sounds when he lets one fly (see trailer).
Below: Mace gets the Jesus treatment from a pack of cobwebby zombies.
As the rest of the film plays out (I pretty much lost track of where it was going about half an hour in), we are treated to many, many more laughably rad scenes involving Mace, Ilias, and Fulci's bargain-priced SFX department. Like the scene shown above. That's I & M, under attack via bow and arrow. I don't feel like I need to say much else about it, except that the scene goes on for a REALLY long time, as if the makers of the film were really proud of this particular effect. Just the type of baffling moment that makes this slow-motion car-wreck of a film worthwhile.
You can check it out (if you're into this kind of stuff) on Netflix. Or just bite the bullet and buy it already.
And since I missed it on Saturday, here's your double feature for last week, entitled "THERE WILL BE BLOOD"....
Two blood-y good bands, one of them a pretty well known gorno-grind band from Australia, and the other a fairly obscure death metal outfit from Mexico:
BLOOD DUSTER - STR8 OUTTA NORTHCOTE (1998)
Blood Duster take the accepted grindcore formula (blasting drums, Cookie Monster/Donald Duck vocals, lots of samples, and really short song lengths), and spice it up by adding some weird arrangement techniques (such as the big empty spaces on "puredigitalsilence") and a strange, underlying southern rock vibe that persists for the entire length of the album. Maybe it's because they're from Australia, who knows?
But these guys are definitely a couple of sick, twisted freaks, a fact that resonates quite obviously with the speed and subject matter present on Str8 Outta Northcote.
This album makes me happy.
BLOOD REAPING - FEASTING THE WEAK (2002)
Obscure, horror-infested death metal from South of the border. Like Blood Duster, these guys like their movie samples, although their music is a bit more Earche-Records-circa-1992 than their Australian Blood-buddies.
Blood Reaping (what a wonderfully ESL name for a band!) only released two albums, this one in '02 and another one called Ignis Penumbra in '03. Then they split up. Then, their bass player, Saul (below, at center), died. His official cause of death is listed as "death by falling". Fucking bummer.