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September 08, 2015

Morituris

morituris blu ray.jpg

Raffaele Picchio - 2011
Synapse Films BD Regions ABC

I'm not sure what it says about me, or about this film, but I did not find Morituris to be any more extreme than some of the films that provided inspiration. "Banned in Italy"? I'm not denying that there's graphic imagery here, plus several moments that have the viewer imagining things most would rather not think about. Still, Morituris is slightly more restrained than several notorious films with "Cannibal" as part of the title.

As it is, Morituris is still probably of greater interest to certain aficionados, with a story that begins as something of an homage to Wes Craven, veering into something close to the spirit of Lucio Fulci. Inspired by a true incident that took place in Italy about forty years ago, the film first takes place inside a car, with three young men and two young women. They are driving outside Rome on their way to a rave in a forest. Everyone is laughing, drinking, with some imbibing of illegal substances. We don't know anyone's names, but we do know that one of the guys is able to drive a fairly nice car. The women are Romanian. Once the group is in the woods, there is no rave, but the five continue drinking around a small camp fire. One of the women goes off with one of the guys to a spot marked by Latin epitaphs written in stone. The woman describes the place as magical, and in a way, she's not completely wrong. It turns out that the guys intentions are less than honorable.

What takes place next might be comparable to Last House on the Left, as well as the several Italian films that took their queues from Wes Craven, sometimes casting House villain David Hess in these films. It is significant that the two women are Romanians. This part of Morituris might well be read as social criticism of the sense of class and privilege of certain Italian men. At one point, one of the men, certainly no older than their early 20s, mentions to the other that he is the son of a senator. The men may well be abusive of women in general, but there is the sense that the pair of women here are considered acceptable targets due to their status as cultural outsiders.

Where the title comes in is that morituris is Latin, roughly translated as "those who are about to die". It turns out that the gang is in a patch of forest claimed by a group of dead gladiators who consider anyone to be a trespasser that should be killed. It's never any explanation provided, and perhaps that's just as well. Where Fulci is recalled is that these reanimated beings are single minded in their pursuit of the five visitors, and their punishment includes beheadings, crucifixions, and the general ripping of flesh.

Whether Picchio has said anything of substance about evil in the world might remain the subject of debate. As a film that pays tribute to past horror films, Morituris is better than expected. Digitally filmed with a RED camera, this is a fairly polished debut feature, taking place almost entirely outdoors at night. I've seen a couple of other recent Italian films that claimed inspiration from earlier films, at least one which I gave up on after less than half an hour. The preview of Picchio's newest film, the English language, The Blind King, would indicate a genre specialist of promise.

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Posted by peter at September 8, 2015 03:33 PM