Polly Staffle Rating: ***
Critics have recently labeled a batch of horror writers and directors the “Splat Pack” due to the content of their films. Alexandre Aja (“High Tension”), Eli Roth (“Cabin Fever”), Rob Zombie (“The Devil’s Rejects”) and the duo of James Wan and Leigh Whannell (“Saw”) are the leaders of the pack. Some have gone as far as saying these filmmakers create “gore porn” or “gornos” for short. But it is all just a bunch of hype. They’re violent with a splash of blood, a bit mean spirited, brutal, perhaps a bit sick and twisted, but gornos they’re not. They’re not even true gore films, which usually have story lines secondary to graphic in your face voyeuristic scenes of people not just being killed, but having body parts removed, their insides being opened and put on display and truck loads of blood.
Personally, before seeing the subtitled indie “Sadomaster” I saw the term “gorno” as an oxymoron. Gore films are pornographic, which Webster’s Dictionary defines as “the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction.” Somehow the term gorno fits perfectly for Germán Magariños and Fernando Giangiacomo’s film. That’s right, “Sadomaster” is a straight up hardcore gorno as it is quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Often times when someone is killed in “Sadomaster,” the death is dragged out in gory details. Before the opening credits, a man is shot, beaten and stabbed. You not only see his stomach slashed open, but intestines are then pulled out and fondled. The whole time of course, the man screams in agony as his own blood splashes him in the face. Death scenes that happen quicker than this one are just as brutal and shocking. When a group of children witness the disembowelment, they are silenced with a machine gun. Later, a man’s face is stomped to a bloody pulp. Another scene depicts a guy’s penis being ripped off. Yet another moment in the film has a thug getting his arm pulled from its socket. Don’t worry for those that need a story with your sick images, you get that too. This is a revenge movie of sorts that features a low-tech super hero that maims, tortures and kills evildoers.
The “Sadomaster” doesn’t have super powers. He’s simply an unknown vigilante dressed in black. He’s not Mr. Moneybags with gadgets like “Batman” and he wasn’t wronged like “The Crow.” He’s not even really a chosen one. He sort of stumbled into his crime fighting role. His conception goes like this: A drunken homeless man is walking down the street and spots a dead body that has been completely mutilated. Blood and guts are everywhere. The homeless man is obviously starving because instead of calling for help, he scoops up something that resembles a spleen and takes a bite of it. A pentagram begins to flash on the screen and then the ghost of the dead body appears. It is a mentally challenged chubby man with no shirt. He screams to the homeless man “Kill them! Kill them! Kill them!” The homeless man then dons a homemade gimp suit and the “Sadomaster” is born.
To tell you the truth, I don’t know what to make of this movie. It is completely insane. I can’t get it out of my head and I would probably never choose to watch it again. But in a weird way, I also enjoyed it. This Argentina import is silly and goofy, but also repulsive. It’s so politically incorrect there is no way an American could ever get away with making this film without being completely demonized by the media and placed on some government terrorist list.
In one scene, a rabbi is beaten by Nazi ninja’s in masks that resemble something Slipknot would wear. Later, a man takes a leak on a black baby. The opening credits feature clips from the World Trade Center tragedy, along with various other scenes of destruction, bombings, chaos and war.
Then there is the death of the poor mentally challenged man I mentioned earlier. Not only is he tortured and killed by a band of punk thugs, he is also forced to perform oral sex on the group’s leader. A hole is then cut in his side and he is raped. The viewer sees it all in every close up pornographic detail. Like I said, this is a true gorno.
What saves the film from being unwatchable is the fact there was no budget so nothing looks real. The black baby is an obvious plastic doll. The rape scene is done with a John Holmes-sized sex toy. So instead of being completely revolted by what is taking place on screen, I’m transfixed and unable to look away for 67-minutes of filth and insanity. It’s like a standup comedian performing a gig on top of a huge 10-car pile up. You can’t help but watch and laugh. But at the same time you are sure you are doing some sort of undoable psychological damage to yourself.
What also save this film are the nicely placed references to “Natural Born Killers,” “Thriller: A Cruel Picture” and “A Clockwork Orange” and a smart underlying bit of social commentary throughout. The Nazi ninjas have taken over the streets of Argentina. They terrorize the civilians. No one knows what to do or how to stop them. Politician Mauricio Beccar Varela plans to find the solution once elected governor and put a stop to the terrorism. That’s easy for him since he’s the one behind the violence. Yes, that is correct, he is paying the terrorist… I mean Nazi Ninjas… to make citizens feel like prisoners in their own homes. This story line seems vaguely familiar. I just can’t place a finger on the influence filmmakers Magariños and Giangiacomo were drawing from. But the use of the WTC footage doesn’t seem as misplaced anymore. Hmmm… How these guys have been able to find a DVD distributor in the United States and not been locked away at Guantánamo Bay is beyond me, but I applaud them for it and hope to see the “Sadomaster” back in action.
I’m told by Magariños that a sequel or some type of remake is very likely as the film was well received by gore fans in Argentina. It wouldn’t be anytime soon though as Gorevision Films are currently working on “Un Cazador de Zombis” and “A Zombie Hunter,” which are essentially two versions of the same movie shot back-to-back with one in Spanish and one in English.If we get a second “Sadomaster,” I’m hoping it keeps the campiness this film had, but adds more character development. A stronger script and “Sadomaster” is a classic. A bigger budget wouldn’t hurt, unless the movie’s cheesiness is lost. My guess is the “Sadomaster” production cost somewhere in the low hundreds. Germán Magariños said he couldn’t give a good estimate. “In dollars… maybe nothing,” Magariños said. “Just what it cost to buy some weapons, some blood, intestines and the tapes.” Normally a film with this low of a budget would benefit tremendously with more money behind it. However, had “Sadomaster” had a shred of realism, I probably would have been so horror-struck that I couldn’t finish it.