Sunday, August 2, 2020

Folies Meurtrières (1984)

... aka: Deadly Insanity
... aka: Deadly Madness
... aka: Murderer's Follies
... aka: Murderous Follies

Directed by:
Antoine Pellissier

As the sun sets over the horizon, a young woman in a bikini sunbathes on some rocks, walks around and goes swimming... but someone is watching her. The hooded killer then follows her home and stalks her as she does dishes, walks around some more and then sits down to smoke. The nut steals a knife from her kitchen drawer, chases her around and stabs through a door. Closet doors start bleeding and she finds a chained-up, bloody zombie man tucked inside who tries to strangle her. Jumping out a window, she hurts her leg and stumbles around screaming until the killer finally sinks a pick axe into her skull. That's followed by 17 shots (!) of blood squirting out of the wound filmed from different angles. This ten minute long opener is nearly dialogue free and highly reminiscent of another inept no budget early 80s French slasher flick called MAD MUTILATOR / Ogroff the Axe Monster (1983). Like Mutilator, this was shot on Super 8 with no plot and no sound (music and a few lines were added later) and is little more than an excuse to show off amateur gore effects. While Mutilator has gone on to a very minor following (back in 2009 when I first reviewed it there were barely any reviews online... now there are a ton!), Follies remains in the shadows. Does it have the same potential for a fan following? Perhaps. It's certainly on the same plane of existence as Ogroff.

Our next long vignette, which also lasts about 10 minutes, involves a woman out driving who is stalked by the killer riding a motorcycle. She thinks she loses him after driving into a mine / rock quarry but he finds her. Instead of continuing to drive, for some dumb reason she exits her car and starts running and running and running. An injured man lying on the ground randomly jumps out at her then dies (!?) The woman attempts to hide behind a concrete beam but the killer grabs her and beats her head against it until she's unconscious. As he's trying to start a chainsaw, she wakes up and tries to run off but he hits her with a rock and knocks her back down. He then gets the chainsaw started and disembowels her with it. There are countless shots of the saw chewing up her stomach and blood flying around everywhere.

It's at this point that I'm starting to think this may be some kind of parody or satire of gratuitous slasher / gore flicks. The killer turns the corner and there's conveniently a chainsaw just sitting right there, doors are always locked, there's comically overdone POV shots and gore coverage and an echo-voiced sinister narrator gives us the date for each event ("Friday, February 14th!") as if that matters. One could perhaps go a step further and say this is even an attempt at commentary on such films seeing how this takes the famous between-the-legs The Graduate seduction shot and repeats it for the killer as if sexualizing or fetishizing the violence. It isn't until they trot out the cat-jumping-into-frame-from-out-of-nowhere jump scare and the random dying man making a third appearance (which will be followed by a fourth, fifth and sixth appearance) that I realized that, yes, this is indeed poking fun at these films. Mind you that doesn't mean this is necessarily a good or clever satire. It just appears to be what they were aiming for.

The murder spree continues: After discovering bloody animal parts in her refrigerator, a woman is chopped up with a tin foil axe (shades of Nick Millard!). Girl #4 is out doing some gardening and hedge trimming when she gets her head crushed in a vice. A fifth woman out driving in the middle of the night pulls over to read a magazine (?) and gets her entire car painted in blood as dying random man randomly appears on her roof. The killer then magically appears in her back seat and stabs her to death. Things lead up to a twist ending, where the killer is revealed and motives explained, which is followed by a pretty bold-faced rip-off of the ending of William Lustig's MANIAC (1980)... only minus the make-up magic of Tom Savini.

Amateur 80s movies that were shot on video or a lower grade film stock and contain endless walking / stalking / padding, whirring synth beats and ineptitude on full display in nearly every frame seem to have a mesmeric power over some viewers. And by some viewers I actually mean very few viewers who just happen to be extremely vocal and dedicated to singing the praises of ultra low budget "alternative anti-entertainment" such as this. Some seem to genuinely like these films for sincere, personal reasons. After all, they do possess a unique vibe from a unique era with a unique aesthetic and I completely get that. I like the look and feel of some of these myself. I also get how inept / weird / cheap regional films, even the really bad ones, often have their own distinct charms. This aspect also appeals to me.

On the other hand are those who seem disingenuous and self-serving in their admiration; using unarguably bad films as a means to broadcast to the world at large how unique they fancy themselves and their tastes to be. These folks appear to hunt down obscure / bad films just so they can twist themselves into a pretzel coming up with laughably pretentious, pseudo-intellectual bullshit reasons said films aren't actually incompetent crap but instead misunderstood masterpieces that no one else gets. These people are so fucking annoying, never shut up and have a tendency to drown out those with a sincere appreciation for this stuff who, like any sane human being, recognize they like these films in big part because, obviously, they're not good. Sure, everyone has different taste, but if your taste leans toward incompetently-made crap, just own it. Along those same lines, this new trend of trying to prop up virtually every bad 80s horror flick needs to end already. It's like some semi-delusional revisionist-history nostalgia plague where every piece of crap from this era is suddenly hailed as some kind of cult film.

Despite what you may read elsewhere, Follies is certainly inept crap from a technical viewpoint. There's next to no plot, awful photography and editing, ghastly overexposure that frequently drowns out the images, endless scenes of people walking around, almost no dialogue, loads of cheap gore / bright red blood and a repetition that grows tiresome well before the ending. This presents the same exact scenario, using the same exact gags (only the murder weapon is switched), five times, which takes up 40 minutes of this 48 minute movie. While that's going to bore the hell out of most viewers, those who have an affinity for slow, droning films may find this more palatable. And this isn't entirely without entertainment value / occasional moments of amusement. Hell, some of the poor photography and lighting, which plays hell on most of the outdoor footage, works almost in spite of itself for the indoor scenes, especially for shadow-casting purposes. This is still crap, though.

The director, who now primarily works as a medical doctor (!), also made Les proies du mal / "The Prey of Evil" (1982) and L'elue des enfers / "The Chosen One from Hell" (1985), both of which are seemingly impossible to find, and Maleficia (1998). He's also the subject of Pauline Pallier's 2009 documentary Dr. Gore.

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