Monday, September 4, 2023

A Hora do Medo (1986)

... aka: Hour of Fear, The
... aka: Time of Fear

Directed by:
Francisco Cavalcanti
José Mojica Marins (uncredited)

Made when hardcore porn had all but completely taken over the Brazilian film industry, this sleazy low budget horror / slasher flick seems like an odd man out for its time, especially seeing how director Cavalcanti was a prolific porn filmmaker and many of the actors were carry-overs from sex films. So what possessed these folks to make a straight horror flick? Well, they actually didn't. It turns out this was originally filmed with explicit sex scenes and the current 71 minute version floating around is a different cut of the film. According to a number of Brazilian sources I consulted, horror legend José Mojica Marins was specifically brought on board to up the horror quotient by filming new bloody murder scenes, which then were used to replace the sex scenes for this special re-edit. And just like that you essentially have two different films to release: a sex film and a non-explicit horror film. Despite filming quite a bit of footage, Marins is listed only as a "supervisão" in the credits of the cut version. I was unable to locate the explicit version to do comparisons but supposedly it's around seven minutes longer. Although most websites also list Marins as a cast member, I didn't spot him anywhere in the film.

Considering who the director is, this unsurprisingly opens with some gratuitous nudity as a woman enjoying a bubble bath soon finds herself in a bloodbath when a pudgy, rosy-cheeked psycho with a very punchable face busts through the door and starts frantically stabbing her with a butcher knife, finally finishing the job by sticking the blade all the way through her neck. Immediately after, an older lady who heard the screaming and commotion from downstairs walks in. She seems oddly calm and composed by the blood-spattered crime scene, and not the least bit horrified. Well, boys will be boys, after all, and it's just her beloved son doing what he does best! Mama (Maria Edelgunde Plautz Wichering) then comforts her sobbing psycho offspring, Albert (Albert Karlinski), assuring him that they'll "find more women for you." The pair then wrap the body in a sheet and bury it in their backyard.

Soon after, Salvador (director Cavalcanti) shows up looking for his missing fiancée, Eliana (Ely Silva). She, of course, is the woman Albert has just killed. Salvador checks in with Eliana's older sister, Lourdes (Selma Petronilia), and discovers that his girlfriend, unbeknownst to him, had been working as a maid for Albert and his mother prior to vanishing. However, when questioned, the mother claims she has no clue who Eliana even is. Thinking his girl has run out on him, Salvador goes to drown his sorrows at a bar ("Women are all liars! Women are all fake!") until he sees a newspaper ad placed by the mother looking to hire a chauffeur. Salvador secures the job and uses that as a way to start snooping around the home.

The psycho mom gleefully listens to her son's various sexcapades through the walls and keeps her late husband's remains in a shallow grave in her backyard so she can dig up the skull and cradle it in her arms whenever she's in the mood. She also has a specially equipped umbrella that shoots poisonous darts out of the tip (!) that she uses it to kill a pimp (Darcy Silva), and then lures the hooker he was just slapping around back to their home to meet her son. Albert promptly drags the girl into the bedroom, starts having sex with her and then smothers her with a pillow after having a childhood flashback of a naked, tied up woman (Priscila [Presley]) being tortured by her lover, Marcelo (Walder Laurentis). It's later revealed that the woman in the flashbacks is his mother in her younger years while Marcelo is his father. After witnessing mom being beaten, having a lit cigar put out on her and getting her ass burned with a red hot iron, young Albert (Fabricio Cavalcanti, the director's son) shot his dad to death.

After setting up an unoriginal and silly, though at least coherent, premise, this turns into a fragmented mess. Albert has some woman over named Cassandra, whom he dubs a "Nymph of the Sacred Bath" (?!) He bathes, dresses, wines and dines her, and then slashes her to death with a broken wine glass. Meanwhile, Mama is seen in the backyard dragging wounded topless blonde Lisa (Regina Andrion) to their ever-growing graveyard. She buries the girl alive, but she manages to dig her way back out so the mother chops her up again, reaches inside her gaping back wound, rips out her heart and then squeezes it ("Stop breathing, whore!") until she finally falls over. Next up on the chopping block is an obnoxious woman they find getting beaten up by a bartender (Clery Cunha) for refusing to pay her tab. She's lured back to the home, where things come to a head when Salvador finally confronts them.

From a quality filmmaking standpoint, this thing is terrible across the board. The plot is weak, the photography and lighting are poor, the acting is bad, most of the score was stolen from THE HOWLING, the editing is awful and the camerawork is mostly static, with lots of long, boring takes used to pad out the time. There's one medium shot set-up looking into the killer's bedroom that's used over and over again, as if they left the camera sitting on a tripod in the same location for the entire day. Actually, that's probably exactly what happened since most of the sex action takes place there.

Even though this isn't good, I'll give it a little credit for one thing: Delivering what fans of sleazy slasher flicks really want to see. There's blood and there's nudity and there's plenty of both. While the gore (including an axe to the back and scissors stuck in a forehead) is OK-ish, the sheer amount of constant full-frontal male and female nudity is through the roof! Nearly everyone (aside from the mother, director / leading man and a few minor characters) gets naked, including the psycho-son, who hilariously spends his last ten screen minutes freaking out, trying to kill another woman and then fighting the hero all while sans clothing. There are also plenty of graphic female nude shots in here.

I could find no evidence that this film was officially released on home video anywhere in the world, even in Brazil. The VHS quality print currently floating around has been recorded off a Brazilian TV station. English fan subs are available. I wouldn't be too horribly surprised to see a better print of this turn up in a Coffin Joe box set one day.

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