Friday, May 28, 2010

Film Review: BUIO OMEGA (1979, Joe D'Amato)

Stars: 2.5 of 5.
Running Time: 94 minutes.
Tag-line: "A fate worse than death!"
Notable Cast or Crew: Kieran Canter (EROTICOBLUES, THE LONELY LADY) , Cinzia Monreale (Fulci's THE BEYOND, Argento's STENDHAL SYNDROME), Franca Stoppi (THE OTHER HELL, VIOLENCE IN A WOMEN'S PRISON). Music by Goblin!
Best one-liner: "No one can cook a chicken like my niece!"

Joe D'Amato's name ain't exactly synonymous with cinematic quality- he's more from the "make as many rip-offs in as little time as possible" school of thought than the "film is art" one. He directed 192 films in less than 30 years (123 of which were made in the final decade of his life). Some have said that BUIO OMEGA is his greatest film. Okay. Some have even said it's one of the best Italo-horror flicks of the 70's- but let me stop you right there. Now, I guess it holds the attention and has a terrific Goblin score, but let's be honest- this is not a good movie. This is not even close to being a good movie. But should you expect a good movie from the guy who felt it necessary to make pornographic remakes of BASIC INSTINCT (ANAL INSTINCT), PAPRIKA (ANAL PAPRIKA), and LOLITA (ANAL PERVERSIONS OF LOLITA)?  Theoretically, he makes Tinto Brass look like Anthony Asquith. I mean, Joe made a movie called ANAL STRIPPERS X-POSED. He saw HIGHLANDER and his first thought was to make it into a porno, which he apparently did!

On the surface, a description of the events contained within BUIO OMEGA may paint it as the kind of picture designed for the sole purpose of eliciting shock from the viewer, but it must be noted that the tone is extremely matter-of-fact, even to the point of indifference. Rather than reveling in the 'check out this X-treme grossness, fanboy!' vibe which emanates from the SAW or HOSTEL series, or more recently, THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE, D'Amato comes across as strangely earnest (at least with this particular film). In fact, it's unclear whether or not he sees the behavior depicted in the film as any more aberrant than that in, say, one of Roger Corman's Poe adaptations.

So let me give you the rundown: the Italian James LeGros (Kieran Canter) is a taxidermy-loving orphan and heir to a great, decaying fortune. His creepy housekeeper (Franca Stoppi) arranges for his betrothed to be snuffed out via some sort of voo-doo doll fuckery.

The creepy housekeeper in question.

Anguished, he does what anyone would do–

swipe her body from the grave, pump out her brains via a nose tube that deposits what looks like vodka sauce into a jar, eat her heart out (literally), murder a hitchhiker, and then engage in erotic lactation and multiple cover-ups with the creepy housekeeper.

Yeah, blood IS shooting out of the aorta, mid-chomp.

All of this is accompanied by a LOT of crash zooms and some super-jazzy Goblin grooves. (Particularly of note is the upbeat boogie-woogie which plays alongside scenes of an unfortunate gal getting her fingernails ripped off with pliers.) Then he starts dissolving people in acid, having random erotic encounters that end in cannibalism, burning people alive, and awkwardly applying lotion to the ankles of visiting joggers.

Freud seems to like this movie just fine.

Somebody gets stabbed in the nuts and an eyeball gets plucked from its socket. An unexpected twin even shows up. Oh, and there's some fantastic landscape shots of the Alps in there, too.

There's a nice bit of near-slapstick where his deceased lover's hand pops out from the sliding panel in his van,

a ludicrous dance scene,

'Who do you think did the choreography?,' I asked my girlfriend. 'I think maybe they gave the actress a bunch of Ludes and let the choreography do itself,' she replied.

and a truly disgusting sequence where the eating of stew is crosscut with eyeballs and bits of flesh decomposing in a pool of acid. Yum.

What's the psychological term for having been grossed out by something and then having the irresistible desire to sully others by also showing it to them?

The Goblin score is fantastic. Two dudes haul a cardboard box across an overexposed, unappealing field of grass as Goblin's wonderfully arpeggiating ("Strive After Dark") Classical-style synths have their say.   I like it.

Though there are some notable exceptions, for the most part the film is artfully photographed– probably owing, I believe, to the fact that Italians are born missing the brain component which codes 'restraint,' and in its place possess some grey matter dedicated purely to 'grand aesthetics.'

In the end, it's not an appealing film, nor a particularly engaging one. The title, 'BUIO OMEGA', immediately conjures far more compelling imagery and mystery than the film can possibly deliver. The far more uninteresting 'BEYOND THE DARKNESS' is actually more appropriate because it prepares you for the mediocrity which is to come. This is lower-middle tier Italo Horror, and two and a half stars may be too generous or too harsh depending on which side of the cinematic tracks that you hail from.

And, as a side note, I don't think I ever want to eat stew again, not that I was a big 'stew' fan in the first place, but you know what I mean.

-Sean Gill


alphaboy said...

I like your review a lot, though I don't share it's critique of D'Amato's thoughtfulness or brain cells. He knew what he was doing alright. I think "Buio Omega" can be understood as a modern take on Hitchcock's "Psycho" and is best understood as a love story. Granted it is exploitational, but it also can be seen on an emotional level, which is largely due to the 'earnest' approach to the depiction of the events (which you mention).
Mixing a critique of the late Joe D'Amato's porn rip-offs of famous movies with a discussion of "Buio Omega", however, is no good idea IMO. Joe had done mostly softcore erotica at the time at very high quality-standards (considering the genre).

Sean Gill said...


Sometimes I can get a bit facetious when it comes to Italian directors, joking about missing brain components and all that. It comes down to, for me, the fact that Italo-horror directors generally favor aesthetics over comprehensibility- and I think that's a good thing- it's refreshing, and it makes for a fun Saturday movie night.

D'Amato is certainly more of an artist than most would give him credit for, but I still have to say that he's on a level far below the likes of Bava, Argento, or Fulci. You are right that it's unfair to bring up his blue pictures in the context of BUIO OMEGA, but I guess I just couldn't resist mentioning the existence of an erotic remake of HIGHLANDER!

Thanks for stopping by- I appreciate your comments!