Fantasia 2011: ‘Morituris’ stretches torture-porn limits beyond the pale

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Morituris

Directed by Raffaele Picchio

Written by Gianluigi Perrone, based on a story by Raffaele Picchio and Tiziano Martella

Italy, 2011

Fantasia imdb

Dear Ricky D,

Thank you for getting me the ticket. I know that I promised to write a review of the film, but…

This is only half a review of Morituris.

Turns out that is the kind of film where the question isn’t will you walk out, but when will you walk out.

I made it about an hour, finally giving up after the scene featuring a gagged, bound, spread-eagled prostitute, an incredibly long hollow glass tube, a mouse and a drop of acid on the prostitute’s vagina to bloody her up a little, the better to attract the mouse. Oddly, the most offensive part of that scene was the gag.

I don’t walk out of many films. It was the first film that I have ever walked out of at Fantasia despite seeing a minimum of 25 films at every Festival since 1996 when Fantasia started. (With the obvious exception of 2008 when I was sick.)

The reason that I was planning to see Morituris in the first place was that I have a friend who annually challenges me to expand my horizons at Fantasia and see films that are outside my comfort zone like Embodiment of Evil and We Are What We Are. He described Morituris as “what you probably expect me to want you to see. It’s an ‘old school type’ Italian gore film with SFX by a guy who worked on Demons, Demons 2, The Church and Cemetery Man. Blood and guts!”

My problem with the film isn’t the “blood and guts,” it’s the vile and pointless torture porn that leads up to it.

Morituris means “those about to die” as in “Ave, Caesar, morituri te salutant” or “Hail, Caesar, those who are about to die salute you,” the old salute of the gladiators. The film makes that connection clear with its animated opening credits, by far the best part of the film (or at least what I saw). While identifying the cast and crew, the animation tells the story of a group of four gladiators who kill their guards and escape. While loose in the Italian countryside, the gladiators attack and pillage a small town. Hinting at what is to come, the gladiators rape one of the village women and then crucify her. The townsfolk surround and kill the gladiators, burying them in a mass grave marked only with a marker that says “Here there be lions.”

The film opens with 8MM film of a family (Father, Mother, brother, sister and uncle) having a picnic in the ruins where the gladiators were killed. The Uncle (an obvious pedophile) lures the little girl away from the family, which earns him the first death. The entire family is slaughtered and the only feature of the killer (or killers) that we see is an arm with a gladiator-style wristband.

What made me stick out the film as long as it did was the questions that opening raised: Why was the Uncle killed first? Who shot the 8MM film? What made me leave was my belief that the director and his writers had no answer for these questions.

The main plot of the film concerns three Italian men driving two Romanian women to a rave while their buddy stays at home to be entertained by a prostitute. The film does a good job of camouflaging from us the true nature of the men, enough that we don’t consider the Romanian women to be complete idiots when it becomes obvious that the men are the modern equivalent of the gladiator rapists.

The problem with the rape that follows is that it is extended, vile and unnecessary. Once we know that these are bad guys, once we hate them, there is no need to extend the rape. Valentina D’Andrea’s character could quite easily bite the dick of the man forcing her to perform fellatio on him, hit him over the head with a handy rock from the ruins and rescue the Désirée Giorgetti character, hopefully before she gets raped by the pair of scissors. (I did mention the rape scene was vile, didn’t I?)

Then you could have a cat and mouse scenario, because Valentina and Désirée would still be trapped in the middle of nowhere without their cell phones (because the Italians “borrowed” them to find out where the non-existent rave was taking place) and without keys to the car. And then, when you have the ghosts of the gladiators make their appearance, you have some interesting group dynamics going on. Although frankly, I would be much more interested in the film if the ghost was that of the woman that the gladiators raped and crucified.

The bit with the prostitute, the acid, the bondage, the glass tube and the mouse happens back with the fourth modern “gladiator” at his apartment. It is a sequence that José Mojica Marins, the spiritual Godfather of torture porn, would consider excessive. Not because Coffin Joe was opposed to torture, but because in his universe torture was intended as a way to reveal character. What is the point of torture for a character to whom we are never really introduced and who is kept forcibly silent while she is being tortured?

It is the gag that is the most offensive part of the film. Rape and torture is bad enough. Forced silence just makes it impossible for the rape and torture to reveal character. That makes it pointless and renders this film unnecessary.

Michael Ryan

3 Comments
  1. iain says

    … and another thing that mightily pisses me off is the relentless, uninterrogated, unsubverted, heterosexuality of the universe inhabited by the (themselves relentlessly heterosexual) makers of so much of this sub-genre (and indeed a lot of the cheaper end of the genre)

  2. Theo says

    Women have been getting gagged on tv shows and in movies since 1930’s pulp fiction, possibly longer. Every film noir, spy serial or Tarzan or Zorro movie has featured a woman that, at some point, gets bound and gagged.

  3. Cerebus says

    Okay, but did you ‘like’ it?

    I notice a lot of the films this year featured rape. Does the FantasiaFest take place in the DC Universe?

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