Taboo Tuesday: Cadaver Eyes Upon Me See Nothing

Taboo Tuesday is an exploration of some of the most outré sides of horror cinema.

In the previous entry, we speculated that one of horror’s most reviled offshoots may be poised to enter the mainstream, perhaps to the detriment of the genre’s role as an irritant to mainstream moral hypocrisy. The Walking Dead may well have paved the way for mass audiences to embrace the cannibal film, but it can’t possibly prepare one for the queasy thrill of necrophilia on film.

Jörg Buttgereit’s Nekromantic, perhaps the best-known and most widely-seen example of this micro-genre (there’s even a sequel), recently received the Blu-ray treatment after years out of print on DVD. It’s an odd choice given the film was originally shot on Super-8 (and benefits from the sheen of grittiness it adds) but also a testament to the film’s enduring power.

For this second, and final, Taboo Tuesday, we present a pair of precursors to Nekromantic, each with a unique and compelling take on that forbidden place where sex and death meet. Literally.

Love Me Deadly (1972)love-me-deadly-movie-poster-1972-1020228273

There’s a good argument to be made for Nekromantic 2 as a feminist statement given that, as this reviewer rightly notes, it’s “about female empowerment and acceptance of strangeness.” The same could be said of this relatively unknown and unseen early gem of the subgenre. For reasons made abundantly clear in its conclusion, lovely Lindsay (Mary Wilcox) has a deep but harmless attraction to the dead; an itch she scratches by crashing various funerals to sneak kisses from the deceased. One funeral home owner discovers her game and would really like to include Lindsay in his happy gang of necrophiles, who aren’t averse to homicide in the process of both obtaining bodies for their orgies and keeping them a secret. Writer/director Jacque Lacerte doesn’t put much of a stylistic stamp on it (and the performances do get awkward here and there) but the script is solid, drawing Lindsay as a convincingly sympathetic figure who makes an honest effort to find “normal” love but whose trauma causes her to freeze up in the arms of the living men in her life. They, Lyle Waggoner (perhaps the epitome of male ‘70s “cool”) and Christopher Stone, don’t have much interest in understanding Lindsay’s problem beyond what it means for their own sexual gratification. Love Me Deadly is tamer than it probably sounds in synopsis and that’s part of its strength: The real point isn’t gore or shock, but rather to portray and empathize with a woman caught between two worlds of men who don’t truly respect or understand her.

Buio Omega (1979)

buio

No such subtlety is at play here. Director Aristide Massaccesi, better known as Joe D’Amato, made far more porn (and horror-porn) than straight horror over his long career, so it’s no surprise he takes a pretty hard-core approach with Buio Omega. Well, not to the necrophilia itself, which is actually dealt with in a pretty restrained way. Demented, love-struck anti-hero Frank (Kieran Canter) can’t bear the loss of his one true love (Cinzia Monreale) and digs up her corpse, which he preserves in his taxidermy room for keeping in his bed. The gore shocks come almost exclusively from the subsequent murders Frank must commit to keep the secret; and shocking they are; particularly when Frank tears a woman’s throat out with his teeth and swallows a hunk of flesh. This is high-octane sadism. There are sick thrills to be had in a scene where Frank tries to instigate a threesome with an animate conquest and the corpse, but Omega ultimately plays more as a slasher variant, with the added ick factor of that corpse sitting around and the borderline incestuous relationship between Frank and his housekeeper/enabler/mother figure, Iris (Franca Stoppi). To say this is the best thing Massaccesi ever did is faint praise, but it’s energetic, atmospheric and sometimes darkly funny, as in the scene when Iris chows down on a meal with comical gusto after helping Frank dispose of a body via dismemberment and acid bath. Frank reacts as any unprepared party who delves into this trash triumph will: He pukes.

– Steven Fouchard

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