Wednesday, October 13, 2010
31 Films for Halloween #5
aka Death Line (1972)
Dir: Gary Sherman
scare type: there's like two "look out behind you" scenes and a very dated haircut.
scare level: 2/10
Raw Meat has something of a reputation in the UK, or so I've read, as a milestone in the horror genre and sort of a bridge between the stuffy studio horror films and more raw films like Texas Chain Saw. After watching this film the only thing I can figure is that for the gore-weary (or deprived) UK this would have had more of an exploitation film quality than other films at the time, and that for the time when the UK was unable to see a great deal of the exploitation classics perhaps this would make for a place-filler (considering that in the US Last House on the Left came out the same year, by comparison, this seems far out of date). What I see in this film is an anachronism, a film before its time in that it's just like the tepid thrillers that MGM would release in the late 70's hoping to cash in on some of the exploitation audience.
The film starts out extremely promising, borrowing from every Giallo film ever made (which borrowed from Hitchcock) where an American comes across a man in danger and is caught up in an investigation into some bloody goings-on. The problem is that for the next 70 minutes or so you have scenes of the American and his girlfriend talking cut between scenes of the subway dwelling killer moping around cut between scenes of Donald Pleasance and Norman Rossington (who you'll recognize from A Hard Day's Night) making all sorts of sarcastic remarks and getting drunk. Pleasance could be seen as a post-modern disruption of the narrative if the narrative wasn't already falling apart or not really going anywhere. This is a slow, dark (in that I couldn't see what was going on at times), disappointing film. Tension is created then abruptly distracted, characters tell us the back-story then go out of their way to remind us later on in the film, there are mentions of social issues that are incredibly forced (perhaps the result of an American directing a very British film in which a specific region plays a role?), and yet the Pleasance scenes are so loose they seem from a completely different film.
Sherman did make a great, under-seen horror gem, but it's not this film, it was 1981's Dead and Buried. And someday I think there will be a great horror film made about a subway (sorry, CHUD), the material is all there, but all of the attempts I've seen so far have really missed the mark.