Weekends In The Dark: The Worst Thing Ever [NSFW][NSFL]on 2011/12/04 at 8:00 pm
What is this and why should you care? This is where we take a look at the worst thing ever. Plenty of people like watching challenging movies, maybe horror films that are scary or art pieces that change how we think about the world. Maybe your friends have told you about how crazy Haute Tension is or how much sex there is in Caligula or maybe even how hard it is to watch Anticristo. Well now, there exists a film that merges the very worst of so many genres into some mecha-voltron assemblage that is so much better (worse) than the sum of it’s parts.
See, once upon a time there was an author who enjoyed delving into the darkest recesses of the human condition, and whilst imprisoned in the Bastille for poisoning prostitutes with spanish fly and for sodomy with a manservant he wrote his opus, The 120 Days of Sodom. He was so proud of his work that he “wept tears of blood” when he feared it lost. The book was supposed to be an unforgettable descent into the darkest depths of depravity. The man was called the Marquis de Sade, and is the reason we have the word sadistic, so, y’know, mission accomplished there, buddy.
Naturally, in the ’70s some people decided this book needed to be turned into a movie, and naturally these people were Italian.
What follows is a quick look at just how crazy this all is. Gentle readers should beware of NSFW language, and NSFL imagery taken from the film. I cannot stress enough just how graphic this is going to get, so unless you’re considered an adult wherever you are and you happen to be willing to see absolutely horrific imagery, please don’t keep reading.
Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom
“All things are good when carried to excess” - The Duke (editor’s comment – WRONG!)
Directed in 1975 by Pier Paolo Pasolini, the basic plot of the film is actually quite simple. Four wealthy, older men own a castle. They have thugs kidnap dozens of teenagers, they select the most attractive teenagers from the group, spend several months mentally, physically, and sexually torturing them, and then painfully murder them all.
Then two of the thugs do a little dance.
At first glance you’d think this would just be a corny low budget 70s exploitation porn, kind of like I Spit On Your Grave or Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! but there is nothing sexy about any of this. There are long, long sequences where older women describe themselves being sexually abused for no other purpose than to entertain their audience (the gentlemen and their teenage slaves). These story-time segments intersperse most of the abuse scenes in the film, giving the whole experience a staccato boring/shock rhythm. The stories are probably supposed to be shocking, but its the 21st century now and with the exception of the pedophilia most of what they describe you’d see in the average porn.
Then just how bad does the film really get?
Well here are the kids just before feeding time. They’re forced to act like dogs to reinforce just how inhuman they are. In that scene one of them disobeys the orders to eat and is whipped until he dies.
“Well, Your Excellency are you convinced it is when I see others degraded that I rejoice when they suffer humiliating disdain that I have the exquisite pleasure of realizing how much better it is to be me than one of the inconsequential populace” -The Duke
Then he feeds one of the kids bread with nails in it.
Are we having fun yet?
Then there’s this:
I don’t think a caption can do that little sequence any justice. But this is about the point in the film, a little over halfway through, where the novelty wears off and the incredulity reaches a breaking point. Who ARE these people? Why would they agree to film this stuff. Even if they were budding actors willing to take any job, what possible benefit for a career in film could they possibly obtain by sitting around a room naked pretending to eat human excrement? The first time I tried to watch this movie this was where I gave up, certain that it couldn’t get any worse.
The thing is, if this was intended to be seen in a pornographic sense, the director (remember, someone did this on purpose) would have to dwell on the atrocities shown in the film. Indulge, if you will. But it doesn’t. The feces banquet sequence is less than a minute or so long. Just long enough for a tiny piece of your soul to wither forever.
I’m not mentioning the repeated rapes of the teenagers because they’re all done off camera. The movie just says that they’re happening without letting the viewer witness the act. Again, not something you’d see in a porn.
Thats exactly what you think it is.
Anyway, the next few sequences have the 4 main characters dress in drag, have some kind of mock wedding to their favorite guards.
Then, there is an elaborate montage where one by one most of the teenagers try to save themselves from punishments by betraying their fellows to the main characters. One by one they sell each other out. One has a photo of an old boyfriend, two of the girls are having a lesbian affair, one of the boys is having a relationship with one of the serving girls etc, etc.
Finally, they’re all tortured to death.
In the final scene of the film two of the goons, young Italian men armed with machine guns who have been complicit in all of the horrors of story, are shown sitting on break. One turns the radio to a waltz and asks the other
“Hey, do you know how to dance?”
“No” the other replies. “Let’s try anyway!”
“Sure, why not?”
Then they do a little dance.
So if it isn’t porn, what is it? The film’s setting is changed from that of the novel to that of fascist Italy, so it could perhaps be about the dehumanization of the common man by fascist leaders. Heck, the 4 main characters refer to each other as Duke, Bishop, Magistrate and President, and between them they have a wholly complicit goon squad who are so unperturbed by the abuses they witness that they can entertain themselves with a silly waltz at the end of it all. But if the message is “fascism is bad” there have to be better ways of getting it across than 116 minutes of coprophagia and torture.
The saddest part is that in the end the film is kind of boring. There’s very little action, the main characters are all unsympathetic monsters, the victims aren’t given any sort of dialog or even names so that we can care about them. The special effects are pretty bad, but that gets a pass given as it was made in 1975. It’s like Pasolini wanted us to witness this without any emotional investment at all. And that damns the film as an experience worse than any of the nonsense in it.
Final Score: On a scale of 1 to AWESOME this film rates a firm kick in the balls by an NHL player. Even if you take it like a man, and even if you have a cool story to tell your friends, you still got kicked in the balls, and you’d probably rather never have been kicked in the balls in the first place.
Addendum: If any of the imagery shocked or disgusted you, you will be pleased to know that the book is ten thousand times worse. Seriously.