Sunday, March 16, 2014

Demons 3: The Ogre

THE OGRE (1988, aka “Demons III: The Ogre” or “The Ogre: Demons 3”, original title “La casa dell’orco”, “House of the Ogre”)
Directed by Lamberto Bava
Screenplay by Dardano Sacchetti
Reviewed By Goat Scrote

    This is a made-for-cable-TV movie about a magical ogre who gets sexually aroused by flowers. There are no slime demons, no spiritual possessions, and no physical transformations. It's just one horny monster who drools over catalogs of FTD gift bouquets like my dad with the latest Victoria’s Secret mailer. This is one of three different movies that have been marketed as “Demons 3”. The legitimate part 3 is Michele Soavi’s “La Chiesa” aka “The Church” from 1989, and there’s also Umberto Lenzi’s unofficial 1991 entry “Dèmoni 3” (1991) aka “Black Demons”, which is a voodoo-zombie picture. “The Ogre” has no real connection with the “Dèmoni” films and if you’re expecting the same kind of movie, you will be severely disappointed. It would have made more sense to call it “The Shining 2”, since it’s about the family of a writer who may be going crazy in a big empty vacation house, there’s a hedge maze out back, and the main character even has psychic visions warning her of the danger waiting at the estate. Or they could have called it “Troll 3: The Ogre”. Why not? If they were releasing “The Ogre” today and wanted to attach it to a successful franchise, the “Shrek” series is a natural choice. Can you imagine the beautiful chaos, showing deceptively-titled Italian horror movies to theaters full of weeping, traumatized children…? “Mommy, what is Shrek doing to Donkey’s eyeball with that corkscrew!?!”

The Shining 2: Shrek's Revenge?

    Actually, “The Ogre” is virtually blood-free and mostly goes for creep factor rather than explicit violence. It’s not for kids thanks to sexual themes, but still tame enough for 80s cable TV. There’s some nudity when husband and wife take a bath together (55 minutes), a surprisingly casual scene of domestic violence (62 minutes), an implied sexual assault by the ogre (69 minutes), and a somewhat more explicit assault near the end (85 minutes). There are some macabre effects in the recurring image of the ogre being born out of a cocoon of cobwebs, slime, and bones. The house is effectively used to build up the atmosphere of looming danger, but the villain himself is uninspired and just not very frightening. He’s most effective early on when all we see is one menacing claw. The more we see the creature in action, the more it looks like a cosplayer at the Renaissance Faire. 

care for some mead and a turkey leg?

 The story is not very exciting, the characters aren’t engaging, and the finale is unsatisfying and hard to make sense of. I recommend seeking out one of the other, much better Bava/Sacchetti collaborations available. I usually like Lamberto Bava’s monster movies, they display a lot of imagination, but this one is best avoided.
    The movie begins in Portland, Oregon. Some bad shit is going down, according to the musical score (by Simon Boswell). A little girl is having a bad dream. She runs through a huge empty European castle filled with creepy suits of armor. Lamberto Bava seems to have a signature special effect, where a stretchy sheet is used to create the illusion of an artistic image coming to life in an unnatural way.  It crops up right away here in “The Ogre” with the paintings in the nightmare hallway. In a dark, cobwebby basement there is something with claws waiting for her. She drops her teddy bear and runs, and the claw plucks an orchid from the bear.
unpleasantly magical
    As the movie goes on, it establishes orchid-plucking as a symbol for sexual desire, which makes the subtext of this first scene really, really unpleasant: The monster wants to do more than just kill her. The girl awakens from her nightmare just as the monster attacks, and her teddy bear has vanished from the waking world. She tells her mother about the monster in her dream and Mom reassures her that “we create monsters, in our minds.”

I'm deep sea diving for Nilbogs

   Many years later, Cheryl (Virginia Bryant) has grown up into a famous horror novelist with a family of her own, husband Tom (Paolo Malco) and son Bobby (Patrizio Vinci). They travel to rural Italy to stay at a posh rented villa. Dad lets the young boy get wired on cappuccinos while Mom declares her hatred of orchids. What kind of twisted, horrible, Grinch-like freak holds a grudge against flowers? No wonder the ogre wants her to suffer!
    The vast vacation estate is eerily familiar to her. Her childhood dream returns, and nightmares continue to plague her throughout her stay. The first night she dreams that she has become a child again. There is something lurking inside (or maybe forming out of) a nest of bones and cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. When slime comes gushing out of it, she runs and hides. The creature’s arms burst through a wooden barrel, grab her from behind, and… wait a second, is the monster feeling her up or killing her?!? Her husband wakes her up because she’s screaming her head off.
    The nightmares have inspired her writing, and the next day she is clacking away at her typewriter. For all you post-computer-age kids scratching your heads thinking “what’s that?” a ‘typewriter’ is a slow, noisy mechanical text editor driven by human musclepower. Very steampunk, don’t you think? One of the black beetles infesting her workroom gets lodged in the works and wrecks her typewriter ribbon. She tries to buy a replacement in town and when the shop won’t take her American Express card they taste the nuclear fury of her ugly American wrath. She makes a friend in town when Anna (Sabrina Ferilli) helps her buy the typewriter ribbon. She hires Anna’s sister, Maria (Stefania Montorsi), as a babysitter for Bobby.
What the fuck is that?

    In the villa, unexplained things keep occurring, such as claw-shaped handprints that appear and disappear. Cheryl explores the basement of the castle for the first time and makes an impossible discovery… it is the basement from her dream, and furthermore her childhood teddy bear is there! She flashes back to her nightmares, where the terrible ogre (played by Davide Flosi) comes to life. It actually does slightly resemble one of the creatures from the Demons movies, at least from a distance. The ogre is dressed in a surprisingly effete, lacy period costume. He is also disappointingly lacking in the slime-oozing department, despite his gooey birth. Back in reality, Cheryl hears weird squishy noises and green goo drips on her face, so she gets out. Her dickhead husband thinks she has an overactive imagination.

Why is daddy such a dickhead?
    Meanwhile the kid Bobby seems to be flirting with his much older babysitter Maria, and their mutual orchid-plucking seems to confirm it.  Later all the characters get together at a dinner party with the family of Anna and Maria. Anna “dabbles in parapsychology” and she believes Cheryl has psychic powers. They discuss the wild orchids which grow in the area: “The flower preferred by ogres”; “It drives ogres wild with delight.” This sounds like a marketing campaign for a perfume. “Wild Orchid fragrance, for refined ladies who want to die impaled on ogre cock.” The upshot of all this flower talk is that ogres mate with human women who smell of orchids, which generally seems to end in death rather than baby ogres (you decide which fate would actually be worse).
    Hubby gets mad that Cheryl’s losing touch with reality and smacks her, because, you know, that’s how you treat a woman when her uterus starts making her act all crazy and female. She hits him right back without hesitation, and I cheered a little bit. Seriously, honey, you gotta dump your man, he’s a piece of shit. Even so, they’re all smiles a minute later when he rescues her from a cow that chews its cud in a vaguely threatening manner and wanders aimlessly in her vicinity.
    Babysitter Maria and Bobby are alone later, playing hide and seek. She goes looking for him in the basement – while wearing an orchid in her hair. Oh shit!!! The Ogre appears for real, sniffs the orchid, and then rips off her shirt. Maria hasn't showed up by the time Mom and Dad get home, so Tom goes out to search the road while Cheryl stays home with the sleeping kid. Cheryl decides to go explore the basement and finds Maria’s shoe floating in a vat of greenish water, along with some missing pages from her novel. Luckily a waterproof flashlight just appears out of nowhere. When she goes into the water she bumps into Maria’s corpse and several other human skeletons clamped into  various torture devices. She surfaces in a panic, and the ogre is there – and then it’s not the ogre, it’s her husband Tom. (Once again, you decide which fate is less appealing.)

Ahem pardon me madam I forgot my pants

    Somehow Cheryl is now psychically linked to the ogre, and she sees in her vision that it is stalking Anna. It attacks Anna in her room, ripping off her nightie. Tom just thinks Cheryl’s crazy… until the ogre shows up for real. Tom fights it while Cheryl and Bobby flee. It chases after them so Cheryl rams it with the car and drives back and forth over it a few times. She’s a plucky gal! The ogre fades away like a dream. The ending is total crap already, but it manages to get worse. The next day everybody that was killed is alive again because, in reality, they were all off doing other things aside from dying at the time they were murdered. (Huh???) The final dialogue sort of vaguely hints that Cheryl went back and re-wrote her story to give it a happy ending. If she’s got that kind of power, why didn’t she also re-write the character of her condescending chauvinist husband? Now she could have Fabio instead!
Or me I'd make a better husband

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