D: Nathan Schiff
Run Time: 123 min.
Distributed by: GOOD LUCK…
Review By David Austin
One of these days, all of us will wake up to the bitter realization that the world in front of us is nothing more than a macabre joke. If there is a God, we exist merely as chew toys for a higher power that enjoys watching us suffer. Friends, lovers, even entire families will disappear once the final screw gets turned – which it undoubtedly will…AND THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT.
Nathan Schiff’s heretofore-unseen magnum opus Vermilion Eyes is a film about that feeling. The absence of virtually all hope, the death of love and the silent anguish of the individual crying out for sanity in a world slowly losing its’ collective mind. Shot for peanuts on the back roads and woods of Great Neck, Long Island, Vermilion Eyes is shockingly ahead of its’ time and may possibly be the most transgressive, subversive, and disturbing piece of work to come out of the late-80’s new wave of splatter. Combat Shock references may pop up, and it’s well-known that Schiff and Buddy G have an affinity for each others’ work…but even in the harsh depiction of Staten Island, Buddy G’s film displayed a faint glimmer of hope amidst all of the chaos and destruction. In Vermilion Eyes, the only emotion evident through the abundant video noise is a never-ending howl of existentialist pain. Tread very carefully here, folks. Once seen, you will never forget this film.
The Man (a searing, intense turn by Schiff regular John Smihula) is an average working stiff with a predilection for grisly true detective magazines and photographing death scenes and car crashes. All around him, the few people he interacts with and meets on his dark night of the soul embody a death wish far greater than life. The blind, the drunk, the bitter, the alienated – nobody is safe. Is it reality or is it just a figment of a very disturbed imagination? Vermilion Eyes doesn’t give you as a viewer any easy answers or allow for cheap, pat resolutions. In this world, the only predetermined path for all of us is a brutal and senseless death. Only in death are we free from the pain of living, the pain of loss, and the destruction of innocence…which definitely figures into the plot by the end of the film.
Schiff’s earlier films (Long Island Cannibal Massacre, They Don’t Cut The Grass Anymore) were completely innocent splatter flicks, low on production value and high on enthusiasm. With Vermilion Eyes, Schiff announced himself as an artist, the virtual embodiment of the Cinema of Transgression, and perhaps the deepest-thinking auteur in indie horror. Peers such as Peter Jackson or Jim VanBebber may have had an easier time entertaining an audience, but Vermilion Eyes does not exist to entertain…the determination to disturb and appall is great with this one, but behind it all is a very deep message about loss, love, faith, spirituality, and redemption. It’s eerie in a way how VE (shot in 1988) prefigures the French Extreme of directors such as Gaspar Noe and Catherine Breillat. One can also see elements of the future of directors like Todd Haynes or Lars Von Trier scattered throughout this backyard epic.
|Critics Scmitics, I have at least another 30 minutes to ice some human waste|
That said, this movie isn’t going to please everyone, especially in its’ current state as a cut (98 minutes from an actual runtime of 123) 5th-generation bootleg. Some critics (namely Michael Weldon of Psychotronic Video) have already railed on about how Vermilion Eyes is “nothing more than a guy killing women for 2 hours.” Is he right? Yes and no. While pieced together as a collection of scenes emboldening an ideology, don’t expect Murder-Set-Pieces. Schiff has a loftier goal in mind – By disturbing his audience, Schiff puts the viewer in the uncomfortable position of recognizing his or her own inadequacies and failings in his characters. They are people like us, fellow marionettes of tendon and veins, who exist for little more than painful and gruesome death. Is that what it all leads to? Maybe…maybe not, your guess is as good as mine.
|My airbag didn't work|