Friday, September 5, 2014

Demons 6: De Profundis (1989)

Demons 6: De Profundis (1989, aka “De Profundis”, aka “Demons 6”, aka “Il gatto nero”/“The Black Cat”, aka “Edgar Allan Poe’s the Black Cat”)
Directed by Luigi Cozzi, screenplay by Luigi Cozzi.

Review by Goat Scrote

     This movie was conceived as a sequel to Dario Argento’s “Three Mothers” series, but without Dario Argento. At the time, only “Suspiria” (1977) and “Inferno” (1980) had been made. “The Mother of Tears”, Argento’s closing entry in the trilogy, arrived in 2007. There are a few recognizable parallels between that film and this film. I’ve read that Argento’s companion, collaborator, and baby-mama Daria Nicolodi had uncredited writing input as well. I’m not sure she would want to take any of the blame for this, though, considering how confusing and plain rotten it turned out. It’s not totally devoid of entertainment value but it is pretty idiotic. If you absolutely must see a film by Luigi Cozzi (pseudonym Lewis Coates), check out his trashterpiece “Starcrash” (1978), a hilariously godawful ripoff of “Star Wars” (1977).
Thanks, Luigi, but I can screw up this series all by myself.

     The original title of this film was “De Profundis”, meaning “out of the depths”.  Before release, the distributor re-titled it to make it seem connected to Edgar Allen Poe in some way, and it became “The Black Cat”. It’s also marketed as “Demons 6: De Profundis” but don't be fooled. It's completely unrelated. Of the nine Demons sequels, the only one more boring and impenetrable than "Demons 6" is the execrable "Demons III: The Ogre".

Get that camera out of here! I don't want my title associated with a shitty Cozzi knockoff.
     It gets off to a promising start with an interesting self-referential premise and a few clever touches that overlap reality with fantasy. Things get sillier and sillier, especially in the second half. After much boredom broken up with some special effects, we come around to a confusing, arbitrary, deus ex machina climax with a ridiculous twist lifted directly from HG Lewis’s “The Wizard of Gore” (1970).
     Speaking of gore, there is one good bloody kill which felt like a toned-down Fulci tribute. The monster makeup looks decent and they lather on the slime a few times. The special effects are one of the better things about the movie. Use of colored light and filters, red and green and blue, apes some of the visual style of Argento but the imitation feels flat.

...there is only Zu'ul!

     The soundtrack is full of ‘80s hard rock hits which I’d guess were used without permission — Bang Tango “Someone Like You”, Guns n’ Roses, and others. They also recycle at least one part of the superb Goblin score for “Suspiria”, but I can think of several movies which have done that. The rest of the score would be perfectly fine but the same themes are overused in a very heavy-handed way and it gets repetitive and irritating. (Actually, I guess that makes it a perfect reflection of the movie.)
     I have to get deeply anal retentive for a second here. It’s totally absurd to look for factual accuracy in a horror movie but their treatment of Thomas de Quincey's book of essays “Suspiria de Profundis” (1845) and its content annoys me a thousand different ways. The filmmakers identify Levana, a Roman goddess of childbirth, as one of the recently-invented, fictional Three Mothers of Sorrow. This is not even slightly correct. Levana is a separate, fourth figure in the source material. It's as if Cozzi is trying to set the world record for the largest number of masterpieces puked on simultaneously.

The Fly 3: De Profundis

     “De Profundis” opens on a shot of outer space and a planet which may or may not be our own. The stars are overlaid with a fetus in the womb. This little Kubrick tribute will keep happening periodically and it will never, ever connect back to the rest of the film. We go back down to Earth to a giallo-style murder scene. That turns out to be exactly what it is: A murder scene being filmed for a giallo thriller called “The Black Cat”. Michele Soavi has a cameo playing the director.

I crap better movies than this.

     Main character Anne Ravenna (Florence Guérin) is an actress married to “king of the spaghetti thrillers” Marc Ravenna (Urbano Barberini). You may remember Barberini as the hero in “Demons” (1985) or as Tarl Cabot in the MST3K “Outlaw of Gor” episode. Marc directs Anne in her movies and helped her spawn an infant. This is drawn from the personal histories of Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi, perhaps mashed together with other figures from Italian cinema.
     Anne’s best friend is another actress, Nora, who is sleeping her way to the top of the Italian film industry. She is played by Caroline Munro, who appears in a whole lot of other movies which are great fun. Whenever she’s on the screen here (which is not very much) she brings things up a notch with her performance as the grasping ultra-bitch Nora.

The Shaving of Caroline Munro

     The characters discuss the movie “Suspiria” and Dario Argento in connection to the latest screenplay they are working on, entitled “De Profundis”. They’re looking for funding for their unofficial Argento sequel from a rich cranky producer in a wheelchair, Leonard Levin (Brett Halsey). Eventually the producer decides to go for it.
     The villain of the film they are making is also the villain in the film we are watching: A witch named Levana. She is a hideous beast. We see her rise from the tomb as the filmmakers describe their movie. Anne is slated to play the villain. The witch doesn’t like the idea of being portrayed on film one bit. She bursts out of a mirror and dribble-vomits green slime all over the actress, screaming that she will never allow them to make the movie. They sure do linger on the puking. Anne wakes up later and it all seems like it was a nightmare.

Nurse, get me a million cc's of Clearasil, stat.

     Another phantom appears in the mirror, a young girl named Sybil (Giada Cozzi) who seems friendly. She eventually explains that she is a fairy. Levana’s arms bursts through the wall and the attack segues into Anne waking up from a nightmare. How many times are we going to do that? (Quite a few more, it turns out.) The witch continues to torment her by playing childish pranks like sliming all over kitchen appliances and putting fireworks in the refrigerator. Reality keeps twisting out from under Anne and she wonders if she is going nuts or what.

A helpful translation.
     A consultant on the occult becomes involved and she insists that they must not use the name Levana or the witch will be summoned. Levana can take over the body of anyone who concentrates on her hard enough. (So why is she trying to stop the movie, then?) Levana also reincarnates according to a set of rules. If she is born as a male, she has to kill a newborn to come into her powers.
     It will eventually turn out that every explanation or rule established in the movie is contradicted by some twist or other later on, or gets dropped and becomes irrelevant to the plot. This is a sure way to frustrate viewers. Eventually it’s impossible to understand (or give a damn) what the witch is really up to.

Venting some spleen.

     Levana takes bloody revenge on the occultist with an explosive, organ-flinging torso blowout. It’s about 47 minutes in and it is the only major highlight of the movie for gore-hounds.
     Sybil the nice fairy appears on TV and claims that both herself and Levana have existed within the actress from the beginning. The television explodes and slimy guts pour out, along with knife. Anne is given a choice, pick it up and become Levana or leave it and remain herself. She picks up the knife and stalks the baby while wearing her character makeup. Marc interrupts so she stabs him. He pulls out the knife and stabs her in return, and they both die. Can you guess what happens next? That’s right, it was another goddamned dream. Cut that out, movie!

WTF ru looking at?
OMG U R pretty!

     When the baby goes missing for real they decide not to call the police even though it’s clearly an abduction. Hand those people a responsible parenting award. “You are not Levana” is neatly written on the wall in red letters. Anne figures out that the movie producer Levin is involved. We travel back to outer space while she shouts “Leviiin!”… what the hell…? I really have no idea what that's supposed to mean. Maybe she's shouting so loud it can be heard in orbit, like a cartoon.
    Marc is giving the Levana role to Nora and planning to leave Anne for the dark-haired temptress. They have tastefully adulterous sheet-covered movie sex. He is unconcerned about the missing child or his wife’s bizarre behavior.

Somebody has the Mondays.

     Anne confronts Mr. Levin with a gun and demands her baby back. Levin is already undead, animated by Levana. Anne figures it’s another dream. (Good guess.) Levin tells her to kill herself to wake up. She shoots him instead until he stops moving. A woman shows up with a knife and Anne shoots her too. The dying woman tells her to go see Nora.
     Nora has the baby. She hands him right over and Anne goes home. Levana is so peeved that she makes the same car explode three times and forces Nora to slit her own throat. At Anne’s place, Levana shakes the house and throws glowing energy around.

The entire movie summed up in one image: Offal.

     The witch seems to have reincarnated in a boy named Willy, but it turns out instead that, I don’t know, some other fucking thing happens and then mumble mumble mumble, what do you want from me? This movie is really confusing. Levana is an undead puke-filled psychic mutant reincarnating witch who is completely all-powerful but posing as a babysitter, or some absurd nonsense like that. 
     The witch shoots her magic wad and Anne seems to explode. Levana’s victory dance doesn’t last long, because Anne is really the one who is all-powerful and she is creating the reality which Levana lives in, not the other way around. Marc shows up and stabs Levana the babysitter in the back. She dies. Really? That's an absolutely moronic way to end a battle between two nigh-omnipotent goddesses.
There's a Tooth Fairy, so why not a Television Fairy?
    We go back to outer space, which makes even less sense now than it did at the beginning. Then Anne wakes up again, next to her director husband, in her even-more-perfect life. She talks to the annoying TV-fairy and they pat each other on the back for fixing the whole damn world. Hey, big twist coming everybody, act like you didn’t stop caring long ago. The mind of the witch is in the baby! 
     I’m still not clear on the basic plot question of whether Levana wanted to stop the movie, make the movie, or if the movie production didn’t truly matter at all. I am really irritated at Luigi Cozzi right now, though.

Change me or die screaming!



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