Naked Massacre/Review

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Playing like a cross between Grindhouse shocker and bleak Euro-Art film, Naked Massacre (originally known as Born For Hell) is an interesting little find for exploitation enthusiasts, since it boasts the grit and depravity of city life and the gut-wrenching terror of home invasion that were staples of 42nd St. fare.

Yet, Naked Massacre doesn't really have the reputation of a The House On The Edge of The Park or Maniac (both of which are similarly about twisted city dwellers and misogyny), and most of this anonymity is probably due to its deliberate pacing and not entirely seamless tone change in the final 30 minutes.

When a US soldier flees Vietnam and ends up in the equally war-torn streets of Belfast, he's told that he'll have to be put on a waiting list to get back to the States. Since he's nearly broke and without a place to stay, he loiters most of the day and spends his evenings using what little money he can on the pinball machine at the local pub.

After close, the drifter stays at a homeless shelter where he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a Vietnamese man who's also trying to get away from the hardships of war. Although our protagonist initially tries to make conversation about the medals he's won for "greasing gooks," he and the man become friends and even ponder pimping themselves out to gay men in England to make some cash. Not surprisingly, the loaner has other things on his mind, especially the dormitory of nuns that he spies on from the pub window.

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If reading that description makes it sound bleak, watching it is even bleaker. This film pulls no punches when showing the utter desperation of life in Ireland, making it look like a post-apocalyptic world depicted in a science-fiction film, when that's the way it actually was. This forthright and unwavering sense of realism reminded me of the early features of English director Ken Loach, especially in the matter-of-fact lifestyle of the two jobless vagrants as they cook up get-rich-quick schemes. However, this film is about to leave Loach territory and dive head first into something depraved and demented.

As for that change in tone, Cain (this is apparently the name of the lead, albeit that it's never mentioned) starts to devolve at a rapid pace towards the film's conclusion, turning from a pitiable drifter to a full-blown maniac. When he brings an elderly prostitute home and makes her dance naked at knife point, we see just how mad this soldier is getting. The awkward moments of this woman dancing are so unsavory and uncomfortable that I almost had to turn away from the screen.

Predictably, this act of transgression leads to an even bigger one, as Cain finds himself breaking into the nurse home and tying the girls up, demanding their money. He initially claims that all he wants is to get back home to see his wife and child, but before you know it, he's sexually and mentally abusing his victims and taking out his personal anguish on them.

It seems that his best friend has been having relations with his wife since he's been away and the child he spoke so kindly of isn't his own. After exposing this story to the frightened young girls (who are all a bit one-dimensional, unfortunately), he strangles one to death with his belt and forces two others to engage in cunnilingus, before forcing one girl to stab the other to death.

This sick little number features a strong lead performance, provocative statement about the effects of war on its participants and excellent direction from future Academy Award Nominee Denis Heroux (he was nominated for his role as producer on Louis Malle's Atlantic City). Although it does have its flaws (particularly the momentary jump from strange to insane), it is a solid home invasion feature and it will definitely be of interest to fans of that disturbing subgenre.

Reviewed by Mdeapo

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