Morituris: Legions of the Dead Blu-ray Review (Synapse Films)
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Brutality has its place in horror films, and there have certainly been a number of movies that use violence as a way to speak out against the act. Rape revenge has been around for some time, and despite the controversial techniques of depicting the vile act in detail, many films in that sub-genre have been successful because they force the viewer to face the uncomfortable footage without looking away; The Last House on the Left and I Spit On Your Grave are two of the most famous, and they’ve withstood criticism because, even with the shocking and uncut scenes of rape, there’s a stronger message within the subplot. Morituris: Legions of the Dead, an Italian horror film from director Raffaele Picchio, wants to sit in the same category as the aforementioned films, as well as nasty Italian gore flicks from the ’70s; unfortunately, there’s nothing redeeming about what Morituris has to offer, because it’s just plain mean.
The first piece of evidence that Morituris isn’t worth your time is an opening scene, shot in sepia, with a family picnicking in the woods. It’s a nice enough event, and it’s clear that something bad is going to go down because of the pleasantness of the scene, but what’s worse is that Picchio never fails to force something reprehensible into the plot. Here, it’s the reference to a pedophile uncle who almost completes his molestation; it’s not explicit, and so viewers might be willing to forgive Morituris and carry on with the film.
But that’s not the end of the awfulness. What’s worse is that the opening murder doesn’t even connect with the plot insomuch as it is simply a vignette meant to disturb the viewer. Morituris has gladiator zombie murderers in the woods, and Picchio doesn’t even care to explain the idea besides an animated sequence at the beginning of the film. Even that, however, is carelessly explained. There’s just no reason for anything that happens at the beginning of Morituris, and that should be an indication that one should probably just shut it off.
If one should want to plunge onward, however, be prepared for some really disgusting acts. Three men – Giuseppe Nitti, Simone Ripanti, and Andrea De Bruyn, all unnamed – take two women (Valentina D’Andrea, Désirée Giorgetti) into the woods for a supposed rave, then rape them in the most malicious ways possible. That’s it; that’s the whole plot. The viewer is forced to watch nearly half an hour of terrible dialogue during a car ride, then also repeatedly punched in the head with a number of misogynistic acts including, but not limited to: rape, scissor insertion, a violent blowjob, spit, kicking and punching, and the vomiting of what looks like undigested cum. This is the classiness of Picchio’s film.
Maybe, just maybe, these reprehensible acts could mean something, one might think as they continue to watch D’Andrea and Giorgetti get tossed around like blow-up dolls. Maybe these horrible men will get their due, maybe the women will at least get revenge in some way. You’d be wrong to think this, oh so wrong, because Picchio has no intention of giving any redemption to his feminine protagonists. Instead, he simply murders all of them when the gladiator zombies wake up, and it’s not even the women who make it to the end.
So what can one make of something so blatantly misogynistic like Morituris? Picchio and screenwriter Gianluigi Perrone can argue all they want about how Morituris depicts the worst of humanity, it doesn’t change the fact that what is repeatedly shown in the film is simply the defilement and dehumanization of women, whether it be by their rapists or by the gladiators who come later. Even with Sergio Stivaletti’s admittedly good special effects, and Picchio’s manageable direction, there’s nothing in Morituris that makes me want to recommend it for anyone’s viewing consumption.
Side note: Morituris: Legions of the Dead does offer up some interesting reflection about the horror genre, however. Picchio and Perrone have so clearly misunderstood the intentions of films like I Spit On Your Grave; what does that say about their use in the cinematic world? If people are missing the point of these rape revenge films, are they really as effective as they should be? Perhaps, perhaps not. It depends on the viewer, and honestly I think we’ve already spent too much time attempting to reconcile the vileness of a film that doesn’t deserve the attention.
To be honest with you, I’m kind of disappointed in Synapse Films for even releasing this garbage. There’s not much point to it, either, since besides the nice Blu-Ray treatment (so, you know, you can see scissor-fucking in detail or something, I guess) and the two audio options (5.1 for more horrific rape screams, or standard 2.0), there’s only a trailer included and reversible cover art.