Silence Has A Loud Voice: A Review of The Savage Sinema

Posted: October 18, 2009 in Uncategorized
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I want to make clear a couple of things before I get into the meat of this review. I first became aware of Mark Savage through a blog post he did on T.M. Wright’s work back in June of this year http://phantomofpulp.blogspot.com/2009/06/wrights-precious-children.html; since then, he and I have exchanged emails about our love for Wright’s work, as well as our own projects. I’ve also been aware of the box set since T.M. mentioned it to me a couple of months ago, but procrastination and money kept me from taking the plunge. I finally bit the bullet and ordered the set a couple of weeks ago, and finally received it this week. The 4 disc box set contains 3 of Mark’s movies and a fourth disc containing a stunning short film as well as a generous handful of super 8 movies he made as a teenager.

Marauders is the earliest film of the three, made in 1986 with a frayed shoe string of a budget, MARAUDERS is equal parts LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and an old John Ford western where the posse tracks down the evil doers. Even with a direct to video look, MARAUDERS delivers some good performances (as well as some awful), and Savage’s writing is brutal, profane and still a level or two over most mainstream work. What I liked in particular is that no one here is a good guy-certainly not the two, killing, raping machines of JD and Emilio, nor those who cross their path. Certainly two wrongs don’t make a right, but when the townsfolk show as much orgiastic glee in their tracking and killing as the doomed duo, you are left wondering about the thin membrane that separates us from them. Also included on the disc is a great, indepth retrospective about 35 minutes long that gives a lot of detail from the players on the making of MARAUDERS. The commentary track is equally as interesting, and very entertaining.

Sensitive New Age Killer is, in spite of one of the worst titles in memory (a change forced upon Savage, so it’s not his fault), proves to be a sometimes funny, sometimes thrilling cops and robbers caper flick.  Centered around a hit man who grew up to become the man he idolized as a child, he quickly finds himself blackmailed to perform sex acts by a female policeman who never takes no for an answer. While the film at its core is somewhat of a dark comedy, the humor doesn’t always work, but that is made up for by some excellent performances-in particular Frank Bren as the man known as “The Snake”.  Savage does a great job with the gun fights, and like so many films in this genre, bullets are endless and no one can seem to hot the side of a barn 3 feet in front of them. The ending however is absolutely one of the best things about SNAK, and while it’s obvious, doesn’t detract from seeing it played out.  Released in 2000, SNAK also has its own 40 minute behind the scenes documentary, as well as another commentary track.

Defenceless in my opinion is nothing short of a masterpiece, though I may be the only one to think so. I watched this about 3 days ago and still can’t get it, or some of its images out of my head. DEFENCELESS tells the story of a woman who refuses to sign a contract that would allow a resort style hotel to be built in a gorgeous piece of seas side real estate. In spite of harm done to friends and family, she refuses to sign. When her inevitable demise comes, her rebirth and vengance on the three men who killed her is nothing short of shocking and brilliant. DEFENCELESS is a silent movie, no dialogue (other than some convenient text messages that act for the title cards of old) merely music and sound effects. I think if there were dialogue, it wouldn’t be as powerful and affecting. You’re forced to pay attention to everything going on.  With the longest running time of the three, there’s not a moment wasted. No scene unnecessary.

Make no mistake, DEFENCELESS is brutal beyond belief. Its depictions of rape and torture are so vivid, chilling and disturbing,  Eli Roth should takes notes. THIS is how you make a movie with rape and torture.  You create characters that have personality, who are real, who could be living next door to you.  Mark Savage was able to create distress and horror with no dialogue, and an unflinching eye. This isn’t so much a film, as it is a poem written in blood. I can’t recommend this enough. As with the other films, there’s an outstanding behind the scenes doc, and a great director’s commentary.

That Mark Savage isn’t as well known as he should be is probably one of the greatest crimes in genre work. His is a vital voice, and whether you like his work or not, his voice demands to be heard.

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