DVD: Bloody Flesh / Flesh of Your Flesh / Carne de tu carne (1983)

February 23, 2015 | By

 

BloodyFlesh1983Film: Very Good

Transfer:  Good

Extras: Standard

Label: One 7 Movies

Region: 0 (NTSC)

Released:  January 8, 2013

Genre:  Supernatural Horror

Synopsis: The death of a matriarch and a sudden explosion unleashes supernatural forces who fixate on the incestuous relationship between two cousins.

Special Features:  Theatrical Trailer

 


 

Review:

With few Colombian films available on video in North America, there’s a huge unfamiliarity with the country’s history and culture up here, making it a little tough to fully grasp the political and cultural references in Carlos Mayolo’s political critique that’s housed within a supernatural container.

Writer-director Mayolo doesn’t offer any pre-credit set-up – the film starts with a dedication to idols Roger Corman and Roman Polanski – but there are three scenes which give an impression that all is not well in the beautiful city of Cali, circa 1956.

The first deals with the fast demise of an aged, dementia-prone matriarch whose dying words seem to infer the Alfonso family is in for some special hell; the second has a trio of workmen uncovering a shallow ancient grave, seemingly unleashing angry spirits from the rock-covered pauper’s tomb into the clear-cut valley below; and the third scene shows the family’s chauffeur Ever (played by Mayolo) on a kind of death clean-up, unloading recently killed youths from a truck for a mass burial, and later teasing a seated turkey before he literally blows its head apart with his shotgun. It’s a nasty shot that’s presented in slow-motion, but there’s a sense the animal cruelty is a metaphor for the torment suffered by the freshly killed youths – victims of a vicious civil war.

Between 1948-1958, Columbia endured “La Violencia,” during which the supporters of the country’s rival conservative and liberal party fought over valuable agricultural land in rural locations, and some horrible cruelties were inflicted on men, women, and children. In 1956, an army convoy carrying 42 tonnes of dynamite exploded, leveling homes, and killing and injuring locals.

It’s during this period that Mayolo’s tale takes places, with its story exploding onto the screen when a wealthy family is sent fleeing from their house after the exploding convoy decimates their neighbourhood.

The prelude to the deadly event comes in the form of the otherwise joyful arrival of Margareth (Adriana Herran), the cousin of Andreas (David Guerrero) who’s been living in the U.S. for some time. Once back at the family home, the adults gather for a reading of the grandmother’s will, after which everyone sits down in the family room to watch old B&W film of their younger counterparts and long-departed relatives at the family’s mountain retreat, known as “Emma.”

When the dynamite explosion wakes up the family, the maid sees the ghost of the grandmother, and the film slowly takes a winding path towards the supernatural, with omens and other portents of danger, ghostly visitations, and the two teenage cousins soon partaking in a relationship that’s apparently part of the family’s dark past – incestuous love.

One could argue that had this been a European production, the visual imagery would’ve been more frank (mandating either older actors playing the teen cousins, or the cousins’ ages bumped up), but Mayolo wasn’t making a sexploitation picture. This is very much a politicized thriller where madness and depravity occur slowly, almost as seething evil stemming from angry spirits unleashed by both the death of a corrupt elder (the grandmother), and the ancient dead from the mountains.

Farm fowl is found dead the next morning, a newborn bleeds from a sore on its back, and the cousins’ uncle dies soon after they ride on horseback to his remote home, but why the teens snap isn’t fully explained, except that pretty Margareth, being an Alfonso pure blood, has a preference for family shagging, and after awakening shared lust in Andres, the two move on to a taste for human blood.

During their witching hour rendezvous, the pair see visitations of the relatives from the family film in human and animal form, each of whom encourages their incestuous behaviour, but Margareth’s taste for blood isn’t due to some vampirical transformation: while the teens’ courting was still innocent, she admits to Andres to having tasted human blood, but once they begin to act on their urges, Margareth seems to believe consuming blood will embolden and strengthen her being, and perhaps build up a certain invincibility to mortal wounds.

The teens eventually lose grasp of all reality, but it’s Margareth who instigates and initiates the violence, and compels Andres to draw blood to protect her. Mayolo’s finale doesn’t really resolve the film’s gradual slope towards supernatural weirdness; it just seems to infer that the corruption within elite wealthy landowners makes them magnets for bad juju, and even death, nothing can prevent a power-hungry class from tormenting ordinary citizens – a grave nor succumbing to a machete won’t stop pure evil.

Mayolo depicts class struggle in several ways: the teen’s uncle is also the family’s black sheep, kept away from the family’s city compound because of his rebellious Communist activities; American aide (in the form of canned cheese), intended for poor citizens rendered homeless from the convoy blast, is consumed like a minor condiment by the wealthy Alfonso clan; and in a round-up of rural farmers by the Alfonso family’s son, himself a corrupt policeman, the servant of Andres’ uncle is about to be dragged outside ‘for a walk’ to force a confession of guilt by the cop’s trigger-happy cronies.

If the story gets a little too loopy and allegorical, there’s at least a haunting mood that stems from great jungle locations as captured by Mexican cinematographer Gabriel Beristain, who went on to lens a number of horror films, including Blade 2 (2002). There’s also Mario Gomez Vignes’ bizarre score, which ranges from avant garde to more linear passages performed by a chamber quartet, sometimes interpolating the Elvis song “Love Me Tender” (a tune Margareth plays for her cousin from one of the records she brings from America).

One 7 Movies’ DVD features another rugged looking transfer; it’s slightly better than an avi file, but the full screen print lacks the sharpness and colours that were likely present in Beristain’s original film palette. The sound mix is straight mono, but it’s hard to tell if the music mix is deliberately wonky when Vignes’ score plays, or the composer recorded the music by nudging the tape recorder to create lots of demented wow and flutter.

The included trailer blows all the surprises, so avoid it until the very end. The good is that One 7 Movies have made available a surreal little gem, which will undoubtedly instill interest in Mayolo’s work, but it’s maddening the label just can’t deliver a crisp transfer from a clean print.

 

 

© 2015 Mark R. Hasan

 


 

External References:
Editor’s BlogIMDB
 
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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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