Thursday, May 10, 2007
Movie Review: LORNA L'EXORCISTE
aka LORNA, THE EXORCIST
aka LES POSSEDEES DU DIABLE
Directed by Jess Franco
LORNA is a dark, disturbing and fetid little dirtbag of a film. And something coming close to being a masterpiece. Jess Franco is infamous for making this kind of kinky, slimy exploitation film but as far as ones I’ve seen go, he really topped himself with this dank little weirdo. Exploring warped areas of demented sex magick as well as sensationalistic incest themes, Franco pulls out all the stops in what would otherwise just be another Z-grade sexploitation programmer. His personal, invigorating style permeates every frame, investing the exploitative elements with an artistic authorial voice all too uncommon in international softcore sinema. His life companion and sleaze-muse Lina Romay gives one of her sexiest and most unnerving performances and she pushes the film into territories uncovered by almost any other film-maker I can think of. What a woman. What a film. What an experience.
A Faustian tale of lust and greed, Romay portrays the daughter of a wealthy industrialist who is hiding a unnatural, occult past. His fortunes are tied to the desires of an ageless witch called, of course, Lorna. On the verge of his business collapse a chance encounter with this devious feminine force-of-nature enriches his fortunes at the cost of a deal that will deliver his then unborn daughter to Lorna on the day of her 18th birthday. When that day arrives, he tries, ultimately unsuccessfully to save his increasingly lust-filled daughter, until he and his wife are drawn into a unholy quagmire of sex, death and witchcraft.
Along the way we are treated to an unbelievable miscellany of steamy and bizarre details which will slice your synapses. One uncanny scene reveals a disgusting depiction of sand-crabs emerging from the mother’s cursed pussy. While achieved quite cheaply, the effect is truly disturbing and downright creepy. It adds to the unhealthy occultish atmosphere Franco has created, leading you into a murky territory which is both attractive and repulsive, somehow simultaneously. The weirdness builds. Franco regular Howard Vernon shows up for an exceedingly brief cameo, playing a henchmen for Lorna, summoned to put the wealthy industrialist in his place. He enters the room, and without a word picks up a spikey conch shell and batters the compromised father-figure with it. Then he leaves. Franco inspired such loyalty from certain of his collaborators that they felt no hesitation in showing up just for a day or even in this case, probably just an hour or two. Vernon probably wasn’t even paid for the appearance, he just did it. Maybe out of sharing a kindred spirit with Franco, a spirit dedicated to following the muse of filth and art wherever its dark path may lead.
Some of the more extreme details seem to be missing from the print that I witnessed. Cathal Tohill and Pete Tombs’ essential tome Immoral Tales speaks of a scene missing from most of extant prints which features “a dildo, blood-licking and witchcraft” and I am much poorer for having not seen it. But either way LORNA L’EXORCISTE is a remarkable and very strange little film. Jess Franco had made upwards of 150 exploitation films since the late 1950s, and this is one of the best and most unique of his many pieces of utterly weird filth-films. You must seek it out. Hopefully it will be uncovered in a deluxe, remastered special edition DVD. Few exploito movies have ever been so deserving.
Available for rent at Scarecrow Video!