Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Movie Review: SCREAM ... AND DIE!

Directed by J. R. Larraz
UK/Spain; 1973

Spanish auteur Jose Ramon Larraz’s SCREAM AND DIE is a groovy giallo-esque thriller full of sex, blood, darkness and mystery. Indeed, ‘mystery’ seems to be the key word in discussing the work of the great director of VAMPYRES and VIOLATION OF THE BITCH. Larraz eschews typical thriller narrative structures for an elusive, intuitive feel, and while commercial demands meant he had to strew his films with violence and graphic sexuality (though he never made the move into hardcore porn like so many of his contemporaries), these elements are handled in a subtle, though rivetingly intense manner which gives the whole affair an air of palpable dread. SCREAM AND DIE follows this formula to great effect. Most ‘giallos’ screw up your expectations with red herrings and twisted plot logic on the way toward revealing their mysteries but Larraz does it different. Many things are left unexplained and outrageous plot developments are executed without an attempt to resolve them in a way which would shatter the dark, unsettling events portrayed. It’s these storytelling idiosyncrasies that separate Larraz from other ‘eurocult’ directors of the period. He floods you with the sex and violence but overlays it with an occult ambiance that I think is completely unique.

The story isn’t much, but is riddled with kink and unease. A beautiful model and her sleazy photographer boyfriend break into a house in the middle of the fog-enshrouded English countryside. The reasons are obscure. The photographer is looking for something, but can’t find it. Soon enough their clandestine entry is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of the master of the manor, accompanied by a young, busty, lovely thing who chatters away while the gentleman remains silent and encompassed in darkness. As the intruders look on, the man murders the girl in a fit of shocking and graphic violence. It’s all too much for our lovely model who scampers out the front door in abject terror. She gets away by daybreak, but finds her boyfriend has disappeared, although his muddied car ends up parked mysteriously in front of her flat the next day. Afraid to go to the police, sinister and violent events begin to surround her …

And I didn't even get around to mentioning the fey artist and his graphic incestual relationship with his aged aunt or the Satanist-looking dude who lets pigeons fly freely around his apartment.

As stated before, SCREAM AND DIE doesn’t really play by the rules of your typical giallo. Larraz has a unique method and painterly approach, and he seems uninterested in the silly mechanics that rule your typical 70s euro-thriller. While SCREAM AND DIE isn’t up to the astonishing level of later Larraz-terpieces, it is a rather incredible little potboiler that only reinforces my interest in the odd and mysterious work of this underappreciated director. Highly recommended and definitely in need of the special edition DVD treatment.

Print provided by Cult Alley Theatre.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good review, I'll try to check this one out. As the poster says "in the great hitchcock tradition" who could resist?