28 Jan 2012

Faces of Death - Will's Review

This is one of the most infamous titles on the DPP list, and I was shocked to learn that Lisa had never heard of it - I thought that we had all gone to school with at least one 'hard' kid who claimed to have seen it!

It made it's name (and schoolyard notoriety), by reporting to feature scene after scene of actual death - I remember seeing a copy in a video rental place where I used to rent horror movies using my fake NUS ID that said I was 3 years older than I was) and reading the box, which goes out of it's way to imply that it is utterly genuine - I was stunned; I couldn't believe this would be allowed, but I also wasn't sure I wanted to see it, and rented  "Braindead" instead (good move!).

In the intervening years, it has piqued my interest a few times; enough to have read up on it, but not enough to actually track down an uncut copy and watch the thing.

Until that is, I decided to work my way through the whole "Video Nasties" list...

Although it is unquestionably sensationalist (Look at the title for god's sake, and its hosted by a "Dr. Gross") but at times it does a bloody good impression of an earnest documentary. Indeed, split into sections (accidents, nature, suicide etc.) I could almost see BBC Three making a series out of it!

But for the fakery…

David Attenborough recently got in hot water by splicing footage of captive polarbears with footage of wild ones; so I dread to think what Ofcom would make of showing a real suicide jumper fall to their death, before cutting to a fake messy body…

In-fact, almost every close-up human death in the movie is fake, and often obviously so.
A lot of them feature impossible camera angles; during an attempted rescue of an amateur potholer, for instance, the rescuer is filmed from below as he descends to where the victims fell, as though the ‘documentary’ film-makers had asked that the rescue be put on hold, while they sent a camera man down to get a better shot, some feature multiple angels where we should be able to see the other cameras, and one scene features a middle-eastern beheading, supposedly filmed by a Canadian tourist… and features multiple angles and well-framed shots on a pro-grade camera!
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing; less on-screen real deaths can only be a good thing, but the movie kind of sets itself up to be lose/lose on this score: Real deaths, and I’d be somewhat appalled by it, fake deaths, and we feel lied to!
Although there are plenty of real bodies – graphic autopsy shots, piles of holocaust victims, row after row in a morgue, body parts scattered everywhere after a plane crash, drowning victims… there’s more than enough here to keep fans of rotton.com and it’s ilk happy! And it’s these scenes that have sent the body count soaring…

On the animal front, the film-makers show us what David Attenborough does not as a snake is devoured by piranhas (upsetting, I love snakes, but interesting in a national geographic way), we get the ‘highlights’ of a dog-fight, fur-seals are clubbed and skinned,  worst-case (or outdated) slaughter house footage is presented as the norm, and a cow is killed Kosher style (for my money, properly preformed Kosher butchery is worse than properly preformed Halal butchery), and there’s the Monkey Brain scene, in which a real, obviously terrified monkey is clamped into a table, and has his face smacked with foam hammers, before an obviously fake monkey head is switched in and cut open so that ‘tourists’ may eat it’s brain!

Then there’s the just plain left-field bits. If you went to school with one of the aforementioned ‘hard’ kids who claimed to have seen this, I bet they never mentioned the 3 minute lecture on the evils of littering, or the speech about how cancer is probably man-made and we all need to eat better did they? No sir! I’ll also be they neglected to mention that the final section of the film tries to sell us on the idea that ghosts are real, before implying some guff about reincarnation and ending with a montage of wildlife pictures, flowers and images of babies either!

I also got annoyed at “Dr. Gross” continually claiming to have witnessed most of these thing in person, but we never see him in the footage.

All in all and odd film, that should have board and repulsed me, bur didn’t do much of either… Cutting the animal scenes would have tightened the running time, removed the most offensive parts, and, for all it’s flaws, made this one strangely watchable.

WARNING: Usually purchasing the cut UK version of a movie is enough to excise the animal cruelty. Not so here; the UK version cuts only the dog-fight, and some of the monkey’s distress.

Body Count: 180+ (mostly lined up in morgues or open graves)
Boob Count: 6 pairs (including 2 deceased old pairs)
Animal Body Count: 50+

Most Memorable Death: Fake electric chair.

Please use the comments bellow only to comment on this post - to write your own review, please comment on the main post for this movie.

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