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Cult Epics presents
Cinema of Death (1986-2005)

"Are you king, are you the only lover or the last? Love who loved you from the cradle in her grave."
- Catherine Aymerie - Adoration

Review By: Chuck Aliaga   
Published: March 26, 2007

Stars: Catherine Aymerie, Takashi Matsuo
Other Stars: Rozz Williams
Director: various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (adult situations, gore, nudity)
Run Time: 01h:20m:35s
Release Date: March 27, 2007
UPC: 881190004395
Genre: horror

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- A-C-C C-

DVD Review

Most horror fans' love for the genre stems from having an open imagination. Such a quality is necessary to explore Cinema of Death, a new compilation DVD of five experimental films that rely mostly on extremely haunting visuals to terrify the audience. These non-linear tales aren't for everyone, but those who love to daring, psychologically stirring mind trips owe it to themselves to take this disc for a spin.

The first in the collection, Adoration is a 15-minute Belgian film by director Olivier Smolders. This most compelling, blood-curdling entry is full of images that linger long after it's over. Based on a true story, Smolders initially shows us an unnamed Japanese man (Takashi Matsuo) setting up a camera in a barren room somewhere. A woman (Catherine Aymerie) eventually enters the room and begins recording her reading of a French essay. Such interaction is strange enough, but what eventually transpires is a true shock, even though we know the man has something devious up his sleeve. This is very disturbing stuff, but it's difficult to turn away, despite the carnage.

Dislandia is an American picture from directors Brian M. Viveros and Eriijk Ressler. This is the longest of the collection, 29 minutes, and the most difficult to get a firm grasp on as far as the directors' intention. What we have is a collection of washed-out, murky visuals that center on a little girl named Lindsey, and her haunting visions. The filmmakers tell their "story" through the use of dialogue-free audio, but the various sound effects and music used crafts an unforgettable fever dream that is just chilling enough to be effective.

Another entry from the US, the 23-minute Pig, isn't as surreal as its predecessor, but it's still as experimental as they come. Also sans dialogue, director Nico B relies on some sharp editing techniques to take us on an unparalleled sadistic journey. The "star" of the film, Rozz Williams, committed suicide shortly after the shoot, which makes his performance all the more chilling. There's more incredibly disturbing material here, including shots of the male sexual organ abused, to put it mildly. If you had difficulty getting through the finale of Adoration, good luck with the final 10 minutes of this one.

The final part of the US trilogy within this collection is Nico B's second entry, Hollywood Babylon. Lasting a mere four minutes, this is basically a brief trip through the "Museum of Death," which serves as a brief tribute to filmmaker Kenneth Anger. Most compelling is the footage of Charles Manson's portion of the museum—any reminder of one of the most notorious nut jobs of the 20th century is always disturbing.

Wrapping things up is the French entry La Poeme, directed by Bogdan Borkowski. At 12 minutes in length, calling this a challenging watch is an understatement. This is footage of an actual autopsy, with the only thing saving it from being cheap exploitation is the reading of Arthur Rimbaud's poem The Drunken Boat (Le Bateau ivre). Serving as our sole source of audio, Rimbaud's words lend the visual experience some heft instead of being simply disgusting and vomit-inducing. The poem's content also adds to the overall creepiness factor, making this the perfect ending to a chilling DVD experience.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: A-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame1.66:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyesyes

Image Transfer Review: You aren't going to find pristine video for any of these short films, but these full-frame transfers come through acceptably considering the source material. Adoration is the best-looking of the bunch, but it still has issues with grain and inconsistent black levels. All of the films are in black and white, except La Poeme, which is one of the roughest entries. Given that it's basically stock footage of an autopsy, a lack of crystal clear images can easily be forgiven.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchno

Audio Transfer Review: The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0, and again, it varies from film to film. The three films without dialogue tell their stories through ambient sound, which come across nicely in their respective mix. The two movies in French benefit from nice dialogue clarity, along with solid music and sound effect presentation.

Audio Transfer Grade: C


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 5 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Director's Introductions
Extras Review: The only significant extra feature is the presence of a video introduction by each director. Speaking before their respective film, they discuss the disturbing ideas they have put to film. Particularly chilling is Adoration helmer Olivier Smolders' discussion about the inspiration for his film.

Extras Grade: C-


Final Comments

The word "beautiful" isn't common when discussing most horror films, let alone those that involve autopsy footage. However, all five short films in the Cinema of Death collection have a certain beauty. The subject matter varies from straight-forward museum footage to avant-garde surrealism, but I challenge every horror fan with an open mind to get through this experience without having the word "beautiful" cross their mind at some point.


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