Monday, October 22, 2012

31 Horrors: Amer (#11)

Wherein I attempt to watch 31 horror films over the course of October. 31 horror films that I have never seen before, from obscure to acclaimed classics. We'll see how well I go in actually finding the time to watch and then write about them in some way.

You guys, I really hated Amer!

So I sat down to watch this movie on Blu-ray late last night as I was kinda in the mood for something stylish and scary, but a little bit off-centre, too. Turns out Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's giallo homage, Amer, was not the way to go. A rather lifeless, sketchy, snooze of a film that didn't engage me on any level. Even the visuals, arguably the film's raison d'être, weren't all that lush and deep. I was genuinely shocked to discover Amer was filmed on 16mm given the cheap, digital coldness that I found within the imagery. I would have turned it off if I wasn't positive that there was going to be some super icky violence to enliven the final act. I really needn't have bothered as I found the finished product amounted to little more than a pair of directors wanking directly to camera and laughing all the way to critical applause.

Given its giallo connections, it's natural for the mind to drift not only to the classical works of Dario Argento, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and so forth, but also this year's fantastic Italo-horror love-fest, Berberian Sound Studio. My knowledge of the genre is admitted quite limited, but Amer appeared to lack anything beyond the most basic of giallo tropes. Oh, I noticed the colour palate of the opening act, the close-skinned erotic nature of the second act, and the film's obsession with eyeballs and zooms, but they felt like pure superficial elements. The film didn't have the allure or the off-kilter mechanics of a giallo title. At least none of the giallo films that I have seen. It lacked the griminess within it prettiness that I've found so interesting before.

Where was the central murder mystery and the graphic reverberations that come with it? If you're going to make an ode to giallo then where is the poorly looped sound design? Amer, I found, lacked any of the suspense that I've found in titles such as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, nor the mad playfulness of Suspiria. Even the lone bloody sequence of Amer's climax lack the aura of a classic Fulci feature. As I've said, perhaps my knowledge of the giallo genre is just too narrow to truly "get" what Amer was doing, but it struck me as little more than, say, that trailer for Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis' The Canyons. All dressed up in its tarted up genre clothing, but seemingly lacking the inherent soul of the films its trying to cover.

It's certainly a fine line, but I certainly don't think Amer got there. Consider the aforementioned Berberian Sound Studio. I know some were disappointing in it, probably finding the same issues with Peter Strickland's film as I did with Amer, but I ultimately think it succeeded because it told a story as filtered it through the soft focus gauze of a giallo production. It's twists on the traditional Italo-horror narrative built to something - that something being a third act that essentially becomes the giallo horror that the film proposed to be a behind-the-scenes deconstruction of. That title was fabulously sneaky in the way it build suspense and terror in unconventional ways. Amer does its thing in such a flavourless way that the third act's amped up action climax comes off as little more than an obvious attempt at getting the pulse racing and leave audiences on a heartbeat high as a means of forgetting that nothing else in the picture served any purpose whatsoever.

Maybe I'm just looking at it the wrong way, but I found nothing in Amer even came close to what some of the best giallo films are capable of. And capable of without the virtues of computer colour tinting. Nothing in either of the three segments appear to have much to do with one another, and if there was then it certainly went way over my head. Maybe I'm still just annoyed at the terrible make-up effects in that opening act? The use of pre-existing music, too, wasn't used in any real effective manner. Unlike this review that states "especially present in the phenomenally tense climax, when the music lets the viewer know that the end is near", I don't need music cues to forecast for me that a movie is nearly over, although I wish this one had finished much sooner than it did. D

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