Faces Of Gore

Faces Of Gore

Purporting to be banned in 37 countries, FACES OF GORE is the natural (inevitable?) conclusion to the extreme strain of mondo 'shockumentaries' made popular by FACES OF DEATH over the last three decades - fusing hardcore gore footage with some unbelievably disrespectful narration that will offend a LOT of viewers.

The film opens with Dr Vincent Van Gore walking through a graveyard in the daylight. He addresses the camera and is clearly reading his preposterous script from cue cards held to the right of the lens. We learn that he is an expert in 'Death Phenomena' and that he is about to show us everything he has learnt on the subject. Oh, and that he's a resident of the Institute of Gorenology ...!

So far, so bad - it resembles a dumb spoof shot on video.

But then the credits roll and we are greeted to a fast-paced montage of blood-soaked hand-held police camera footage, depicting the aftermaths of road accidents, suicides and murders. All of this is set to the most incredibly melodramatic musical score imaginable! Full kudos to Tim Souster for supervising a score so offensively inappropriate!!

But the music perfectly captures the mock-sensational tone of this film early-on.

As Van Gore fades from the screen after introducing the first segment (entitled CRASH) we are privvy to several Japanese medical tapes of paramedics picking up the pieces (literally) of road accident cases. One disgusting sequence offers many close-ups of a motorcyclist whose skull has split wide open and is trapped between a lamp-post and a mesh fence. Another victim has their face rammed so forcefully into their own dashboard that their face has exploded - and their brains have been found several metres away. In each case, the Asian medics retire the corpses to a white sheet, then lift the head for the benefit of the hand-held camera's obligatory zoom-in shot.

All of this is accompanied by writer/producer/director Todd Tjersland's excitable and morally dubios narration. During a grim account of a tragic train wreck (we witness the charred corpses being lifted from the wreckage), Tjersland focuses on the body of a single woman who was heavily pregnant when she died. The skin of her stomach has been burnt away, therefore exposing the char-boiled foetus lying dead inside her. Our narrator embarks on a tirade against unmarried mothers, ultimately concluding that this particular scene is especially gratifying because it offers "two Faces Of Gore for the price of one".

Thirty minutes of crash footage later (all Japanese), we revisit Van Gore - and meet him standing over a tombstone dedicated to 'Dan O'Bannon'. He introduces us to his next Faces Of Gore file: SUICIDE.

More Asian footage ensues - mainly hangings, but there's also electrocution and self-mutilation along the way. Again, the footage is culled from police and medical training videos - and is backed by music that would be more suited to the likes of MAD MAX! The footage focusses on the aftermath of events. Hence, the film seperates itself from something like FACES OF DEATH which aims to show the gory incidents as they happen (even if they are often proven to be faked).

The most jaw-dropping moment in the suicide segment is Tjersland's commentary as the body of a hanged girl is stripped by medics. He remarks upon her breasts and guesses at her bra cup-size. It's intended to be humorous of course, but is very tasteless.

Next up, Van Gore invites us to share his findings in the dubious pleasures of MURDER. Again, we see corpses rather than actual actions (no, that's not a gripe!!). More video footage from Japanese police/medics follows. Occasionally we get a few brief moments of US violence, but by-and-large this production relies heavily on the Asian contingency to provide it's shocks.

The film suffers badly from an 'interview' with an Asian assassin that is just laughable. FACES OF DEATH tried the same sham 20-odd years ago, with the same ineffectual results. Most offensive about this scene is the way the Japanese man's dialogue is subtitled into English - the subtitles are in broken English, and obviously hoping for a cheap laugh from xenophobic viewers.

We do get to see very gory footage of a man disembowelled by a broken beer bottle. Lots of close-ups of the intestines here, spilling out "like spaghetti".

As we approach the final hurdle, Van Gore asks us to compare the 'real-life' footage on offer with scenes from recent US gore flick THE NECRO FILES. Hmm, who would guess that both films are distributed by the same company - Threat Theatre International Inc?!?! A shameless 'product-placement' ad, but the film looks quite interesting and righteously gory anyhow.

FACES OF GORE is the most questionable film I've seen in aeons. For many reasons.

For a start, I (the eternal cynic) dispute it's authenticity. Some of it must be real - or very cleverly staged, I'll grant them that. But the absolute disregard the film-makers have for the on-screen victims is obviously a joke. Were it not, this would surely be the most offensive and sickening movie of all time. It's worth noting that during the scenes that truly do look real, the narrator's prescence is absent. The narration itself elevates this to the status of one of the vilest films ever - it could be argued that without this commentary, the film would be too remittingly bleak (and to an extent I'd agree), but it is undeniably the most tasteless film you could stumble upon. You can discern whether this is your cup of tea or not!

There's also the matter of edits during the 'police/medics footage' - usually jumping to close-ups of gore that couldn't possibly be argued to be beneficial to a rookie nurse's learning curve. The sound effects (lots of over-dubbed 'squishing' noises etc) steal impact from many scenes too. That age-old argument also rears it's ugly head: if the film-makers are happy to show us every physical atrocity imaginable, why do they suddenly balk at the prospect of revealing genitals on-camera? Most corpses either keep their pants on, or have their nether-regions obscured by pixelation. This could have been instigated by the film-makers if they intended their film for the Japanese market, but in this day and age seems unlikely ...(oh, and I swear that there are two similar-looking male corpses in the film that share the same chest tattoo ...?!)

Most damningly is the disclaimer at the beginning (it advises us that although the footage is real, most names and scenarios have been altered) and the end credits stipulating that "characters and events in this film are entirely fictional".

Who knows? It certainly is convincingly gruesome on many occasions. Perhaps most worringly is the fact that I sat through the first ten minutes with my nose curled, thinking it was gross. But after thirty minutes I was pretty much desensitized to the horrors on show. After an hour, I was bored.

Impossible to review in terms of 'good' or 'bad', such is it's amoral stance towards the unrelenting 'real-life' gore on offer, this is a blood-soaked, tasteless, sick foray into the 'shockumentary' genre. Whether it is a very clever pastiche of this excessive mutant offspring of horror, or a dumb absurdist extension of themes accompanied by the most misanthropic commentary ever, is debatable. One thing's for sure: the BBFC will NEVER EVER pass this, not even in a cut version.

The disc is pretty basic. It houses the film, and a twelve chapter Scene Selection menu. Picture quality is fairly good - mainly sourced from video, but adequate. The sound is mono and occasionally drops out, but again it's acceptable.

But then ... surely you've decided whether this is for you already? Very extreme in the gore stakes, with a total contempt for human life and a black sense of humour that makes BRASS EYE look like NODDY ... This won't be getting the Special Edition treatment any time shortly!

The sequel is also available on DVD. Part 3, and The Best Of Faces Of Gore are currently available on NTSC VHS and reportedly will be released on DVD shortly.

Review by Stuart Willis

Directed by Todd Tjersland
Released by Astaroth Entertainment
Extras :