C: Catacomba (2016)

This is an anthology movie inspired by Italian erotic horror comics from the 70s. If you are familiar with those, you know what to expect. If not, I’ll try to ease you into it as best I can. The movie’s poster, which is also the cover of the eponymous comic book that will serve as the delivery mechanism for our stories, serves only the slightest initimation of what went on in these books.

It’s a movie poster AND a comic book!

Examples of the stories are not that hard to find on the Interwebs – try Googling “Lorenzo Lapori comics” since he provided the comic art used throughout the flick. (This is also the name of one of the directors, so don’t get waylaid) Doing this netted me two complete stories, and allow me to say holy shit. I feel physically abused by those stories, while still being amazed by the utter perversity of the creativity being displayed. Posting any art from them to give you, in one image, a demonstration of the genre would be like posting straight up porn. Snuff porn. This is amazingly transgressive stuff – or maybe I’m finally getting old? A close mixture of sex and violent horror has always been off-putting to me, which is why I can’t enjoy the films of Jean Rollin as do so many.

So, thus fortified, let’s deal with the movie.

The mandatory framing device involves a young man seeking a haircut so he can have an evening of bouncy-bouncy with a girlfriend. Finding his usual hairdresser closed for a funeral, he happens on a flyer for “A Devil for Every Hair” salon (not a red flag, no siree). he makes his way there, and while waiting, peruses a comic book. This is, of course Catacomba, which will yield four story sequences, each beginning and ending with line art by the aforementioned Lapori.

The first involves a horror writer lolling about under a tree that, legend has it, was used to hang witches. He needs inspiration, you see, and is a bit put out when two gothy women arrive on motorcycle, but then thinks perhaps his inspiration is going to take a much more sexual form. They do indeed accost him, but then proceed to torture him in a graphic manner (including emasculation), pulling his arms off with a motorcycle, and then cutting off his head. They eat parts of his corpse, and that night Satan comes and screws them (Satan appears to be on loan from The Devil’s Rejects). Then the dead author gets reanimated as a tree monster and kills them. The end.

What? You were expecting more of an EC-style twist, with a moral or something? Ha! Forget that nonsense, this is Catacomba! Enjoy your atrocities!

The second story is going to jettison the economy of the first by presenting us with a number of threads: There is a killer in a Halloween mask stabbing people for no good reason; an unemployed scumbag raves to his friends that his wife is cheating on him; the wife insists that it is an alien who made love to her; and the scumbag’s friends decide to have some “fun” with the wife. This fun will involve rape and the murder of the scumbag, who was getting on everybody’s nerves anyway. The cops are chasing the maniac through the nearby woods, resulting in one cop dead and another wounded. The wounded cop, the murderous friends and the alien lover all wind up in the same place, where everybody dies except the alien and his lover. The maniac gets away, I guess. The end.

Incidentally, the guy waiting for the haircut is waiting so long because the hairdresser keeps taking people in back to kill them. Oops!

Third story lifts the central concept of Robert Bloch’s The Man Who Collected Poe, substituting Paganini for Poe. A noted Paganini scholar and collector has actually raised the composer from the dead and forced him to write new music for a highly anticipated anthology. The collector’s wife and her lover conspire to kill him, but the Paganini-obsessed lover just has to speak to the revenant and find out what fueled Paganini’s virtuosity. Turns out it was Satanism and stringing his violin with human guts. Go figure.

Our hero finally winds up in the barber chair, and reads the final story at the behest of the hairdresser. This one is more a chaotic tone poem than anything else, involving a Satanist seeking the spirit of his old lover, who either committed suicide or he murdered, and following yet another gothy seductress through rooms of a house with a different sex act in each room, and finally he winds up screwing the body of his former lover until the goth chick cuts him in half with a machete. Slowly.

And then the hairdresser feeds our hapless hero to the zombies in back of his shop. The end.

The Paganini story is the most handsomely mounted of the four (five, counting the framer), and is worth watching. The others are hindered by the usual mundane roadblocks of such fare – budget mainly, some corners cut story-wise (especially the alien lover story) – and some of those are no doubt due to the vicissitudes of filmmaking, where if anything can go wrong, it will.

I’ve already stated that these sorts of stories aren’t really for me. There will be some folk who are familiar with the source material and might want to check this out, though. I just hope that after the last three movies, my next one will at least feature some coherent story telling. Then again, we are also aware of who I am and what I do, so confidence is not high.

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