Thursday, June 9, 2011

Touch Of Death (1988)

It's common knowledge that latter-day Fulci is a bit of a crapshoot - as the director advanced in years he churned out endless rush-jobs of wildly varying quality, for the most part a world away from his classics of the late seventies and early eighties. Still, I've enjoyed plenty of these later movies, especially Conquest (which you can read a review of here), and I'd heard a few positive things about Touch Of Death, so I had been wanting to check it out for a while. Man, was I disappointed.

Touch Of Death is a fairly typical serial killer film in some ways - it tells the story of Lester Parson, a crazed psychopath who lures women to his secluded home and murders them after making videotapes of himself boning them silly. Where this movie differs from others is the fact that it is essentially a black comedy - except it's not very funny.

From the get-go Touch Of Death is a grime-fest. The opening scene finds Lester chowing down on human flesh while watching a video of a girl stripping (who later turns out to be the person he's chomping on), before chopping the body up with a chainsaw, grinding the meat and feeding it to his pigs. Now, normally this would be stuff of trash dreams but even at this early stage it's clear Touch Of Death is just not going to deliver the goods. The gore effects are terrible, much like those of Cat In The Brain, all plastic limbs and red paint (a couple of scenes from Touch Of Death were actually used in Cat In The Brain later on). There are only a handful of violent scenes in the film, and only one of those manages to seem convincing in any way. The high/low point of the film comes when Lester bludgeons a girl half to death with an iron bar, before shoving her head in the microwave and melting her head off. It's an arresting scene, for sure, but in all honesty it sticks out like a sore thumb amongst all the botched attempts at comedy.

It's still hard to gauge just how intentional the more comedic aspects of the movie are, but either way they don't really work. Even the more slapstick elements are strained - one scene that features Lester trying to prop a body upright in the front seat of his car is excruciating, ambling on for more than two minutes for no reason other than to stretch out the running time presumably. Don't get me wrong, there are a few laughs, especially the death of the homeless guy, but these moments are few and far between. TOD isn't helped by it's score either, with the same cheap-sounding pieces being used over and over into infinity - it's a far cry from the amazing Fabio Frizzi score for City Of The Living Dead.

Of course, many of Fulci's earlier films could be considered "slow", but they had that uniquely surreal atmosphere to make up for it. Not so with Touch Of Death - it has countless scenes that go on for at least twice as long as they should, contributing to what must have been one of the most boring horror films I've ever seen. If this movie had been 40 minutes long, with twice as many death scenes, it would have been great. As it is, it more than outstays its welcome at 80 minutes.

I really wanted to like Touch Of Death, but it's just not that fun to watch, and ends up being a bit of a chore. I'll stick with the classics if it's all the same, Lucio.

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